"Cinematically enthralling, Stigmata is an absorbing mystery thriller with
intriguing elements. A very visual film, the style and cinematography alone will blow you
away in a thrill ride of the imagination. From the tantalising opening credits that
combine historic, mystical and contemporary components, to the chilling and eclectic
soundtrack, your senses will be satiated. We are swept into a world of muted colours, deep
monotones and an abundance of visual complexities. Eyelashes fill the screen like a
butterfly poised for flight; lips, sensuous, searching for fulfillment.
The close ups are
breathtaking. Serenity is juxtapositioned with frenzied anxiety, faith with skepticism. We
are surrounded by terrifying claustrophobia and fear of the unknown, the unexplained and
unimaginable. Beyond the look and at the heart of the film's pulse are strong performances
by a top cast. Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Byrne are class acts, exuding charisma and
great screen chemistry. Arquette (beautiful through all her ordeals) is strong in a gutsy,
energetic role with a feminine vulnerability that makes her totally credible. Byrne is
always an interesting actor – he is expert at nuance and detail. Good to see Jonathan
Pryce in a juicy role as the power hungry church official.
If the topic of the Dead Sea
Scrolls fascinates you (is the bible fact or fairytale?), you'll be intrigued, and horror
fans will be wide eyed at the exorcism scenes. Not that you have to know anything at all
about religion to enjoy this film. But don't analyse the plot details too closely.
would be easy to critically dissect some plot aspects; you could be excused for being
confused at why goodness should manifest itself as evil personified. And there's a bit of
overkill here and there. But that aside, Stigmata is a mesmerising, explosive cinematic
experience. Be possessed."
"Stigmata tackles a fascinating subject - fascinating to some, like me, who find
the historic and mythical stories about Jesus one of the great riddles of history. Hidden
behind veils of superstition plus religious and dramatic symbolism, the man and his
actions have reverberated through 2000 years and show no sign of withering into silence.
Embedded within the history of Christianity are some of the most exotic fantasies ever
dreamt up by man - or woman. Stigmaticism is one. But I admit the subject has little mass
market appeal - unless of course it is dressed up in the clothes of cinematic FX, which is
what this film does, expressly for the purpose of seducing the masses.
There is rich irony
here, since it was this very premise that drove Jesus to invent a fabulous fairytale of
miracles and message symbols in order to communicate his ideals to an illiterate,
uneducated and deeply religious, superstitious following. But let's get back to the movie;
its very strengths are its weaknesses.
First, the stigmata FX: over-produced and hacked
into frenzied sequences of noise and confused image, these cheat us of involvement by
being totally impenetrable. The gravity of the topic is mistrusted by the filmmakers, who
opt for sensationalism of a simplistic kind, when they are handling sensational material
that needs no embellishment. It ends up far too heavy handed and silly as a result.
camerawork is often breathtaking; here and there it approaches a masterpiece in the
making, both in terms of the use of lighting - or rather, the use of shadows and darkness
- and in terms of points of view and perspective. The camera becomes a real player in the
film. But sometimes, this, too, suffers from contrivance. (As in a couple of shots of
blood dripping into still water, inserted more for 'look how great this is' instead of
serving the film, and defying the dislexic jump cutting.)
Finally, the script muddles and
mixes its potent forces to the extent that good and evil are indistinguishable and our
hold on the proceedings is shaken by convulsions as great as poor Patricia Arquette's.
Stigmata is an exciting and novel visual trip that almost survives its own weight but is
let down by trying too hard to be populist.
Fascinating, yes; engaging, sometimes;
brilliant, fleetingly; annoying, occasionally."
Andrew L. Urban
"Nowhere in the production notes does it say that this saga is a comedy. Nor does it
say it's a parody of the genre. But it sure is difficult to take this effort by
"acclaimed commercial and music video director", Rupert Wainwright, with any
degree of seriousness. It wouldn't even make a list of worst films of all time as it is
not interestingly bad, just turgid.
If a film starts with its concept, this one's in
trouble from the beginning. Is it a story of evil and corruption within the Catholic
Church or is it the story of an ordinary woman overtaken by extraordinary circumstances?
Wainwright, along with writers Tom Lazarus and Rick Ramage have tried for both and
succeeded in neither, utterly failing to mesh the two components of the story.
Ramaga have also been responsible for some of the clunkiest exposition we've heard in
recent times. They may as well have sat us down and said 'now for a brief history of the
bible and the Catholic Church'. Come to think of it, they did. Wainwright ably
demonstrates here what a fine commercial and video director he must be. He has all the
groovy flashy shots and short sequences hold together well. But he has neither the stamina
or the depth that a feature film director requires.
The film's two stars do nothing to
help this effort either. Patricia Arquette is a charisma free zone, while Gabriel Byrne
seems to rely solely on his charisma and good looks without the hint of an emotion in
sight. Jonathon Pryce plays a pretty good bad guy but his performance alone is not enough
to save this mish mash of mulch."