This essay examines and deconstructs three sets of antagonisms in William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973). It argues that the film describes its own narrative conflicts as a thematics of ‘evil against evil,’ so as to de-ethicize the moral violence of those metaphysical dogmatisms that compete over the ‘souls’ of others. It then re-couches the one-sidedness of scientific and religious orthodoxies, which damage in similar ways Regan MacNeil, one of the film's main characters, as another variation of this thematics. Finally, this essay suggests that The Exorcist surveys certain sociopolitical tensions, thus commenting, in its video and theatrical re-releases, ‘timelessly’ on US tensions with its own counterculture and with the Middle East. The film ‘transcends’ such mutually destructive tensions in its dramatization of ‘sacrifice,’ though without taking this term in its soteriological sense; ‘sacrifice’ rather involves the reduction of these thematics to Regan's flesh—involves reversing their anagogic tendencies—so that this flesh at once re-emerges as the site and the template of the film's narrative contestations.
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