Of carnies and Calvary: Stigmata ***

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo in 2010)

Stigmata (aka Estigmas) is a film that is so visually intoxicating, striking in tone and steeped in atmosphere, that one is compelled to overlook (forgive?) its relatively thin narrative and decidedly glacial pacing. Based on the graphic novel by Lorenzo Mattotti and Claudio Piersanti, the film is directed by Adan Aliaga.

In his acting debut, champion Spanish shot-putter Manuel Martinez stars as the central character, Bruno, a classic “gentle giant” (replete with the requisite heart of gold) who wakes up one morning with mysterious, painless wounds in both hands, which proceed to bleed copiously and continuously. Naturally, this makes him an instant social pariah. He finds refuge with a carnival, where true love, tragedy and redemption transpire.

I assume much of the simmering angst and sublimated religious subtext will resonate more strongly with my Catholic brethren (although, as a Jew, I can sort of empathize). I was reminded of Fellini’s La Strada, with a few echoes of Lynch’s The Elephant Man as well. Pere Pueyo’s B & W cinematography is outstanding, and Aliaga is a talent to keep an eye on.

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