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The art of exorcism

By on December 8, 2009


If you haven’t had the opportunity to see the classic horror film The Exorcist on the big screen, consider getting yourself to the Plaza Theatre tonight at 9:30PM. “Okay,” you may be thinking, “but why am I learning about this on”

Rene Magritte, Empire of Light, 1953-54

Rene Magritte, Empire of Light, 1953-54

It’s a little known fact that René Magritte’s Empire of Light inspired one of the most memorable images from the movie, the one that shows the priest arriving at the house where he will conduct the famous exorcism. In this fog-filled scene, director William Friedkin swaps the traditional symbols of good and evil: The hero wears black and is in shadow while the villain is located within the light shining from the possessed girl’s bedroom window. Friedkin felt this reversal of light and dark suited a particularly surrealistic moment in the film. To develop his concept, he drew inspiration from Empire of Light, in which Magritte’s paradoxical use of daylight creates an ominous effect.

There’s your art-history-meets-popular-culture factoid for the day. Now go see the film!


  1. Susannah

    December 8, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Joyce, this is great! I am so excited that you mention this. I am still traumatized from when I watched The Exorcist for the first time. The noise the little girl makes when she runs backwards down the stairs is one of the most terrifying things ever.

    Anyways though, it’s so interesting too that such an iconic pop cultural scene like the one in the movie has supplanted the actual painting it was based off of. Pop culture giving us an art history lesson and we didn’t even know it!

  2. ktauches

    December 8, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    very interesting. . . devil films make great fodder for art. personally, Roman Polansky’s Rosemary’s Baby always inspires me. . .the way Mia Farrow paints every surface of that dark old new york apartment white, white, white, like an exquisite gallery.

    this kind of shows the interior:

  3. jehouse

    December 8, 2009 at 9:35 pm


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