Eye For Film >> Movies >> Stigmata (1999) Film Review
Christians tend to forget that the symbol of their religion is a tortured man, nailed to an apparatus of execution. The violence of the imagery cannot be ignored.
It isn't. Rupert Wainwright, a pop video director, puts Patricia Arquette through the prelims of crucifixion and it is not a pretty sight. Her screen name is Frankie and she's an airhead. Her Pittsburgh pad could only have been decorated for a lager advert. Her designer leathers are buttock huggers and she smokes.
She is possessed by the rosary of a dead South American priest and for reasons that make even less sense has to experience Christ's wounds - the nails, the crown of thorns, the whiplash, the lance - in what appear to be epileptic fits.
Father Andrew (Gabriel Byrne) is The Vatican's roving sleuth. As a scientist, he travels the globe exposing weepy statues and miraculous phenomenon. When he discovers Frankie, it is different. For one thing, she's an atheist. For another, she's vulnerable. For a third, she's a babe. Unlike his boss in Rome (Jonathan Pryce), the good Andrew cares about the truth. He also cares about Frankie, which is not allowed. A defrocked priest with a foreign accent tells him about a fifth Gospel, written by JC, which, if published, "could destroy the authority of the Church."
Somehow this manuscript has connections with the late South American cleric and through his rosary to Frankie and through Frankie to Andrew.
If Stigmata had been made with the integrity of The Exorcist, it might have raised a hackle, or, at least, a neck hair. Wainwright's style is crude. His close-ups are brutal, his use of colour stark and strained. Slow-motion water droplets are constantly about to hit the deck, while white doves flutter toward high windows.
Arquette disappears in the mix. Pryce remains irritable and constant. After stepping out in Satan's shoes (End Of Days), Byrne proves his versatility, but, eventually, falls victim to the script. Catholics won't be happy.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001