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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 3/10/00

1999 (2000) - MGM

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Stigmata Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A-/B+

Specs and Features

103 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 54:32, at the start of chapter 15), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, director's alternate ending, audio commentary by the director, deleted scenes, music video by Natalie Imbruglia, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English & French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French & Spanish, Closed Captioned

"Do you know what's scarier than not believing in God? Believing in him."

Stigmata is the phenomenon of lacerations on the body, mirroring the wounds of Jesus during the crucifixion. Beginning with St. Francis of Assisi back in the 1200s, this type of experience has occurred among many, all of whom have been deeply religious people. Thus is the primary plot vehicle for the cleverly named Stigmata.

However, the presence of the affliction in Patricia Arquette's character is not the real point of the film. The stigmata is combined with a "lost gospel," supposedly written by Jesus himself, to propel a sort of Vatican conspiracy theory. To summarize, Arquette is afflicted not only with the stigmata, but also with the message of that lost gospel. Certain Catholic officials would just as soon see that gospel stay lost because it threatens the authority of the church. Thus we have a simple, elegant, classic Hollywood plot.

This film could be classified as a little self-indulgent, directorially. A mix of MTV-style editing and an almost extreme use of color and contrast is put in play here. The premise is more than interesting enough, and the film is successful in following a very interesting dialog on what really constitutes the church. Unfortunately, it takes some things a bit too far and falls back on the clichés of the genre a bit much. A few plot holes aside (and a less than stellar ending), the film is more than entertaining and worth an active viewing.

As far as the video is concerned, it looks exemplary. An anamorphic transfer is very well done, with virtually no artifacts, defects or grain. There is an important piece of information about the video, however. When film is processed, it goes through a bath of silver nitrate and a bath of a bleach. The silver activates and enhances the color. The bleach washes away the silver and brings out the middle tones and such. When they processed this film, they went with a process called "skip bleaching." In effect, they just left out the second bath. The result? There is an unusually high level of contrast. Don't adjust your video settings. It's supposed to look that way.

The audio is also quite good, bringing the deep voice of the possessed Arquette and the various screeching sounds to life. The film score (featuring music by Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins) is incredibly encompassing, and is further highlighted by the aforementioned MTV-style editing. The extras are also solid, featuring a full-length commentary by director Rupert Wainwright. The commentary is insightful, if not entirely exciting. A cadre of deleted scenes are good, including the alternate ending. A nice feature is that you can watch this either as a separate scene or as part of the whole movie. A music video from Natalie Imbruglia and the requisite trailer round out the supplements.

This film is not incredible. It's good though, and despite an unsatisfying ending (even the alternate one is poor), it's a solid addition to any DVD collection. Factor in the solid list of extras and the disc is completely worth buying. Just don't classify this as a pure horror film. It has the elements of that genre (to its own detriment at times), but it's more of a religious exploration. Keep an open mind while viewing.

Brad Pilcher
[email protected]

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