Stigmata Have you ever wondered what Jesus would be like if he was around today? Would he host a food show and demonstrate his trick with the bread and the fishes? Would he be a contestant on a reality television programme, and then lose to some bimbo for being 'too real'? Or better yet, would he be a she, and cut hair in a Pittsburgh salon? Well, the last one was shown in this film Directed by Rupert Wainwright; and Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Patricia Arquette, Nia Long, and Jonathan Pryce. It was made in 1999, and lasts for 109 minutes.


Now if your mother sent you gift of rosary beads in the post, you would most probably think to yourself' 'Ahh! Bless her'. Right? But no. Not if you was in the same shoes as the Pittsburgh hairdresser, Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette) you wouldn't. Because the rosary beads her mum sends her are bloody possessed.

Granted, Frankie doesn't realize this fact straight away. Hell no. She just gets on with her life as per usual. Meeting up with her friend, Donna (Nia Long). Whilst whittling her days away a snip at a time.

However, just as one add one equals two, it doesn't take too long before this malevolent spirit manifests itself within poor perky Frankie. Yeah. You name it. It does it. In the bath it prompts her slits her own wrists. In the salon, it makes her hallucinate that someone outside is throwing a baby into the street. And in a subway train, when she approaches a priest, it jaggedly slashes into her back within a hailstorm of confusion.

Admittedly, the doctors puts all this down to Frankie having asthma or something. But the priest knows better, right? And that is why he then calls in Vatican bound paranormal investigator, Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne), to look into Frankie’s condition more closely.

OK. I know what you're thinking to yourself. So what on God's earth does Andrew find out about our Frankie? That she is an atheist with Stigmata who has such a fine ass, that this revelation forces him to leave before he gets too close?

Yes. That sounds about right. Yet he doesn't leave for too long. Andrew goes back to visit Frankie just in time to witness more attacks by this un-malevolent spirit, as well as a call to arms by this boss, Cardinal Daniel Houseman (Jonathan Pryce).

But then again, that's most probably why what next transpires all goes hail Mary mother of God when spirits fight back. As a hairdresser goes loopy - a paranormal investigator goes droopy - a Cardinal isn't very nice - and at the end of the day, sugar is always sweeter than rustic spice.

In my most humble opinion, 'Stigmata' is a great-great film that makes you think-think-think. Firstly, it makes you think that you should not accept a gift from your mother which she bought from some Mexican git on holiday. Then, it makes you think why the producers did not call this film ‘CSI: Vatican’ instead. And finally, it makes you think about the nature of religion, and why it is amongst us to begin with.

Listen. I mean this in all due respect. Because faith -- be it Christian, Catholic, Buddhist, Sikh, or Klingon -- is a good thing in the right hands. What I am talking about, dear reader, is the interpretation of religion, and why we believe so fundamentally that what the church tells us to be true; is true.

‘Stigmata’ is a film that contradicts this ideal, and does so by revealing certain aspects of the diocese that is not known within the public domain.

Stigmata Gabriel and Patricia

Granted, on a surface level, it is a film about some horny bit of shirt who gets possessed by some malevolent force. But underneath this, this movie is a exposé on the true nature of extremist fundamentalism, and how this slant has taken over the true word of Jesus.

Stigmata Patricia
And how does it do that you may ask? Simple really. It manages to captivate you with the honesty of history, and then overlays this upon a modern pretext.

You see, Stigmata in itself is just a clever and intriguing plot-device that the writers -- Tom Lazarus and Rick Ramage -- have used to merge these two concepts together, thus allowing them to showcase ‘truisms’ within a biblical pretext.

Fair dues. If the actors -- Gabriel, Patricia, Nia, and Jonathan -- were not just as good at putting this message across, I do not think that this would have come over in the very intriguing way that it has. Also, in addition to this, the Director -- Rupert Wainwright -- has managed to capture a ‘New York Gothic’ style within this film, which melds just beautifully with the subject matter, and with the overall milieu of the pretext.

Stigmata Crucifixion Patricia

Stigmata Film Poster
Here, check out some of these filmic fact to see what I mean by this. (1) Originally the director of this movie, Rupert Wainwright, was thinking of calling this flick "St. Frances of Pittsburgh". (2) The character played by Patricia Arquette is called Frankie, which is shorter version of Francis -- as in Francis of Assisi -- who also had stigmata. (3) In the scene where Frankie writes on the wall, she does not write in 'Aramaic' as stated, she writes in the Jewish religious script instead -- Hebrew. (4) "Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there" comes from verse 77 in the "Gospel of Thomas". (5) In the scene in which Frankie and Andrew are discussing the five stigmata saints, their is an error made -- the spear used on Jesus was to make certain that he was already dead, and did not kill him. (6) Patricia Arquette was the first choice to play Frankie. No other actress would do. (8) The Gospel of Thomas is a real historical document, which was produced by the 'Gnostic Denomination', who was formed in 125 A.D. and dissolved around 1400 A.D. because of lack of worship. Some people believe that this biblical tome uses the actual words of Jesus to his disciples, although it was written in Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language based on the Greek alphabet, not Aramaic, as the movie states. And (8) Check out this Saint Frances of Assisi FAQ. Sorry about the Dutch accent.

All in all 'Stigmata' is a great film. The cast really do put on a show. The story is an interesting concept to explore. The special effects do not distract from the overall narrative. Plus the direction is both artistic and relevant to the theme.

Now if you are a fan of such films as ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Omen’, or even ‘Monty Pythons Life of Brian’, then this is definitely a great film to watch. Highly recommended.


STIGMATA STIGMATA Reviewed by David Andrews on June 13, 2011 Rating: 5
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