As you might have guessed from the title Stigmata, this blend of mystery and horror explores the religious phenomenon of Stigmata. This is the appearance of wounds in parts of the body corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. St. Francis of Assisi was the first recorded case of these wounds appearing back in 1244. So, there’s a lot of history that goes along with this subject. Stigmata movie takes that concept and incorporates it into your average nineties movie structure. So, it goes without saying that this movie is not based on true events.
It’s not as flashy as End of Days also starring Gabriel Byrne, trying to maintain a somewhat realistic approach. I mean as much as it can with a story like this. It follows in the footsteps of Prince of Darkness by trying to apply critical thinking to religious events. The movie opens with an investigator, who’s also a former scientist and a man of faith, trying to verify miracles. I know it sounds a bit stupid when you read it like this. However, when you see the scene with this huge church and blood dripping from this statue, it, well, it looks a little bit better.
I still remember the controversy around this movie at the time it came out. Probably part of it was just a marketing strategy but I’m certain that certain religious circles did not like it one bit. Especially because of its very thought-provoking and intelligent finale. The direction is tight with some nice camera angles but I think they missed the opportunity to go all-in with this one. Instead, Stigmata remains just a mildly thrilling mystery movie with some horror elements. There’s far too much talking and predictable twists that you see a mile away.
Meet Frankie Paige, a vivacious young woman living quite a hedonistic lifestyle in the beautiful city of Pittsburgh. However, one night while she was bathing, an unknown force attacks her causing her to hallucinate. Frankie wakes up in a nearby hospital with two serious wounds and a lot of questions. This is where Father Andrew Kiernan comes in, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
Patricia Arquette made this movie so much better not just with her screen presence but also very natural and relatable performance. Opposite of her we have brooding Gabriel Byrne and imposing Jonathan Pryce. The entire cast did a terrific job. You have to understand that this was a time before you could just google Stigmata and find out everything you wanted to know. There was a certain esoteric quality to these themes that’s lost now. Plus, the world I feel was much more ready to believe in the supernatural.
And don’t get me wrong, I love the fact we’re now more cautious and rational. I’m just highlighting the fact that their approach was much more commercial. Now, I don’t know whether you’re a believer or not and just how close the message of this movie is going to hit you. That discussion is far too long for this review. And while I was religious in my teens, as time went on and I started asking more and more questions, I slowly turned into an atheist. And I’m really happy I’m able to write that without any fear of persecution or death.
Director: Rupert Wainwright
Writers: Tom Lazarus, Rick Ramage
Cast: Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Long, Rade Serbedzija, Portia de Rossi