Tuesday, 1 December 2015

SPACE ODDITIES: Suspiria (1977)

'Suspiria' Movie Poster
Dario Argento's 1977 horror flick, 'Suspiria' is a whirlwind of colour and violent music that is an assault on the senses. A story that is hard to follow, yet acts a distraction to the artistic imagery displayed upon the screen via the use of light and colour. 

Fig.2. Film Still
We are instantly thrust into the world of 'Suspiria' our main character, Suzy (played by Jessica Harper) has travelled to Germany, to attend ballet school. When she arrives, on a rather stormy and terrifying night, a woman leaves the building, muttering un-audible words and with a distressed look she flees from the school and to a friends apartment. 
Suzy on the other hand is eager to get in, but strangely enough she is unable to enter  and instead is castaway by the voice of stranger. 
We are then greeted quite shockingly to the murder of this mystery woman who fled from the school. A murder scene flooded with the colour red. The walls are red, and symmetrical. This film is so artistic in the fact that each scene looks like a painting. When the characters move within them, the paintings come to life, lights flash across the walls, adding highlights upon the faces of the characters.  In this scene, a soundtrack so loud, it seems to put a muzzle on the mouths of the dying. Their screams can't be heard, but the horror that unfolds before us is hard to look away from. This poor woman, known as Pat, is brutally killed alongside her friend. 'The shattered glass, Pat's dangling corpse and her dribbling blood become glorious elements of the apartment building's already phenomenal artificiality' (Gonzalez, 2001)
The scene seems to act as invitation to the audience into the land of 'Suspiria' like Walt Disney's 1951 Classic, 'Alice in Wonderland'  we have fallen head first down the rabbit hole. The way in which the two females are killed and left seems to be meticulously planed, a shard of glass that we know must have violently fallen into the face of once of the women, looks carefully placed, like an artist finalising his work with the final touches. 

Fig.3. Film Still
Throughout the film surreal lights are placed within every scene. Lights that would only seem useful in the theatre are set at unusual angles, casting light upon all corners of the shot. But this unusual sense of light is a lot more subdued within a certain sequence in the film, becoming more natural and realistic. 
A blind man, known as the ballet schools pianist is seen with his dog walking home. as he crossed the road and passes a traffic light, it changes from green to the devilish red that is used in abundance within the film. A subtle hint to the audience that both pain and violence is yet come for this character. 'Dario Argento undoubtedly raised the bar for death sequences with his operatic, elaborate set pieces' (Pountain, 2015) 
This sense of a death being a set piece is definitely highlighted within the blind man's death. Whilst walking with his dog, his journey takes him to what seems to be a dimly lit plaza, lit in a way that it looks like it's on a stage. A circle of light shines upon the ground, like a spotlight, hinting at where the character should be within this scene. The poor man must metaphorically take centre stage and ultimately meet his doom. 

As well as red, the colours of blue, yellow and sometimes flashes of green are used. Director, Dario Argento seems to have acted like a kid on christmas, playing with all his toys at once. 'And then there's Argento's masterful use of deep primary colours- the sets are bathe in garish green light (he acquired 1950's Technicolor stock to get the effect) giving the whole film a hallucinatory intensity' (Smith, 2015)
This then asks the question, is what we are seeing on the screen real, or is it just some made up fantasy within the mind of Suzy? Did she simply full into a trance upon leaving the school for the first time, after witnessing someone running from it in terror? These kind of questions never seem to get answered as the films plot reaches its outstandingly horrific, yet comedic end. Witches, bats and what seems to be a zombie, generic characters, that are seen countless times in movies of today, all play a part within the climax of 'Suspiria'.

Forget the plot of the film and gaze upon the screen in delight, each scene is a work of art.
'Suspiria' is an inspired piece of cinema that can open the minds of an audience through such outrageous yet beautiful imagery.


Gonzalez, E. (2001) 'Suspiria' At: http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/suspiria Accessed on: 1-12-2015

Pountain, D. (2015) 'Review: Suspiria (1977)' At:http://dpountain.com/2015/03/25/review-suspiria-1977/ Accessed on: 1-12-2015

Smith, A. (2015) 'Suspiria Review' At: http://www.empireonline.com/movies/suspiria/review/ Accessed on: 1-12-2015


Figure 1.  'Suspiria'  [Film Poster] At: http://images.moviepostershop.com/suspiria-movie-poster-1977-1000436044.jpg Accessed on: 1-12-2015

Figure 2. [Film Still] At: http://www.letoilemagazine.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/suspira1.jpg Accessed on: 1-12-2015

Figure 3. [Film Still] At: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_BApUSasZ2nU/S7QsBYlnDZI/AAAAAAAAB_U/_PIa8obB_9Y/s1600/suspiria.jpg Accessed on: 1-12-2015


  1. Interesting review Tom :)

    Just make sure that you proofread - you have a 'dimply' lit plaza there, rather than 'dimly' :)