Saturday, 7 December 2013

Mise-en-scène Film Programme: Suspiria (1977)

Figure 1: Movie Poster [Still Image]
Suspiria(1977) is an Italian movie directed by Darioi Argento. It is considered to be one of his finest work. The film was on an American ballet student, Suzy, who got herself a place in one of the prestigious dance academy in Frieberg, Germany. The stormy weather and the brutal murder of a fellow student by an unseen attacker with demonic hands was what greeted her upon her arrival in the country. There were a few unusual events and other gruesome deaths that occurred, implying that there was something evil and bad lurking within the core of the school compound. Determined to reveal this mystery, Suzy followed the clues that she had gathered from her very first encounter with the student who ran away from the hostel on that stormy night and the one that her friend, Sara, found out about. This prestigious school was indeed, ran by a coven of witches.

Right from the start of the film, there was a tinge of red and as the story builds up and the tension grows, red filled the scenes. There was also use of yellow and blue of the sets that expresses different meaning to the story. As Gonzalez points out in his review “The film's visual palette is suggestive of a hierarchical journey through the Academy. Hallways are bathed in reds, yellows, and blues, and, in effect, different rooms in the school begin to take on a meaning all their own.”(Gonzalez, 2001). An example of the use of extreme colours can be seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Suzy In The Hallway {Still Image]
In addition to the colours used for this film, the vision Argento had and the skills Luciano Tovoli, the cinematographer possessed, produced camerawork and visual elements that left the audience in awe. In a book entitled Dario Argento, James Gracey emphasized this point when he said “Often cutting from extreme close-ups to wide-angle shots and point-of-view shots, the viewer is immersed in a kind of visual delirium, constantly on edge.” (Gracey, 2010:18) The edits in this film disorients the viewer as it makes daily objects and situations become potential moments of terror. This was achieved through the use of unexpected changes in character’s point of view as well as jump cuts from extrreme close up to wide shots. This can be seen in the scene where Suzy and Sara tread water in the eerie swimming pool as it was shot from the above. 

Figure 3: Suzy and Sara Treading In The Pool [Still Image]

Figure 4: Close up shot of Suzy and Sara [Still Image]
The soundtrack played an important role as much as the visual components did. The distinctive sound effects like whispers, high pitch screams and whines leaves the audience in a paranoiac mood. In her review, Linda Schulte-Sasse summarises the use of the sound accurately when she states "Sound is in perfect synch with visuals, but renders unstable the boundary between conventional, non-diegetic "mood" music and diegetic sound within the film proper, as we are haunted by sounds "from nowhere"that resemble, for example, Helene Marcos' inimitable snoring. Moreover, the power of the soundtrack makes silent passages in the film all the more tense, all the more silent. (Schulte-Sasse, 2002)

In conlusion, Suspiria is a great example of film that falls under the horror category. The two main elements of a great film, the visuals and the sound matched perfectly throughout the entire film, leaving the audience amazed. Gracey was right when he said “The intrusive soundtrack and inimitable imagery, bathed in livid reds and blues, is truly spellbinding and relentless and unlike anything before or since. Another masterpiece from Argento and one of horror cinema’s greatest works.” (Gracey, 2010 : 67)

List of Illustrations:

Figure 1 Suspiria (1977) [Poster] at (Accessed on 6 December 2013)

Figure 2 Suzy In The Hallway (1977) [Still Image] at (Accessed on 6 December 2013)

Figure 3 Suzy and Sara Treading In The Pool (1977) [Still Image] at (Accessed on 6 December 2013)

Figure 4 Close Up Shot of Suzy and Sara (1977) [Still Image] at (Accessed on 6 December 2013)

List of Bibliography:

Gonzalez, Ed
(Accessed on 6 December 2013)

Gracey, James
Dario Argento
Kamera Books

Schulte-Sasse , Linda
Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977)
(Accessed on 6 December 2013)

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