Rite: New Exorcism Movie

Mikael Håfström is the director of "The Rite," starring Colin O'Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, and Ciaran Hinds. The film, which deals with exorcism, will be is released by New Line January 28.

The Rite of Exorcism


Director Mikael Håfström attests, "There is universal interest in the rite of exorcism. Much of it comes from religion, but a lot also comes from popular culture, with 'The Exorcist,' from back in the '70s, still being the most famous film about this phenomenon. All over the world, people are drawn to the subject, despite the fact–or perhaps even because–it can't be proven or entirely understood. The more you look into it, the more you see there are no easy answers."


Håfström was intrigued by the notion of exploring the subject of exorcism with such a solid basis in fact. "It's not a straightforward horror movie," he notes. "It's a fictional film but within a very real and factual framework. When I read the script, I felt it approached the whole idea of demonic possession from an angle we haven't really seen before, and it draws you into this world in such a suspenseful, powerful and entertaining way."


Working with Anthony Hopkins


As Father Lucas, Hopkins provided a tremendous center of gravity for the story and its characters. "Obviously, he brings a lot," Håfström confirms. "He's the heart and soul of this movie. This character of Father Lucas is fascinating in that we don't really know who he is and what his beliefs are; if he's just a simple magician or if he is the real thing. There are so many sides to him, and Anthony captured them all in a very compelling way. To get the opportunity to work with a great actor like him was fantastic."


Håfström remembers. "But Anthony was–as a person and as an actor–generous to Colin (O'Donoghue) and helped him in many ways. They became good friends, which was essential because, in a certain aspect, this is a buddy movie between the younger priest and the older priest. There's also a father and son dynamic that plays out between them. At the same time, it was important to create a situation where we could feel disharmony in the relationship. I think both these actors created that tension in a great way."




For Håfström, the key to the film's physical spaces was to create a sense of extraordinary events unfolding within an environment that was palpably real. He clarifies, "To use what was effective, and then layer that with our own reality." 


"We did all the bigger exteriors in Rome, which is such a cinematic city," Håfström notes. "It has a look and feel that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. We then traveled to Budapest for stage work and to find 'Rome' on a smaller scale–in some of its churches and cobblestone streets–which worked out really well."


Laws structured the auditorium with the theme of overlapping leaves and simple colors. "In our Vatican Academy, there's the sense that they're not hiding anything," says Håfström. "Their work is out in the open, as demonstrated by Alice Braga's character, a reporter, being given full access to their exorcism courses." 


An exploration in filmmaking


As with many of the cast and crew, for Håfström, making "The Rite" was in some ways a mirror to the journey of its central character. "We all search for certain things in life, and as a filmmaker, you have a chance to investigate subjects in a unique way," he says. "It can be an historic time or special place, or it can be a phenomenon, like exorcism. I found myself more and more intrigued by this exploration. It was a way for me to venture into this fascinating world."