Volume 93, Issue 9
Tuesday, September 14, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Stigmata leaves the marks of good thriller
Gazette file photo
OH THAT FRANKIE I'VE HEARD SHE'S REAL WILD IN BED. Frankie (Patricia Arquette) gets a little exorcise from Cardinal Houseman (Jonathan Price) in the new supernatural thriller Stigmata.
Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne
Directed by Rupert Wainwright
By Luke Rundle
For those unfamiliar with the term, the state of stigmata occurs when someone suffers from the same wounds inflicted upon Jesus Christ during his final days of life. Usually occurring to deeply devout Catholic persons, the marks of stigmata include small puncture wounds to the hands and feet, scratches to the forehead, lash marks to the back and a deep puncture wound to the side.
Stigmata's Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette) had never believed in God and never felt the need to. When she begins to suffer from these wounds in horrifyingly frightening episodes, Paige begins to believe she may be slipping into a state of insanity or into the clutches of a horrible disease.
It is only when a chance encounter with a priest during one of her episodes is caught on tape that the Vatican dispatchs one of their investigators to examine her case. Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) is a curious figure, schooled as a scientist to disprove the very miracles to which his religion adheres. Intending to investigate and debunk Paige's state, Kiernan sees more than he bargains for, leading him to re-evaluate everything he has based his life's work upon.
While Paige remains adequate as the movie's central cog, it is Byrne's Kiernan that is Stigmata's most intriguing character. Torn between two diverse worlds, Byrne gives a magnificent portrayal of this morally confused investigator living in a constant state of torment. A veteran character actor of such films like The Usual Suspects, Byrne's goodhearted Irish bluster lends itself well to the part.
Arquette performs as well as can be expected given the role, with most of her talents squandered on screaming and guttural chanting. When she is given a chance to shuck off her makeup and special effects, however, her wonderfully expressive eyes allow her to exhibit an acting skill which needs no extraneous trimmings to decorate.
Stigmata's only problem is the fact it does not devote enough screen time to it's character actors. Jonathan Pryce's Cardinal Houseman is a wonderfully complicated villain, covering up Paige's case for fear of its potentially damaging effect on the Catholic church. Unfortunately, Pryce is only allotted a few scenes and is barely able to scratch his character's surface. Rade Sherbedgia's excommunicated priest Petrocelli is also non-existent and would have been better used in a more prevalent role.
These minor shortcomings should not deter moviegoers from Stigmata. Wonderfully dark and brooding in its visual settings, the plot rolls quite smoothly from start to finish, aided by an eerie soundtrack crafted by the Smashing Pumpkin's Billy Corgan.
While a prior knowledge of the basics of Catholicism is helpful in understanding the film, the movie explains itself well enough for viewers of any denomination to follow along without getting lost. In all, Stigmata is a definite must-see, although one should be prepared to engage in some sort of deep religious discussion if attending with a guest.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999