Do you know anything about… witches?

I’d heard of the name Dario Argento before, but hadn’t known much about him until now. Turns out, he’s a highly influential Italian filmmaker of the giallo genre, a film type sometimes referred to as the “spaghetti thriller”. It’s a pretty apropos moniker, given what Suspiria comes off and presents itself as. The story is… well, the story’s not the important part of watching this film; it’s the visual and the audible that this film assaults, and quite successfully I might add. It’s a veritable cornucopia for the eyes and ears, though again, not so much for the mind.

Pretty much the first thing you’ll notice right off the bat is the absolutely astounding use of color; it is freaking everywhere, in every shape and form. People (myself included) have often used the term ‘drowning in it’ to describe an overabundance of something, but never before has it been more justly applied than to Argento’s landmark film; you are as close to being literally drowned in color as you can get with a film. And it’s not just the color; the production value is second-to-none, and is coupled with the various uses of color to make for an unforgettable visual experience – the initial murder in the first 20 minutes is probably one of the most striking in all of cinema, and it will stay burned in my memory for a good long while. The third horse in this troika of overblown saturation of the senses is the score; immense and swooping, it crackles like twigs, and horrifies merely with the use of obscure instruments all piled on each other to create a cacophony for the ears.

Now, onto the other side of things: what wasn’t so good. Definitely first off is the script, which was downright laughable at times, both in the spoken dialogue and the narrative of the plot. The individual happenings of the story, scene by scene, seem there mostly for various impact rather than to actually tie together a sensible story, almost like the production team behind the film had a few good scenarios they wanted to capture on film and thought up a barely threadable plotline to link them all one by one in a row. Just don’t watch this for the plot; watch it for the visual and audio aesthetic instead, and you’ll be well off. The acting was also a little tenuous, mostly in the diction used in the hilariously bad overdubbing; I don’t know if they used the same actresses’ voices or if they used other people, but whatever reason, the voice actors definitely tried to give their own spin on things rather than match the performances of the actors and blend in with them, which makes for extra entertainment of the not-so-good variety. So yeah, points off for the shoddy overdubbing. It just never seems to go away.

This was actually my second attempt to get through Suspiria; I’d tried a while before I’d even encountered the list on a recommendation from a film school buddy, and aside from really liking the colors and the music and the production design, I only got about half an hour into it before turning elsewhere to do other things. Now, looking back on it, I don’t really remember why I stopped watching it; I might have just not been interested in what the film had to offer that particular night. Still, watching it now, I don’t feel like I missed much. It’s like I got everything I was supposed to get out of the film the first time I watched it, for that scant half hour or so, and the second viewing was just to complete what I’d started. Well, I completed it all right, and came out the other end pretty much where I started; the good points of the film were canceled out by the bad, and I ended up with a film experience I will largely remember for both these aspects, rather than swinging one way or the other. Still, the sensual experience is really something, and I’d put it on the list for that alone.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10


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