Sunday, 1 January 2012

Suspiria (1977)

Fig. 1
Dario Argento's Suspiria is an Italian horror film, which has a bold art deco element throughout it. With its block, vibrant use of primary colours it both intrigues and repels the audience. The set design and lighting are without a doubt the most prominent features of the film. Every scene is filled with colour and pattern, this all creates delusional appeal. The plot follows an American ballet student who transfers to a German school of the arts. It is there where the audience is presented with a several sequences of pure nightmarish situations. The dramatic and unprovoked attacks could come across either quite comical or truly terrifying due to the uncanny feel. The vibrant use of the colour red through lighting, blood and set is violently creepy.  

Fig. 2
The surprising and unpredictable twists and turns of the plot brings a nightmare to life. The idea of the ceiling 'raining' maggots and a woman shredded by barbed wire is definitely stomach-churning moments! The camera is intent on personifying the pain felt by the victims by continually fixating on the sequence. The bright red walls are enough on their own to bring chills down anyone's spine. The general feel and atmosphere for this film is cold, as the audience doesn't tend to connect to any characters and feels over powered by the garishness of the set and horror. Adam Smith discusses, "... in fact the plot, such as it is, is just a device to link a series of gloriously realised set-pieces. Argento is a maestro of sustained horror sequences ... A young dancer is combing her hair at night only to find a maggot in it. And then another. As she looks up she discovers the whole ceiling is crawling with them and they begin to rain down on her. In one of the most gleefully sadistic sequences ever put on film a scantily clad co-ed tumbles into a barbed wire filled pit. The camera looks on, unmoving, as she struggles, working herself deeper and deeper into the seemingly endless barbs. It's possibly the clearest expression of the director's embedded hatred of women, or at least his desire to see them tortured and mutilated." (Smith 2007) Smith states the particular scenes in which bring the most terror. He also discusses the directors possible impression he has upon women. The continuation of the various sequences gives the film more of an 'art film' feel, expressionist and dramatically bold.

Fig. 3
The strange happenings are all emphasised by music and lighting, with obscene and obscure operatic music to match the bright greens, yellows, reds and blues of the spot lights. The clash brings an intense and distribing energy to the piece. Film4 states, "Argento's skilful use of unsettling, intense colour and stunning set designs adequately obscure the film's numerous structural flaws." (Film4 2008) Film4 suggests that the film is more style over substance, which appears true. The fact that everything is so theatrical throughout proves this.

As the film is extreme with all elements brings a sickening feel to the audience, almost as if Argento is trying to over power and exploit his audience. Janet Maslin argues, "Mr. Argento's methods make potentially stomach-turning material more interesting than it ought to be. Shooting on bold, very fake-looking sets, he uses bright primary colors and stark lines to create a campy, surreal atmosphere, and his distorted camera angles and crazy lighting turn out to be much more memorable than the carnage." (Maslin 1977) Maslin praises the striking art deco set design and makes prominent the features of the film that bring the uncanny feel to it. He breaks down the elements and describes clearly the atmosphere and impact of the film.

List of illustrations
Figure 1. Argento, Dario (1977) Suspiria Movie Poster. At: (Accessed on:30/12/11)

Figure 2. Argento, Dario (1977) First Death Sequence. At: (Accessed on:30/12/11)

Figure 3. Argento, Dario (1977) End Scene. At: (Accessed on:30/12/11)

Empire Magazine Adam Smith (2007) Suspiria. At: (Accessed on:30/12/11)

Film4 (2008) Suspiria 1977. At: (Accessed on:30/12/11)

New York Times Review Janet Maslin (1997) Suspiria (1977) 'Suspiria,' a Specialty Movie, Drips With Gore. At: Tomatoes (Accessed on:30/12/11)

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