In an extremely rare decision, the Catholic Church officially recognized the demonic possession of a 19 year-old college freshman. Told in terrifying flashbacks, The Exorcism of Emily Rose chronicles the haunting trial of the priest accused of negligence resulting in the death of the young girl believed to be possessed. Inspired by true events, the film stars Laura Linney as the lawyer who takes on the task of defending the priest (Tom Wilkinson) who performed the controversial exorcism.
The story of the fictitious "Emily Rose" (portrayed by Jennifer Carpenter) is based on the case of Anneliese Michel, a German student at the University of Wurzburg who died in 1978 after being subjected to a series of intense exorcism rites. The young woman's parents and the priests who performed the ritual were subsequently found guilty of negligent homicide, and it was reasoned that what she really needed was serious medical care--not an exorcism. While the film will no doubt emphasize the aspect of demonic possession for dramatic effect and entertainment value, it's important to keep it all in perspective, and to acknowledge that the actual story upon which Emily Rose is based is really an intriguing clash between the church and science, law and religion.