Here at last is a movie that you can sink your teeth into. A movie that is
technically as brilliant as The Matrix, but is much more profound in
its subject and treatment. The subject is sensitive and incredible, but credit
must be given to the filmmakers for having done such a neat and convincing job.
Stigmata is a subject so far known only to devout Catholics. To showcase such
an unbelievable subject, to present it to the world in such a beautiful manner,
is commendable indeed.
The story revolves around Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette), a vivacious 22-year-old
girl who leads a normal life, taking it as it comes and enjoying every minute
of it. All of a sudden, in the most frightening and inexplicable manner, her
life is taken over by an invisible and powerful force. She is found unconscious
in the bathtub, her wrists lacerated by deep wounds which look as if nails have
been driven through the skin. She starts hallucinating and slowly begins to
lose control over her life. A priest sees another similar attack on her where
she is whipped by unseen hands in a subway train, and reports it to the Vatican
church authorities. A high-ranking Vatican official, Cardinal Houseman, dispatches
Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) to Pittsburgh to investigate.
Andrew Kiernan is a very interesting character himself. He is a scientist and
a priest (two conflicting professions) rolled into one, who goes around investigating
so called miracles, proving them to be hoaxes. He meets Frankie and is intrigued
on seeing all the symptoms of an authentic stigmatic. But Frankie is an atheist
as opposed to the cases of stigmata recorded so far. But as Kiernan witnesses
further incidents where wounds typical to stigmatics are inflicted on Frankie
by invisible hands, he is convinced, slowly but surely, that Frankie isn't a
Stigmata consists of five classic points where wounds appear on the
side, on both hands and on both feet. Frankie is wounded on both hands and feet,
and she also receives the scratches on the forehead meant to symbolize the crown
of thorns. She is sure that the final wound, symbolizing the lance, speared
into the side will kill her. Kiernan is desperate to do something to save the
life of this gutsy girl.
But then shades of a different personality start emerging in Frankie as she
starts speaking in an unintelligible language and in a gruff manly voice. She
writes on a wall in a script that cannot be understood. Kiernan contacts a friend
of his who is an expert on ancient scrolls. Slowly the truth starts emerging,
and the church officials are frantic to conceal it. It is then that the significance
of the line 'The messenger must be silenced' strikes you. Kiernan must now delve
deep into his self to find strength from his faith to save Frankie from her
The performances are marvelous, especially those of Patricia Arquette and Gabriel
Byrne. Gabriel Byrne, who played Satan in The End Of Days, performs in
a deliciously subtle manner as opposed to Arquette's suitably hysterical performance.
The photography is done really well, and in spite of some really gruesome scenes
showing the actual infliction of the wounds, the constant sight of blood doesn't
get on your nerves. The background score is suitably techno in the violent scenes
and hymn-like in the softer scenes. The movie is an out-and-out team effort,
which deserves to be commended for the excellent coordination achieved.