Friday, October 21, 2011

Stigmata (1999)

Spoiler Warning - I'm gonna go ahead and spoil the whole plot of the movie, because that's what's really worth talking about.

Stigmata is a pretty effective dramatic thriller, with a religious theme, but what's so fascinating about it is the premise. Allow me to outline the plot. A priest discovers a new gospel, never before found, which, in the process of translation, he determines are the words of Jesus himself, spoken on the night of the Last Supper. However, instead of rejoicing at this discovery, the Vatican excommunicates the priest and tries to cover up the existence of the Gospel of Jesus. As it turns out, the church will let nothing interfere with their authority - not even God himself.

In the words of Jesus: "the Kingdom of God is inside you, and all around you, not in mansions of wood and stone."

So when the offending priest dies, his spirit travels across the world (attached to the priest's rosary, nicked from his coffin by an enterprising young thief), and possesses a young woman who lives in what I think is supposed to be Pittsburgh (it looks nothing like Pittsburgh). And our primary protagonist, other than this young woman, a self-described atheist, who begins to experience the stigmata - a souvenir from the excommunicated priest whose soul inhabits her body - is another priest who is rather more of a scientist, that goes around on the Vatican's orders, investigating claims of miracles. But his skepticism and desire for the truth will pit him against the church in the end.

Apparently, the basic story (of the gospel, not the possessed woman experiencing stigmata) is based on true events, surrounding the Gospel of Thomas, which was alleged to be closest to the words of Jesus himself, and is not officially recognized by the Vatican. Of course, the truth of any matters regarding religion is muddy at best, but the idea itself I find intriguing - the idea that the words of Jesus himself contradict the entire foundation of the church that was greedily enacted in his name. That the true spiritual path that Jesus recommended not only does not demand the presence of the church, but is actively hampered by it (to say nothing of its corruption). Now that's a religious message I can get behind.

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