Father Andrew Kiernan
Directed by Rupert Wainwright, with story by Tom Lazarus and screenplay by Tom Lazarus and Rick Ramage
MGM Studios, 1999
Stigmata is a supernatural suspense story about good, evil, and faith. Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette) is a hair stylist in her mid-20s who has no strong religious convictions until odd things start happening to her after she’s given a rosary by her mother: she begins speaking with another person’s voice; unknown and unseen forces start to attack her; and she develops stigmata, bleeding wounds that spontaneously appear on her wrists, feet, and side, as Christ was wounded at Calvary. Some people believe that a holy miracle has been visited on Frankie, though no one can say why. A Cardinal from the Vatican (Jonathan Pryce) sends a priest, Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne), to investigate Frankie and her condition; after getting a first-hand look, Father Andrew finds himself less concerned with whether Frankie’s wounds are a legitimate miracle and more concerned with saving her life. Billy Corgan, leader of the rock group The Smashing Pumpkins, composed the score for Stigmata in collaboration with keyboardist Mike Garson.–Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
More screencaps by LucilleP are in the Gallery.
interviews/behind the scenes
From the Director’s Commentary on the DVD:
One of the things I really like about Gabriel’s performance is that just with his looks he communicates so much and a lot of times we found that we could cut his dialogue in a scene before we even shot it because he would do it all with his face, such an expressive face, he communicates so much with the audience, the words actually sometimes were getting in the way.
Byrne’s Confession (From the DVD Booklet):
“Nobody but Gabriel could have played the part of the priest (Father Andrew Kiernan),” says Wainwright. “He’s such an intelligent actor, [and he] has those amazing eyes that just radiate that intelligence.” Byrne was also drawn to the role, and the deeply personal struggle between faith and reason his character must confront. “I’d always wanted to play a priest,” says Byrne. “I am fascinated as to why people choose to become priests. [I] loved the idea that my character would be both a scientist and a priest. It’s an interesting combination, because the two are contradictory approaches to life: a scientist relies on facts to prove the existence of something, while a priest relies on faith. The battle between faith and reason is constant.”
This is a behind-the-scenes look at the story of Stigmata, available in some versions of the DVD.
Father Kiernan: Frankie? Frankie… who are you?
Frankie (possessed by Father Alameida): The messenger is not important.
Frankie: I just don’t think I can understand a man who’s….
Father Kiernan: Who’s never made love to a woman? Well, Frankie, this, may come as a shock to you, but I wasn’t born a priest.
Frankie: But you didn’t like it.
Father Kiernan: What’s not to like?
Frankie: But you don’t miss it?
Father Kiernan: Of course I miss it. I mean, I’m human. I struggle with it. But I’ve made a choice. Basically, what I’ve done is I’ve exchanged one set of complications for another…
Frankie: You know, for a priest you’re pretty relentless.
Father Kiernan: Yeah, I guess I stopped being a priest and slipped back into being a scientist. It’s a habit.
Frankie: Hey, what kind of a scientist is a priest, anyway?
Father Kiernan: You don’t want to know…
Frankie: Oh, yes I do.
Father Kiernan: I don’t know, I don’t know……I travel around the world investigating miracles, and then I disprove them. The real miracle is that anyone believes anything. I don’t know what I’m doing, to tell you the truth.
Voice of Frankie: Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of God is inside you and all around you…’
Voice of Petrocelli: ‘…Not in mansions made from wood and stone. Split a piece of wood and I am there. Lift a stone and you will find me…’
Voice of Father Kiernan: These are the hidden sayings that the living Jesus spoke. Whoever discovers the meaning of these sayings will not taste death.
Questionable Taste Theatre: Best.Stigmata.Blog.Posting.Ever
Anyway, Father Gabriel Byrne eventually shows up hoping to debunk her, and they sit down to have a nice conversation, and this is where, when I saw it the first time, I went from sort of being interested in it to really liking it. I am not always the biggest fan of Patricia Arquette, but she’s really suited to this role, and Gabriel Byrne is always awesome, and they work together well, and there’s just something about this scene that I love. It helps that he’s like, “So, let’s talk about how you’re crazy-devout and that’s why this is happening,” and she’s like, “Atheist,” and he’s like, “…Oh. Um.”
