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i thought this movie was excellent. the take on what stigmata is, the
'miracle' of it, the historical and religious views of stigmata are
together within the plot of the movie.
it is definitely anti-church, or rather, anti-establishment and anti-church politics. but it is not anti-god. the movie points out what many people believe already, that you do not need a church building to believe in god.
yet, it's not a religious movie. it's not really a horror movie. there are parts that are horrific, and it will make you think. don't watch this if you're in the mood for mindless entertainment. see it, and make your own judgements on what it's about. even if you don't agree with the premise, the acting and the storyline are well worth it.
This movie is a proof (at least to me) that you should not always trust reviews and user comments. After reading comments on this movie I had a picture that it wouldn't be very good at all, but I was certainly corrected on that point. This is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. The movie is quite "heavy" though, so I can understand that it doesn't appeal to everyone, but for anyone who likes a little depth and aren't influenced by what other people think I really recommend this movie. I rated it 9 out of 10, and it was certainly worth it.
The "stigmata" is a Christian religious term that refers to the
appearance of wounds corresponding to the wounds on the Christ's body
he was crucified. This religious experience is most typically associated
with deeply religious people and, I believe, is not one that is widely
seriously. What makes this movie interesting is that it portrays the
appearance of these wounds as a terrifying, extremely painful and
humiliating experience. There's nothing conventionally religious in the
experience portrayed here -- in fact, the victim is an athiest.
But, having bypassed the conventional, the movie is only partially successful in bringing the experience of the stigmata to the screen. The movie is a victim itself of a conventional portrayal of the evil bureaucratic Vatican desk jockeys suppressing "true" religion. And I have to admit that, as I was watching it, I found myself thinking, "Hmm, that sounds like the Gospel of Thomas," -- a famous Gnostic Gospel. Surprise.
But, overall, I'd recommend it as a decent movie and a departure from the generic, bland portrayal of Christian religious experience a la the Hallmark channel or "Touched by an Angel." It is a movie that can make you think about the nature of religious experience and its impact on an ordinary life.
Stigmata was a very watchable interesting film which is engaging and thought
provoking. It's certainly not a perfect movie but in patches was excellent,
and the mood of the film was just right. It was suprisingly "non-hollywood"
in many respects and very understated if you look beyond the gore of the
mutilation and stigmata scenes.
My only major gripe with the movie was the sometimes ludicrous way that characters close to Frankie (Patricia Arquette) seemed unwilling to take her seriously or believe her affliction despite the fact that they witnessed amazing supernatural events first hand. Her best mate who told her to chill out and relax because it was a Friday night, having seen this event earlier in the week, bordered on high farce. Surely all the doctors, clergy and news reporters in the world would have been at her bedside after seeing the train video camera of this event?
Anyway, this aside, many other aspects of the film were first rate and I was pleased the DVD version had the alternate and, in my opinion, better ending (subtle though the difference is). Comparisons with the Exorcist seem to cloud the opinions of many people in relation to this film, and my advice would be just to watch it and take it for what it is. The concept is quite original and the examination of faith and the modern church is interesting. Certainly I wouldn't say the film was anti-religious, in fact in many respects it adds weight to religious belief as the concept introduces the stigmata phenomenom to the audience.
Overall, very good, 7 out of 10.
STIGMATA: Well, this one is certain to be somewhat controversial with
hardcore fundamentalist Christians and the equally dedicated Catholic, but I
personally found the movie to be far from irreverent, and actually rather
faithful in parts. Though the film balances psychological terror and
armchair Christian mythology, the movie manages to present a
thought-provoking dramatic episode by clashing the faithful and the
faithless, the true spirituality and hypocrisy, the sincere and the
The film centers on the experiences of a young woman who is a self-professed athiest who manages to somehow be afflicted with The Stigmata, a paranormal experience wherein the "victim" or the "gifted" (dependant upon one's point of view) is afflicted/touched by God and with manifestations of the wounds Christ suffered at His Crucifixion. These include the wounds through the wrists, the feet, the crown of thorns, the scourging of the back and finally the spear through the side.
Into the mix is tossed a mildly agnostic Catholic priest/scientist assigned by Rome to investigate supposed "miracles." Also blended into the story is a sub plot full of political goings on inside the Vatican and the attraction between the priest and the young woman afflicted. So not only does the movie examine The Stigmata, spirituality, Christian myth, and the Catholic tradition, but it explores the inner workings of the Church (to a very critical degree) and the meeting of man, woman and God. It's also entertaining.
