Monday, 5 February 2007
The Euro-American Cult of the Saints and Celtic Warriors on Film
For this post I'm wondering if you've seen the film Stigmata (1999). Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce plays the Cardinal Daniel Houseman. Stigmata is an intensely grotesque distortion of the female protagonist’s psyche and body. Played by Patricia Arquette, the unwilling heroine becomes the 'channeler' for a martyred male priest. There is a parallel tale of romance where the female is juxtaposed between good priest and bad church, in a thrilling horror joy ride that has a slashy tinge of Film-Noir-meets-Latin-Magical-Realism, about it. Great filmmaking, great storytelling; fuzzy theology, but who cares?
Make no mistake -- Mel Gibson was stealing all his best (and most gruesome) ideas from this bloody horror flick. But Stigmata bears this cross better than Mel, with conspiracy-theory panache. Dublin born Gabriel Byrne is a sexy 'good' priest named Father Andrew Kiernan. This heroic Irish priest character recurs in The Magdalene Sisters (2002) and in Song for a Raggy Boy (2003). Previously this heroic priest idea is invented by Welshman Ceri Sherlock in his Branwen (1994), whose priest is the wize wizard who councils the troubled (and male grotesque) Welsh chapel minister. Of course, Tornatore openly (but gently) mocks the priest in Nuova cinema Paradiso (1988), as Fellini parodied this priest paragon as a conflicted, carnivalesque confidant/hierophant in 8 1/2 (1963).