Monday, August 24, 2009

Critical Review Viviana Gomez Sanchez

Stigmata and The Da Vinci Code

To begin with, both movies analyzed follow the Hollywood themes of mystery and the attraction between a man and woman, as well as sensational images of death, pain and crime within other elements of movies for the best of commercial and entertainment purposes.
The movie Stigmata is a 1999 film directed by Rupert Wainwright and starring Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Byrne. The main characters show how there is not much investigated about Catholicism and there are a few doubts since a lot of what it is shown about the stigmata of Jesus is not what was written in the bible. This movie is about Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette), a young girl who works in a hairdresser and has a very normal life like any other girl her age these days. Her mother sends her a rosary from Brasil and what quickly follows is a strange series of events, including Frankie having hallucinations and waking up with the marks of the stigmata. Andrew Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne), a priest sent by The Vatican, then steps in to investigate this ‘miracle’ of the church. After delving further into the mystery, Kiernan even starts to question himself and his very own beliefs.
The film is essentially a critique of the Catholic Church’s actions in omitting documents from the Gospel of Thomas for their own benefit as an institution, and perhaps demonstrates a ‘stepping away from the Christian belief’ by the Church. This consequently casts doubts on their divine authority and thereby their ‘mission on earth’. For hundreds of years, they have been many documented cases of people having obtained stigmata markings. Even in today’s world, these people could exist, although not considered saints in today’s society but maybe not far from sanctity in the eyes of God.. In Stigmata, there are doubts about the sanctity of the person (i.e. Frankie) receiving the stigmata of Jesus. However, the Church does not believe in possession and stigmatas together, rather, they believe in the Holy Spirit capable of illuminating people (e.g. The 12 Apostles) and imparting sacraments. Also, it is important to mention how the movie portrays Kiernan as someone who feels an attraction to Frankie – a somewhat controversial storyline, showing a priest attracted to a young woman. On the other hand, this illustrates the priest’s human and emotional side, as someone with perfectly natural desires. Like any other religious institution there should be questions surrounding its pros and cons in order to understand their real doctrines and beliefs from a different perspective.

The movie The Da Vinci Code begins with the murder of Jacques Sauniere. During the final minutes of his life, Sauniere left a series of clues in the form of riddles and famous artwork that lead to a secret society guarding an ancient secret. Becoming a suspect himself, Harvard University symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) - with the help of Sauniere’s grand-daughter and police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tatou) - sets off to discover this secret by following the clues and the strange messages left by Sauniere. As both Robert and Sophie collect clues, the explosive secret of the Priory of Sion begins to unravel and they begin to realize that the contents of this secret could change the course of Christianity as we know it.
History as science has always been regarded with scepticism. There are times that history could not register with any certainty and this is where we construct myths and legends. The Da Vinci Code uses an exceptional approach to forming uncertain events in history. Dan Brown, the author of the original novel, intended to create doubts from what is known about Jesus’ personal life that could be truth or just simply fiction. In addition to this is the implication that Mary Magdalene was the true successor to Jesus and the head of the Christian Church due to the alleged pregnancy between herself and Jesus.
As mentioned in the beginning, the main aim for these blockbuster films was to entertain and consequently make money on the basis of religious mysteries, by manipulating the ‘grey area’ between historical events, and creating controversy around Christianity and the Church. Stigmata introduced the paranormal using sensational images to keep audiences astonished, and The Da Vinci Code created a controversial version of Jesus’ private life which conflicts with fundamental Christianity. Therefore, not only do they bring entertainment but the films also generate disbelief or scepticism.

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