La sindrome di Stendhal Film Details
Overview: A young policewoman slowly goes insane while tracking down an elusive serial rapist/killer through Italy when she herself becomes a victim of the brutal man’s obsession.
Review: No matter how successful they were at the Italian box-office, Dario Argento’s films were always savaged by critics who always described his work as style over substance. After attempting to make it big in the American industry with disappointing endeavors like the mediocre 1993 thriller TRAUMA, he decided to go back home where he had always been accepted, at least commercially. The truth is that it’s hard to imagine 1996’s THE STENDHAL SYNDROME set anywhere else other than Italy. This is a country where art is everywhere: In the architecture, in the ideologies, even in the air you breathe. The accidental impalement of a Anthony Franciosa’s character with a sculpture in TENEBRE (1982) could be seen as foreshadowing of Argento’s concept of using art as a weapon. Beautiful and young police detective Anna Manni (Asia Argento) is tracking down a serial rapist that has been making deadly strikes across Italy. In the very first shot of the film, she walks down the heat-stricken crowded streets of Florence and what follows is a 10-minute sequence without any dialogue where Anna’s cat-and-mouse trail leads her to the Uffizi Museum. As she stares at the artistic accomplishments, we can hear strange sounds coming from her head, the heat suddenly makes her dizzy, and she faints while hallucinating to ‘dive’ into a painting. When she wakes up, she has apparently lost her memory and starts to wander around the streets with an amnesic sight. She soon meets a friendly man named Alfredo (Thomas Kretschmann) who affirms Anna’s condition seems familiar to him and that he experienced it too when he was younger. Unable to pay a lot of attention, the silent Anna ignores him and goes back to her hotel in order to remember who she really is. After experiencing more hallucinations, Anna swallows a bunch of sleeping pills (the camera follows them into her esophagus) and calms down until the strange man from before enters her room. In a chilling flashback, Anna suddenly remembers why the man looked so familiar. But it’s too late What starts is one long nightmare where the rapist abducts Anna, rapes her, beats her, and forces her to watch him kill. As he shoots a woman in the face (again, the camera follows the bullet in slow-motion from cheek to cheek) Anna makes her quick escape until she is finally rescued by the police. It looks like Anna has fully recovered her memory, but not without a few side-effects: She is no longer attracted to her boyfriend (Marco Leonardi) or to any kind of sexual experience whatsoever. Sex is now something disgusting and repulsive to her. She stars eating chocolate compulsively and starts having masochist desired involving sharp objects. After staring in a mirror shortly after her rescue, the scarred woman picks up a pair of medical scissors and cuts her hair short. It is one beautiful psychological moment where the casualties of rape reveal both mental and physical. Her psychiatrist (Paolo Bonacceli) diagnoses her with the Stendhal Syndrome. This real-life mental condition dates all the way back to the 19th century where the French writer Stendhal ( a.k.a Marie-Henri Beyle) experienced similar symptoms in 1817. These symptoms include sweating, hallucination, and personality changes caused by a big impression left after staring at a remarkable work of art. What makes Dario Argento’s THE STENDHAL SYNDROME so unique is that it has something that few recent horror films have: An original concept. Inspired by Grazialla Magharinni’s study of the syndrome, Argento and screenwriter Franco Ferrini come up with one bleak, brutal, dark, and disturbing storyline involving the casualties of rape and sexual repression. It reminds me of Roman Polanski’s own horror work in the 60s, particularly REPULSION. The film polarized Dario’s fans: Some praised it as a return to form, while others (like one of Argento’s biggest admirers: Alan Jones) maligned it as a silly misfire. It is somehow understandable as it is different from anything the director had ever done to that point. But what the film’s bashes fail to see is that STENDHAL SYNDROME is indeed Argento’s most disturbing and perhaps, most mature film. For the first time in years, Argento allows the story to engage the audience’s attention and not just the visual style. That is not to say the film lacks style, famed cinematographer and Fellini collaborator Giuseppe Rotunno gives the film a washed out, dark look that makes it appear to be made around the 1970s. The work with colors is superb but again, it is something you would expect from a visually impressive director as Argento. Unfortunately, the film’s visual style can only be appreciated in the Italian DVD, since other home-video releases tend to use one horrible-looking and blurry copy of the print that lacks any kind of sharp detail and nearly ruins the look of the film. The music is the work of legendary film composer Ennio Monrricone and this might be his best horror collaboration ever. The main theme consists of a haunting lullaby (‘la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la’) repeated over and over again. which increases the atmosphere and tension of the scenes greatly. It’s nearly impossible to not remember the music after watching the film, it will stay in your head for hours. The special FX-work is credited to usual Argento collaborator Sergio Stivaletti. While the film’s CGI work tends to look dated, the scenes themselves are visually stunning to watch at first. Unfortunately, the fake-looking CG models become highly apparent during repeated viewings. STENDHAL SYNDROME should be applauded as one of Argento’s best works to date and currently his last great film. It is a breath of fresh air after the awful TRAUMA and one big false hope before the director became possessed by the devil and directed that beyond-awful PHANTOM OF THE OPERA adaptation. This is one disturbing psychological horror piece that would make Polanski himself proud. (4.5/5)
Duration: 113 min
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Also known as: The Stendhal Syndrome,Síndrome de Stendhal,The Stendahl Syndrome,Stendhal sendromu,Syndrome,El síndrome de Stendhal,Синдромът Стендал,Синдром Стендаля,Stendhal-syndrooma,Sutandâru shindorômu,Le syndrome de Stendhal,Viagem ao Inferno,スタンダール・シンドローム,La sindrome di Stendhal,El arte de matar,La Sindrome Di Stendhal,Το Σύνδρομο του Στένταλ,To syndromo tou Stendhal,Síndrome Mortal,Das Stendhal Syndrom,Stendhal’s Syndrome,Syndrom Stendhala,A Stendhal szindróma,Stendhalin syndrooma