The movie seems to be marketed as a modern-day "The Exorcist." I don't think the comparison is fair. Though there does appear to be some sort of possession story happening, it somehow ends up being mostly the desperate actions of a benevolent spirit of a deceased priest trying to get attention and bring the Truth to light. Obviously the more fundamental Christian believer familiar with the Christian mythos would find this plot element suspect, and dramatically it's only mildly fulfilling. For this reason the mature and educated viewer might find the ending of the film anticlimactic and arguably "sell out," but the casual viewer would probably find nothing questionable about the Hollywood ending. Personally, I thought it tainted an otherwise splendidly atmospheric film. The integration of Catholic mysticism with MTV-era music video filmography at times seems nearly as visually attractive as Madonna's "Just Like a Prayer" video, though not quite as sublime.
I'll give the movie 3 stars, mostly solidified by strong dialogue and exceptional performances from both Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Byrne as the woman and the priest. On it's own merits, the film manages to create a foundation from which the viewer is challenged to fill in the blanks re: the spiritual goings-on, but it loses points where it attempts to find cheap thrills and reinvent the spiritual-psychological horror portrayed in The Exorcist by turning an interesting and engaging look at mystic spirituality's interaction with the 20th Century's narcissistic cynicism into something more akin to the later OMEN movies.
Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette) is a hip 20-something New Yorker who
faces a nasty wake-up call when she gets randomly attacked by an unseen
force, puncturing her wrists. While the hospital calls it a suicide
attempt, the Vatican thinks she may be showing signs of stigmata and
sends a priest (Gabriel Byrne) to investigate.
This is one of the more clever "religious horror" films that I've seen. Using a young atheist girl as the recipient of stigmata is an original and intriguing concept. The various violent scenes where the fabulously stylish Arquette is attacked are gory and horrific, but so gorgeously shot that you cannot take your eyes away. Unfortunately, there are too many boring scenes of babbling priests. There was a bit of controversy when this was released because it hypothesizes about some very horrific skeletons in the closet of the Catholic church. The DVD features the Director's alternate ending that is decidedly less Hollywoodized than the theatrical release, but leaves the story in a confused, contradictory space. Recommended for fans of religious and stylish horror. My Rating: 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Stigmata" is not a horror movie, but it is a religiously-centered
thriller that makes you think about your own faith. If you don't, then
movie is not for you. I loved this movie because I was able to sit
it and it made me think about my own walk with Christ.
I think there are so many negative comments for this movie from Americans because it is easier for modern audiences to sit down and flame a movie for what THEY WANT IT TO BE rather than WHAT IT IS.
This movie is about a lot of things; love popping up in the strangest places, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and finding the truth for yourself through your own hard work.
On a personal note, I think Arquette (Frankie Paige) and Byrne (Father Andrew Keirnan) did a fine job bringing their characters to life, and Pryce (Housman) was truly convincing as the Cardinal who wants to keep everything secret. Byrne was the true treasure of the piece- his Father Keirnan was very convincing as a questioning religious scientist.
The confrontation scene at the end between the spirit of Father Alemeida and Keirnan was very poignant and intense. Some people claim that the garden scene from the end is a let down (What did you expect, a mad tongue war in the garden of the church diocese?), but maybe you didn't see the statue of St. Francis and notice the parallelism to Frankie's clothing. She was dressed a lot like St. Francis. Something to remember is that St. Francis was a radical... like Frankie, an atheist who eventually comes to have faith (so says the spirit of Father Alemeida) in Christ and God.
The DVD has an alternate ending that is especially touching. I am glad that they didn't use it, though- it would have made me cry.
This movie made me investigate more into Stigmata- you should too. I'm not even Catholic, but I found a lot of insight into deeply spiritual people through my research.
Stigmata is at the very least controversial. I feel that it's really struggling to find a genre, so it's harsh to compare it to the Exorcist as many have. This is a film based somewhat on truth, and somewhat on legend with a little Hollywood finesse to bring it all together. It doesn't stay completely true to either a Christian audience or to mainstream Hollywood, but I think that's to it's credit. I don't know many people who knowingly make this kind of cross-over in their normal rental choices, so in that way, it helps to reach the largest possible audience. The way that the film afflicts it's heroine with the stigmata through the rosary is just typical screenwriting, and the romance aspects are predictable. The film, based upon the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, assumes that the discovery of that scroll had never been know to the public, and that personal vendettas within the Vatican had helped to suppress it. In reality however, there have been numerous translations of that Gospel, although I rather doubt that the modern bible will be amended. (Due to it's debated authenticity.) In short, the film is thought-provoking, yet not heavy-handed in it's message. It leaves you asking questions as to your own faith, and to the nature of the established "church" far after you've reached the final credits. As an action-suspense-thriller I'd rank it about a 7 out of 10, but in terms of it's religious nature it succeeds greatly in the find-the-truth-for-yourself message that it conveys.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILER WARNING: This comment contains specific references to plot elements
that reveal the ending. It is strongly recommended that you see the film
before reading this review.
