Stigmata is kind of like "What if
MTV produced the Exorcist?"

What if MTV produced the Exorcist? What type of movie would it have been? The answer can be conjectured from the film, Stigmata. Instead of the Tubular Bells soundtrack there is a blasting soundtrack written by Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Replace the 12-year-old girl with a 23 year old buxomy hairdresser and replace the old priest with a young, vile one and you have Stigmata.

The plot in Stigmata is going to sound familiar to most of us. A priest in a remote place is seen in the opening. He dies and an investigator from the Vatican looks into reports of a statue that cries blood. He finds it to be very possibly real. Meanwhile, back in the States, a young woman receives the rosary beads from the priest (through a fortunate purchase of her mother who happens to be in the Latin American country at the time). Once this young woman, Frankie, has the beads in her apartment, (she barely touches them) she begins to show the signs of stigmata. A stigma is when the wounds that Jesus Christ suffered when he was tortured and impaled. There are five such wounds, blood from the wrists, the feet, the scalp, the back and the side. Frankie is taking a relaxing bath when out of the blue her wrists burst into blood. She is rushed to the hospital where the doctors are sure the wounds are self-inflected. Frankie gets out very easily for someone suspected of being suicidal and is then scourged on the back in a subway train by some invisible force. This happens to occur in front of a parish priest who calls the Vatican right away. The investigating priest, Andrew, is dispatched to the scene and the movie moves along. Thrown in to the flick to add a little originality is a growing attraction between the girl and the priest, a heavy conspiracy involving a lost gospel and the Vatican and a seemly infatuation of the director in showing Frankie light up cigarettes.

Once again we have a movie featuring excellent actors in a weak plot. Franlie, the heroine of the story is well played by the talented and beautiful Patricia Arquette. Ms Arquette shows that she knows her way around the screen by bring life to an otherwise flat character. She interacts with her other actors in a familiar and comfortable manner that provides the viewer with an impression that there is more history there than the plot actually shows. Gabriel Byrne as the priest underplays his role in his usual fashion. He doesn’t quite show the turmoil that should be in the character, caught between science and his religion, between his vows and a beautiful young woman, the man should be in conflict. Byrne plays the role in a very sedate almost deadpan fashion. There are some interesting bit parts in Stigmata as well. Jonathan Pryce, as the Cardinal in charge of the conspiracy is well cast. Here, a dispassionate approach works well. There is Nia Long, as the best friend and an underutilized Portia de Rossi as a coworker.

The director, Rupert Wainwright does not have much experience in direction but he does show some promise. The scenes are well formatted but there is something lacking in the execution. He uses several metaphoric symbols such as doves (or in the states, pigeons), smoke, and, of course, blood to help bind the story line together What he needs most to work on is pace. Stigmata just does not move as fast as the Corgan soundtrack would have us hope. I look forward to another film by Wainwright to see how he progresses.

The disc is top notch, better than many out there. There is a director’s commentary that is interesting if only to hear why Wainwright made the decisions that he did. There is also an ‘easter egg’ hidden feature of the pre-production storyboards. The sound is 5.1 and very well balanced. The bass is overdone in some of the music but not too much. The video is extremely clear and crisp. The real find is that seamless branching is used to allow you to choose between the theatrical ending or the director’s alternate ended. Stigmata is for the die hard thriller fan.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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