Stigmata is a story about a young atheist who is suddenly possessed by the soul of Jesus (or something) and begins to receive five marks of the crucifixion, including lashes to the back, holes in the hands and ankles, and bleeding from the head.
It also has a conflicting theme. On one end of the spectrum, the movie supports the fact that Jesus Christ exists and that he has great power. On the other end, however, the message that Jesus has brought back through the woman (Arquette) says everything needed to destroy the Catholic church system. Obviously, it has received several conflicts with various religious groups.
But who the hell cares? At first glance, Stigmata seems like The Exorcist. In both movies, a female is possessed by an outside force (in one, a demon, in the other, Jesus), nasty things happen to their bodies, and they start talking in weird voices and have seriously violent spells. I didn't really understand why Arquette would become violent, but it made for a good scene. Stigmata, though, is nowhere like The Exorcist. There is hardly the talk of exorcism in Stigmata, but more so about a religious conspiracy taking place in the Vatican.
As for filming and art direction, Stigmata is beautiful. While the dizzying original camera work gets a little obnoxious towards the end, it is a spectre to see and watch. The music sometimes seemed out of place, but for the most part it matched up with the main character, a twenty-three year old hairdresser who would much prefer hang out in bars and get drunk than attend church.
Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Byrne star, and they make a good match. Both actors deliver great performances and Arquette can definitely made up to look pretty scary. The only thing that was unappealing and rather pointless to the story was the chemistry between them, that just clicked enough for them to exchange a few kisses (he's a Catholic priest, by the way).
Stigmata is a wonderful piece of work with an entertaining and creepy story. It probably won't become a classic like The Exorcist but it's definitely a better piece of work.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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