Stigmata' uses as its premise the actual existence of the gospel of Thomas, a gospel taken from a scroll found in 1945, and condemned by the Catholic Church as heresy. This gospel gives essentially the same message as the gospel in the film, that the kingdom of God is of this earth and it is not about heaven, churches or religion. But clearly, the gospel in the film is not Thomas, despite the allusion at the end of the film. Thomas was written in Greek not Aramaic, and has been dated by scholars to the second century, hardly contemporaneous with Jesus. The film is a highly contrived fictional yarn that imaginatively invents a scroll of Jesus' words and then takes the religious mythos of stigmata and combines it with the mythos of possession (in ways not consistent with either) as a device to reveal the plot of the Church to keep the gospel a secret.
We are asked to believe that an atheist gets stigmata (no such event has ever been reported) as the result of possession by the spirit of a dead human whom she never knew (this is the purview of the devil; human spirits are not thought to possess living beings) because she touched his rosary beads (also touched by her mother, the boy who sold them to her and Father Kiernan without effect). Ok, I guess that's what fantasy films are supposed to do, conjure improbable situations out of the imagination. Still, it takes liberties that distort and misrepresent religious beliefs, which is always risky business. While watching this film, I had to pretend I didn't know what I know. Once over this hurdle, it was an fascinating, engaging and frightening story.
There are other strange inconsistencies and unanswered questions though. Father Alameida was a good and pious man. Yet he possesses Frankie with an evil vengeance and attempts to use Frankie to sexually seduce Kiernan, beating him from pillar to post when he doesn't consent. That's just not consistent with who Alameida was. Also, why was Frankie strong enough to throw Kiernan around the room like a rag doll, but helpless to stop Cardinal Houseman from choking her? And what was all the dripping water about? If that was explained somewhere, I must have missed it.
Comparisons between this and The Exorcist' are misplaced. They really had nothing in common other than the fact that the main character was possessed. There is one scene during the rage following Frankie's seduction attempt of Kiernan that had obvious elements of comparison but that was about it. This was not an exorcism and the devil was nowhere to be found.
From a filmmaking standpoint, this film was terrific. Rupert Wainwright does a marvelous job from start to finish with this film. The photography was fantastic. The use of the camera perspectives, scene set up and various techniques including slow motion, double exposures, rapid fire jump cuts and reverse slow motion were all fabulous (though sometimes used to excess) and added power and impact to create some very scary footage. I've read complaints about the sound, but the sound on the DVD copy I had was great with excellent surround effects. It was a bit loud at times but not so much that I had to ride shotgun on the volume control.
This was a marvelous breakthrough performance for Patricia Arquette. When she was in Frankie mode she was sometimes arrogant and self centered, and at others sweet, helpless and terrified. When in possession mode she was powerful and frightening. She handled all these states believably and with aplomb.
Gabriel Byrne also gave a wonderful performance as Father Kiernan. He achieved just the right balance between intellectual skepticism and self doubt with a genuine concern for Frankie.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. Yes, the story was flawed, but not irretrievably. As a supernatural thriller it was first rate. I rated it an 8/10. Not for the squeamish.
Giving comment after a few days after I seen it, I must say that in this
picture lays something that, in my opinion is one of the most biggest issues
of modern, or should I say, of Christianity itself; what Jesus had had in
mind when he talked about God in us?
Do we really need mediator between Him and ourselves?
-Very good crew and scenario had make this movie very interesting. Byrne is really good, though sometimes is rather 'inconvincible', but, as a priest-scientist, maybe he has right on some 'perplexities'. Patricia Arquette is one of my favorite actresses, and I love her in this movie, or any else.
Director is unknown to me, I must confess it, but, from what I have seen in this movie, it has some interesting views on filming, and I would really like to see his other works, or future ones. Rade Serbedgia in this film look like his not interested. It's a loss.
Film has some frightful scenes, but in major, it's very good movie which gives us some new perspective on Jesus words that the God is in us.
People who has no idea, or been religious fanatics should avoid this film. This film, also, is not the most intelligent topic that has been ever recorded, but it has some good points.
Try figure it out. It's not shallow. And, please, use your own head, and don't be molested by religious fanatics; they would first crucifix Christ just for the way he looks.
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