THE STENDHAL SYNDROME
(La Sindrome di Stendhal)
In the 1990s, Dario Argentos output has become increasingly more sporadic three-and-a-half films throughout the entire decade. All of Argentos films from this era Two Evil Eyes (1990), Trauma (1993), this, and The Phantom of the Opera (1998) while even more lush and beautifully produced than his previous films, have failed to fully satisfy. Similarly, The Stendhal Syndrome is interesting, although not standout Argento. The title is taken from an existing psychological condition whereby people are so ecstatically moved by works of art that they become disorientated. The first thing you notice is that this title does not have much to do with the film although lead actress Asia Argento does get disoriented in a gallery, this idea is not tied into the film in any way. The end of the film leaves you completely unsure what is going on inside Asias head. You have to resign yourself to the realization that psychological motivation or even sense has never had much place in Dario Argentos films and that his films are always about style.
Even in terms of Dario Argentos style, The Stendhal Syndrome is routine. The pace is slow, only getting fired up in the scenes with Asia Argento tied up by rapist Thomas Kretschmann, which exist in an interesting state of ambiguity where we are not sure who is overthrowing whom. There is a striking scene near the beginning where Asia Argento physically enters a painting in a hotel room and emerges out into a street murder scene in another city where she is greeted as a police inspector for the first time, at the end of which she then walks back across the street to the open waiting hotel room and out of the painting again. It is an extraordinary sequence but what exactly is going is never explained. There are some occasionally striking scenes of violence that come with the artistic flourishes that one expects of Dario Argento particularly a scene where a killer shoots a bullet through both cheeks of a victims face and then we see an eye looking through the double hole; or the killer forcing himself on Asia Argento, producing a razor blade out of his mouth and kissing her with it between his lips.
Dario Argentos other films are: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat ONine Tails (1971), Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), Deep Red (1976), Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980), Tenebrae/Unsane (1982), Phenomena/Creepers (1985), Opera/Terror at the Opera (1987), Two Evil Eyes (1990), Trauma (1993), The Phantom of the Opera (1998), Sleepless (2001), The Card Player (2004), Mother of Tears: The Third Mother (2007), Giallo (2009) and Dracula (2012).
Full film available online here:-