Monday, October 25, 2010

Stigmata: Nothing Says God Like Chumbawumba

For some reason unknown as of yet to mankind, I have always secretly loved Stigmata. Not only is it the perfect time capsule of the 90s--inflatable furniture, jelly shoes, pleather pants and all, but it also just wildly fascinated me the first time I saw it. Now I should warn you, the first time I saw it I was deeply engrossed in my jelly shoes and pleather pants stage and for some reason at the time I had grown obsessed with the idea of stigmata. This is probably why I grew so fond of it. Well that, and blood tears which we'll get to later. Now seeing Stigmata for the first time in a long while I must say that it is not a very good film. This of course means nothing because still for some reason, I sort of like it. The world is strange.

I can't give a clear reason on why I was obsessed with stigmata. I'm fairly certain the true origin of my interest came from this movie which is both embarrassing and shameful. After watching it, I researched the idea extensively on our dial up Internet and was engrossed by all the supposed actual cases of stigmata. I wouldn't call myself religious or anything at this point although I was being forced to attend CCD, yet for some reason I thought stigmata was the coolest thing on the block. What's not to love? Unexplainable open, bloody wounds mimicking the wounds of Jesus!? Perhaps I fell into a love for horror much sooner than I once thought.

Stigmata is a strange bit of film, that at once tries to copy--or sorry pay tribute to The Exorcist while at the same time creating a bizarre and completely ridiculous love story. After the non-religious Frankie receives a rosary stolen from the dead hands of a priest in Brazil, she begins exhibiting signs of Stigmata. Initially brought in for psychological evaluation, it is not long before the church gets involved. Father Kiernan, is set on the case and soon starts to make a startling discovery about the truth behind Frankie's wounds, her possession and a missing gospel.

It's kind of funny that Patricia Arquette plays another character who is accused of wanting to hurt herself.

She practically plays the same character she did in Dream Warriors only now she's 23 and decorates with inflatable furniture. I think the thing that always drew me the most to this film was the depiction of the wounds happening. It carries that same oddly beautiful thing about it, not too far from the likes of Suspiria or something where the blood literally pops. Of course, the moments in this movie are often marred by the flashes of light (the hands of god touching her), and the all too quick jerk of the camera.

Things are definitely much too chaotic in these moments and it kind of ruins what could ultimately be a haunting occurrence.

The movie does do one thing incredibly right however and that is the existence of blood tears. I should tell you right now that I'm obsessed with blood tears.

I was convinced for about 5 months at one point in my life, that I was the sole inventor of the idea of blood tears. This idea was later crushed when movies kept coming out featuring blood tears...the bastards. In any case, the depiction of blood tears in this movie may just be my favorite thing about it. I find it so amazingly beautiful and terrifying that I cannot contain my joy.

Stigmata also has a few surprising moments of some really gorgeous shots.

These are peppered in between rather unfortunate moments of industrial Gothic clubs, and music provided by Chumbawamba however so they tend to lose a little bit of their magic.

Now sadly, the film as a whole mostly falls incredibly flat. From a non-biased's pretty bad. This is because nothing really happens or rather, the film is so all over the place that everything that does happen doesn't feel very connected. Take for example, the very nice introduction of Frankie's friend who helps her out in these beginning troubling times. She plays such a vital role and then halfway through the film, we never see her again! We have all these elements happening, Frankie's life, Frankie's wounds, Frankie's possession, the church, the controversy with what Father Kiernan finds, the ghostly face in the mirror but none of it ever seems to come full circle. It's like the very idea of the stigmata, which should be the main focus point gets pushed aside halfway through.

The stigmata is also troublesome because it leaves the door open for her possession. As someone who deeply loves the Exorcist, I find it odd that the idea of possession is even included in this. The explanation they give is pretty passable--when someone becomes that close to God through the stigmata, this leaves them more vulnerable to the temptations of evil. Well I guess that makes sense. But I still don't see why they needed to introduce that demonic element. When Frankie starts talking in the voice of Father Alameida, we aren't threatened by it because he is on a mission to deliver the missing gospel. But then soon after, Frankie is overcome by what is obviously a dangerous and evil demon. Why? That whole aspect is not vital whatsoever to the story and it just makes me feel like they needed that element of possession to cash in on the Exorcist's success and shock value. Here are the similarities to the Exorcist.

In the Exorcist, our good friend Father Merrin encounters a man with two different colored eyes.

In Stigmata, Father Kiernan also encounters a man with two different eyes.

When I first saw Stigmata, I confused Gabriel Bryne with Jason Miller. I mean they KIND OF look similar.....

Okay maybe not but as a young and confused soul I thought they were the same person. Sue me.

No shout out to the Exorcist would be complete with the standard levitation shot--although here it is nicely shot on a different angle so as not to steal it directly.

Instead of the demon forcing Frankie to masturbate with a cross, the demon just forces Frankie to cut herself over and over again. Pretty standard demonic activity. I'm sure there are tons more, but I'd rather just talk about sexual relations with priests.

Yeah, the entire relationship between Frankie and Father Kiernan is hysterical. Of course it's the 90s so every single movie, no matter what the subject matter MUST contain a romantic love story. Even if one of the characters has taken a vow of celibacy. Again, completely unnecessary, and in this instance--cringe worthy.

I would also like to point out the baloney factor in Father Kiernan's decision to become a priest. He started off as an organic chemist and was sooo interested in how the world began. He loves the idea that all these elements one day collided to ignite the start of the Earth and create life. BUT THEN one day he decides that it's all too impossible to imagine and instead he decided to believe that God created the Earth. Seriously? The last person who should ever be convinced of God's power is a scientist. I'm sorry, I'm just not buying it.

In a nutshell, Stigmata is a good idea in theory, and parts of it are pretty effective. Unfortunately as an entire story it seems to fall very flat. For some reason though, I still love it. I can't help it if I've always wanted to receive the stigmata ok?! Just kidding that would be a weird thing to want to have. Alright fine, I only wanted the stigmata so that a hunky priest could fall in love with me. There I said it.


James Gracey said...

GREAT review, Andre. I too had a strange obsession with this movie when it first came out. I loved the striking MTV aesthetics and melting-pot of under-developed ideas. And the religious significance of pigeons, of course!!

You've pretty much hit on the reasons why I loved it, and why it is, in fact, NOT a very good film.

Like you, I still kinda love it though.


'How's your faith these days, Father??!!'

Mr. Johnny Sandman said...

I hated this movie. That's why I can't even believe they are making a sequel to it.

Reanaclaire said...

I am Claire and on behalf of my clients, I would like to offer you paid reviews on some movies. If you are interested in writing some reviews for them, please let me know your rates.

Thank you.

Alexandra said...

I also recently re-watched this movie on tv and once i stopped laughing when they insisted Patricia Arquette is 23 it's just a silly time capsule of a movie, like you said.

Interestingly I caught an episode of Millionaire Matchmaker and the director of Stigmata was one of the cilent. Uber dirtbag.

Andre Dumas said...

I am glad I am not alone James!

Rick--Sequel really? Well that's a little odd, again I think they are still trying to jump on that exorcism bandwagon.

Claire- I charge 100 dollars for every review I do, thank you.

Alexandra--Eww really? I wonder if I saw that episode and didn't realize it...well that's too bad.