Saturday, 13 March 2010

Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria is arguably Dario Argento's most well-known film out of his entire catalogue. It is notorious in equal measure for its visuals and its ridiculous (and near incomprehensible) plot. Me? I love it. I think it is a work of twisted art that works much better on an aesthetic level than as a piece of storytelling.

There are moments during Suspiria that are so odd they seem dreamlike. Vibrant colours and surreal imagery are the order fo the day, worked into a delightfully odd tale set in a ballet school. This film was the first part of Argento's 'Three Mothers' trilogy, which continued in 1980 with 'Inferno' and was finally completed in 2007 with the fan-dividing effort 'Mother Of Tears', which I rather liked, despite its glaring faults.

A young American dancer arrives at a ballet school, and as her experiences at the school become ever stranger (maggots raining from the ceiling, odd sightings of strange creatures, brutal murders and all manner of delirious, tripped out imagery), she discovers that the school is hiding a rather more sinister organization beneath its staid exterior, namely a cult, plotting more death and mayhem.

Suspiria is very much a case if style over substance. Visually it is gorgeous, with some beautifully framed cinematography and some very striking images playing out before the viewer's hungry eyes. As a complete film though, it's not so great. The nightmarish, unnerving quality of the film gives the sometimes non-linear sequence of events a disjointed feel not unlike that of a terrifying dream.

It's a film that is sure to be despised by many fans of the current wave of horror films. You need a certain appreciation of older techniques and horror concepts to really get much out of this flick, but for all of its mental moments and bizarre dialogue, it's rather wonderful.

One of the standout aspects of the film is the exemplary electronic score provided by The Goblins (aka just 'Goblin'), which is a marvel of hypnotic synths and effects that really adds to the bizarre mayhem onscreen.

Parts of it come across as an obscure play, some moments bring to mind Jean Rollin's films (in terms of the ideas rather than the amount of visible skin), and while the acting and script are regularly quite a chore to sit through, Suspiria is a hugely enoyable and widely debated film that really brought Dario Argento to a wider audience around the world.

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