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By Patrick Samuel • September 22nd, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Original release: September 10th, 1999
Running time: 103 minutes

Director: Rupert Wainwright
Writers: Tom Lazarus, Rick Ramage
Composers: Billy Corgan, Elia Cmiral

Cast: Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce


Have you ever read the Gospels? When I was at school I had to read them, and though as an adult now I’ve drifted away from what the Vatican would like me to believe about the life of Jesus Christ, I’ve always thought it odd that out of the twelve apostles there were only four Gospels, from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

It came as no surprise then to learn that were many other Gospels, known now as apocrypha and the Gnostic gospels. These were the Gospels the church sought to ban, citing heresy as the main reason, but in truth, these Gospels told more about the life and time of Christ than they would like us to know and it’s an issue that can severely undermine the Roman Catholic Church and it has so far rarely been covered in film.

Therefore Stigmata was one I looked forward to seeing since I’d first heard about it after it was released in America. With a score provided by The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, a slick visual style and direction by Rupert Wainwright, I knew it was going to stand out from other supernatural thrillers I’d seen over the years such as Lost Souls and The Prophecy, both of which I’d enjoyed very much. While its central premise rests more on the idea of signs from God or the Devil, it does include something about the apocrypha which I found fascinating back in 1999 and still do today.

After an introduction showing Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) in the Brazilian village of Belo Quinto, where a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe is weeping blood and a young boy steals a rosary to sell it, the story then moves to Pittsburgh. That’s where we meet Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette), an atheist hairdresser who’s going about living her life the way many young people that age might; smoking, drinking, going out with guys and generally having a good time.


When her mother buys a rosary and mails it to her, strange things start happening to Frankie. First there’s an incident in her bath which leaves her with two wounds on her wrists that go all the way through. Next she’s whipped by an unseen force on a subway train; the attack leaves her with deep gashes on her back. Video footage from the attack is sent to the Vatican and they send Fr. Kiernan to investigate if these incidents are really what they seem to be.

Frankie has already been expecting Fr. Kiernan, but when she tells him she’s not religious at all, he’s decided that what’s happening to her can’t be signs from God as stigmata have only ever appeared on those who are deeply devoted in their faith. After another incident, which leaves her with wounds from an invisible crown of thorns and speaking in Aramaic, the language of Christ, Fr. Kiernan begins to believe and starts to fear for her receiving the fifth and final Holy Wound of Christ – a spear through the side, as described in The Gospel of John (John 19:34).

What Fr. Kiernan and the Vatican also realise is that what Frankie’s been writing in Aramaic are the words from a previously lost Gospel that was found outside Jerusalem, believed to be the exact words of Jesus Christ. But before it could be translated, Cardinal Daniel Houseman (Jonathan Pryce) had ordered the workers to Stigmata
stop. Up until Frankie began displaying signs of the Holy Wounds and writing the Gospel herself, Houseman thought that would be end of that and whatever was contained in those writings would never be known to the world.

Aside from the look, feel and sound of this highly polished film, Stigmata is without a doubt one of my favourite films to have come out of the latter part of the 90s. With its highly controversial storyline disguised as a supernatural thriller, for the most part it seems to have gone undetected and largely forgotten today, but it offers glimpses into how a powerful organisation like the Vatican has always sought to control the flow of information for the sake of maintaining that power.

Though the story never actually reveals the name of the book Frankie has been writing from, a caption at the end tells us that the Catholic Church refuses to recognise the Gospel of Thomas, discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December 1945, as the actual words of Jesus, spoken when he was alive.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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