Screen Violence

film 3 of 5


Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 18, 2015

It’s kind of hard to concentrate on plot the first time you see this. The second time I noticed that the plot is secondary to the point of insignificance. In fact the story itself, the explicit content of the film is made up of implausibilities, dumb dialogue and (mostly) bad performances. (What are you up to, Signora Valli?). Well, wait. Are they bad, or just kind of undirected/neglected? Our enterprising young director might have had other priorities, after all. Those priorities emerge when you forget that plot and return to the things that grabbed you in the first place. 

Suspiria has a couple of consistent, all the way through amazing things in it. There are the gleefully virtuosic set pieces, which are also kind of unforgivably brutal (the first double murder; a room full of razor wire?!). Less obviously, more profoundly we have some of the most operatic, amazing design ever. The film is full of fauvist wonders, astounding colour schemes and costumes and objects, all executed as wonderfully as they were conceptualized. And the camera work itself is an unrelieved series of extravagant, perfect compositions and movements. Not too much going on upstairs, and what is going on is tough to defend. But formally! Wow!

Third time? Could it be? As with William Friedkin on the subject of sensitivity, we don’t want to accuse Dario Argento of being a feminist or anything. But get a load of our diminutive heroine, standing up to all of these howling, infernal forces. And prevailing! More than that, notice that she isn’t objectified for a minute, at least not hardly. In fact, I can’t remember any gratuitously voyeuristic imagery at all. Is it that women are the antagonists here, and so there’s no sexual menace, no prospect of sexual violence? I’d better check it out again…