The film Suspiria is directed by Dario Argento and released in 1977, in which a young girl moves into a ballet academy which turns into a witches’ coven disguised as a ballet company. Eventually leading to the gore filled deaths of several major characters and the fleeing of the main character from the ballet school. It is a horror film that makes strong use of colour filters and symmetrical elements as well as a screechy soundtrack.
Figure 1. Stabbing (c1977)
The lighting in Suspiria is used to deliver elaborate effects. For example , Stiglitz states: “For red, as all we trichromatic mammals know, is a singularly distressing color, and Argento's use of it, as far from subtle as you can possibly get, is designed with singular intent to put us on edge. Nor does blue, typically a soothing color, get it much better: the reds are varied but the blues are always blindingly over-saturated and completely nonsensical, and instead of calming the eye they clash with the red, and clash with our logic, and seem quietly menacing and uncanny instead of the alarming, screaming reds.” (Stiglitz, 2012:2) demonstrating the use of vivid and conflicting colours within the movie to both dazzle and confuse the viewer adding to the sense of dis-illusion and confusion which couples brilliantly with increasing the tension and fear that the viewer experiences with the scene.
Figure 2. Night Time (c1977)
Smith also states: “And then there's Argento's masterful use of deep primary colours — the sets are bathed in garish red and green light (he acquired 1950s Technicolor stock to get the effect) giving the whole film a hallucinatory intensity.” (Smith, N.A.:2) further illustrating the films brilliant use of colours and filters to add a sense of bewilderment and extra intensity by confusing and misdirecting the viewer. The lighting has almost the effect of puzzling the audience by adding further shock value and fear to the scenes as well as adding intensity, when the lights start to fade red or change you know something is about to happen!
The films soundscape uses the music of the soundtrack to complement the sounds and actions of the scene to further illustrate to the viewer the graphic or intense nature of what is occurring. Smith says: “Screams, wailings, hissing steam and some kind of diabolical digeridoo are punctuated with the occasional distorted shriek of "Witch!". “ (Smith, N.A.:2) demonstrating how the complementing high pitched sounds of the music track are further emphasised by the high pitched piercing sounds of a witches scream. The effect of this is to bring home the terror and unnatural nature of the scene to the viewer.
Susperia also makes use of gore and violence in many scenes, which seem almost as dramatic as the extensive lighting effects, Vaux states: “When blood spills – and you can be sure that it does – it follows physical laws never seen on Earth, but which feel right at home in this upended funhouse.” (Vaux, 2014:2) This demonstrates that the blood and violence are deeply ingrained into this film and almost complete it while the physical laws do not seem to apply, the film in places almost seems to sacrifice the storyline to feed the viewer’s lust for violence and shock factor as stated by Vaux: “In plot terms, it doesn’t make much sense: draped loosely around the story of a young American girl (Jessica Harper) who attends a German dance academy that actually serves as a front for a coven of witches.” (Vaux, 2014:2)
Overall Susperia makes amazing use of lighting and sound to emphasise its storyline and bring extra suspense and terror to scenes of violence. Though the film does to, at times, lose sight of its plot and over dramatize the gore for dramatic effect it does bring home a deep sense of primal terror and horror to the viewer and deliver a long lasting impression to all that watch it.
Smith, Adam. (N.A.) http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=132659 (Accessed on 02/12/2014)
Stiglitz, Hugo. (2012) http://antagonie.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/italian-horror-first-mother.html (Accessed on 02/12/2014)
Vaux, Rob. (2014) http://www.mania.com/31-days-horror-suspiria_article_140631.html (Accessed on 02/12/2014)
Figure 1: Argento, D. (1977) Stabbing [Suspiria still] Available from: http://www.jigsawlounge.co.uk/film/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/suspiria2.jpg (Accessed on 02/12/2014)
Figure 2: Argento, D. (1977) Night Time [Suspiria still] Available from: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-To6kLEQvizE/T1Vqgkaze2I/AAAAAAAAAMA/qBM7dl0ArBQ/s1600/Screen+Shot+2012-03-06+at+01.18.30.png