The Atlantic Selects
How a Modern Exorcist Fights Evil
Feb 25, 2019
In the rolling Tuscan hills of Italy, the Vatican’s most prominent exorcist fights the true essence of evil. Father Raffaele Talmelli is engaged in an age-old tradition, but he takes a decidedly unorthodox approach to battling demons. Ivan Olita’s short documentary Contra Dæmones offers an inside look at the modern exorcist’s practice.
“People have totally misleading ideas about both evil and demons, and frequently about the exorcist himself,” Father Talmelli says in the short film. “The first demon [I had] to oust was general misinformation.”
In contrast to commonly held conceptions of exorcists, Father Talmelli is a trained psychiatrist. There is little folklore in his approach to religion and evil. “It’s not blind faith and fanatic beliefs; instead, it’s about deep knowledge of the writings and a very wise and philosophical approach to life and the fundamental questions that define it,” Olita told The Atlantic.
Before he performs an exorcism, Father Talmelli ensures that his patients are not suffering from a diagnosable mental illness. “To face a real demoniac is an awful experience,” he says in the film. “They are extremely mentally sound and use their superior intelligence to hurt. My disgrace has been to find demoniac people in the Church.”
Olita said that he and his film crew were captivated by the exorcist’s gentle, informed approach. “He believes in actions, intentions, and consequences,” Olita said. “Although he has encountered some intense evil, in his world, there are no monsters coming out of the closet. There is no cinematic possession. There are only choices.”
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Author: Emily Buder
About This Series
A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.