In its sum, Stigmata is such an effective commentary about what we believe and why we believe it – about who we allow to define or misroute our belief. It’s a film about losing your faith and running from God – and the fearsome yet comforting idea that He might be able to find you anyway, and inform you that you’ve misunderstood His terms.
At the center of the story, providing a human perspective on issues with vast and far-reaching implications, are Frankie Page (Patricia Arquette), a 23-year old Pittsburgh hairdresser who is a confessed atheist, and Father Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne), a Roman Catholic Priest who investigates (and disproves) miracles. Circumstances conspire to bring these two together, then force them to re-examine their views on spirituality and religion. Andrew has always thought of himself as more of a scientist than a theologian, but Stigmata’s events generate a severe test of faith. Meanwhile, for Frankie, who does not believe in God, the knowledge that she is being used as a tool to present His message is a terrifying realization – especially when she understands that this unwanted role may lead to her death.
Hollywood.com/Film.com [This review is no longer available]
Because of the horrific events which are visited upon Frankie, as well as Arquette’s sympathetic portrayal of her, it’s a no-brainer that Father Kiernan and the audience will invest even more desperately in the hope that she will be saved. Alternating between repellant and attractive, Arquette’s embodiment of this sexy lost lamb torn by a multitude of forces and agendas is the driving force of the film. Equally important to this supernatural story is the grounding presence of Byrne’s soulful, compassionate man of integrity, as well as of the cloth. Although it is highly predictable at times, the story manages to be engaging and, oddly enough, thought-provoking.
Similarly, while much of the film’s plot has no interest in making sense, once the complete explanation of everything that’s been happening has been presented (by a very effective Rade Sherbedgia), it’s a bit cleverer than anticipated. “Stigmata” is too out of control too often to be much more than a shameless guilty pleasure, but its baroque religious overlay makes us close to believers by the end.
“Stigmata” is possibly the funniest movie ever made about Catholicism–from a theological point of view. Mainstream audiences will view it as a lurid horror movie, an “Exorcist” wannabe, but for students of the teachings of the church, it offers endless goofiness.
FilmBlather.com [This website is no longer available]
The influence of the MTV generation on cinema has never been more apparent than in Stigmata, a visually stunning, preposterously plotted thriller that also happens to be vehemently anti-Catholic. MGM will never hear the end of it from the ubiquitous, uncomfortably large Catholic League, and understandably so; unlike some of the films that activist groups have made a fuss about, it’s not hard to see where this one may offend. Let the offended ones balk, but this is tremendously enjoyable trash, an audaciously stylized full-length music video that manages to deliver a smart, surprisingly restrained message in a story that doesn’t make an iota of sense.
On a deeper level, the story had a solid initial premise with an “original” twist tossed in there in regards to its sub-genre. The possession here is actually not from the “devil” or an “evil entity”, it’s from a…well, see the film to find out. I also appreciated the religious themes brought up throughout the narrative, the shroud of mystery floating about and how they addressed the always-gripping subject matter of individual faith vs organized religion. It left me with some food for thought. Character-wise, Frankie (Arquette) and Andrew (The Byrne) definitely kept me in the game on a human level. I particularly enjoyed their attraction and the nature of their relationship. The chemistry between the two actors and their talent elevated the “somewhat thin” characters to a higher level for me. Also, I don’t know about you, but seeing a certain The Byrne walking across the frame in slow motion, wearing slick ass sunglasses amplifies any film’s worth 10 fold for me.
Thanks to LucilleP for the luscious screencaps, Daniela for the Italian version of the DVD Booklet and several links, Aragarna and Lara for the fan videos, and CorFidele and Lara for the promotional stills.