Suspiria is a 1977 horror film directed by Dario Argento staring Jessica Harper. The film centres around an American ballet student who attends a prestigious German ballet school just after a murder has been committed, gradually as the student begins to investigate further the school.
One of the most prominent aspects of the film is the use of colours particularly red and blue, almost like Only God forgives (2013). Red is especially prominent in the film and most of the building in which Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) stays in is red. An unamed review from Film4 states "Argento's confident conjuring of hallucinatory terror and all-pervading evil sends a spell-binding chill through every frame." (Film4, 2008) this is especially true as the deaths and murders are portrayed as being particularly colourful and violent, the harshly contrasting colours help to make the school look even more strange and unearthly than it already is. As the victims rush throughout the halls we begin to feel as if this place is unreal and more nightmarish, at this point the supernatural charms begin to woo the audience and take their hold as the story develops.
Figure - 1 - One of the girls flees from the murderer in the school.
The scenes are often filled with damsels in distress though unlike other films there is no musclebound masculine hero to rescue them, being a ballet school the male attendees deviate from the usual stereotypical hero. Instead the masculine hero is replaced with a girl of no differing value to the other girls, she hunts down the clues and ultimately solves the mystery. This is a refreshing take on the stereotypical story of damsels in distress. The damsel in distress motif is seen to be specifically engineered for the film, particularly the graphic nature of the demise of many of these damsels.
Adam Smith of Empire Online states "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. He remains unrepentant about it. "A woman in peril is emotionally affecting," he told Empire back in 1997. "A man simply isn't." (Smith, 2007) The director achieved this objective very quickly, also however making the hero of the story female also lends into this, just as the director states; "A woman in peril is emotionally affecting", this could be said for both the women in distress and the heroine. The audience will focus much more on a female heroine than a male hero.
As mentioned before the extravagant use of colours gives the building a kind of unreal aura, the characters are never seen exiting the house, this makes the house feel more like a self-enclosed world where everything occurs. Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine states in his review: "Argento's visuals actively evoke a fairy-tale fantastique, engaging and toying with the Technicolor glory of Disney's cartoon version of Snow White, a film the director had been obsessed with since youth" (Gonzalez, 2001) one idea that this quote could support is how the story is meant to be told in a supernatural/fairy tale way, the strange set, story and events during the story could all be described as "unnatural", it could be an attempt by the director to create a fairy tale of his own. Far from being a story could it be a director acting out his own desires?
It is difficult to gain an accurate idea of the characters as they act in ways that make them just beneath the cusp of "normal", one can tell that there is something not quite right.
Film4, 2008, suspiria [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.film4.com/reviews/1976/suspiria [Accessed 12th December 2014]
Smith, A, 2007, reviewcomplete.asp?FID=132659 [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=132659 [Accessed 12th December 2014]
Gonzalez, E, 2001, suspiria [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/suspiria [Accessed 12th December]
Figure - 1
Dario Argento, 1977, suspiria-Technicolor.jpg [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.samefacts.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/suspiria-Technicolor.jpg [Accessed on 12th December 2014]