Quiet and dry to a tremendous fault, this film doesn't boast much in the way of musical value, going so far as to not employ a score composer, but when the soundtrack kicks in with some classic tunes, things go livened up a bit, while tone receives some compliments, augmented by cinematography by Bogumil Godfrejów that is fairly flat in plenty of places, but has a certain cold taste in coloring that has its attractive and fitting moments. Really, I'm stretching a bit when I compliment the film's musical and visual style, because on a stylistic level, this film really isn't all that outstanding, or at least isn't outstanding enough for style to breathe some life into substance on its own, and that's where Hans-Christian Schmid comes in... for a moment at least. Schmid, as director, makes way too many questionable moves, with one of the biggest ones being a cold, meditative atmosphere that, upon running out of material, really distances you, and yet, with that said, when material does settle back in, the meditativeness comes in handy, whether when Schmid is establishing a hint of tension to what few horror elements there are to this drama, or drawing on dramatic resonance. On the whole, the film is a dramatic mess, but it has its moments, and those moments really do justice to the potential of this story concept, which is limited, make no mistake, - seeing as how this subject matter is too minimalist for its own good - but still there, primarily found within thematic depth and dramatic ambiguities that make this mysterious "thriller" intriguing on some level. The conclusion of the film undercuts the ambiguities' effectiveness, but the mystery behind this study on a woman struggling to determine if she is one terrible thing or another keeps things going a bit, though not quite like the acting, which does about as much as anything in almost saving the film, primarily thanks to leading lady Sandra Hüller, whose fiercely convincing and subtly layers portrayal of a terrified and confused woman carries more than a few parts in this meandering drama. Hüller does what she can with what she's been given to do, and it's still not enough, but it sure is worth mentioning, as Hüller's performance marks a particular height in inspiration, which is ultimately too lacking for the film to escape mediocrity, but present enough for the final product to come to the brink of decency. Alas, the final product does not cross over, having highlights, but even more missteps, and even plenty of problematic areas within its story concept.
Well, I suppose this film's more dramatic approach to elements that have been just about trademark in horror film following subject matter of this type is somewhat refreshing, but outside of that, this is hardly anything new, and no matter how much ambiguities settle predictability, this path is still trope-heavy, and those familiar beats draw your attention more towards natural shortcomings in this conventional story concept. "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is good and all, but if you thought that a two-hour-long trial regarding an exorcism made for a do-little story, as irony would have it, this study on the conceptually intriguing events leading up to that fateful trial is even more do-little, with only so much to tell us, no matter how long it takes to get its 2 in. Just barely falling around the 90-minute mark, this film is very short, and yet, it still takes plenty of time to drag its feet, just about to no end, getting to be blandly excessive with meandering, repetitious material, if not filler, which retards momentum more and more until, before to long, the film becomes just plain aimless. Really, pacing ultimately plays a key role in driving the final product into mediocrity, as it thins out focus so much that it gets to be difficult to get a grip on the engaging elements of this dramatically thin opus, especially with an atmosphere that is even more limp than plot pacing. Like I said, when director Hans-Christian Schmid happens across material to soak up with meditative storytelling, the film is effective, but as you can guess by now, material is very limited, so more often than not, the naturalistic, draggy storytelling dries things to the bone, with no liveliness and little resonance, until blandness goes firmly secured, growing more and more considerable until dullness ensues, then continues to bland up until resonance is completely lost. Really, while there's more to complain about than commend here, there are only so many problems with this film, yet what missteps there are go a long, long way, and that especially goes for the atmospheric dryness, for although the film could have kept its highlights and found itself secured as simply dull, the overly naturalist, overly meditative approach that Schmid takes to thin subject matter drives compellingness off. I'm not saying that this film was ever to be all that meaty, but regardless of the highlights, questionable and formulaic storytelling emphasizes natural shortcomings so much that I just couldn't get invested, thus making the final product a mediocre one.
In conclusion, a decent soundtrack and highlights in cinematography liven things up a smidge, while highlights in meditative storytelling and a strong lead performance by Sandra Hüller do enough justice to the worthy elements of this story concept for the final product to come to the brink of decency, but this subject matter is ultimately too limited intrigue, and too backed by conventionalism, repetitious dragging and atmospheric cold spells that are not simply dull, but distancing for Hans Christian-Smid's "Requiem" to avoid collapse through all of its promising beats, into mediocrity.
2.25/5 - Mediocre