The Stendhal Syndrome (1996) Poster

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Through the looking-glass darkly
matt-2015 June 1999
What makes up the singular pleasure that is Dario Argento? Maybe it's the crossroads where High Romanticism and hardcore porn meet. (I'm referring to the feeling of his work--not the images.) Argento seems doomed, like Peckinpah and like Lynch, to have summed up his world-view in a single masterpiece, the 1977 SUSPIRIA; the thrillers that came before and the low-budget shockers that came after may offer delights, but nothing close to that unity of vision.

Seeing THE STENDHAL SYNDROME projected in Los Angeles, I was struck with newfound sympathy for the Star Wars fans protesting way too much in favor of THE PHANTOM MENACE. If you love THE STENDHAL SYNDROME, you love Argento, and that is that--you may see the flaws, but they don't ruin your pleasure. The picture has too many Achilles heels to enumerate here, but what's important is that nobody in world cinema today is wrestling with his soul in the psychosexual mire the way Argento does. He puts his misogynistic demons and his almost sentimental compassion right out there; and only Cronenberg has such a direct pipeline to his own unconscious. Not to mention the fabulous, cascading images--Argento's stock-in-trade is Victorian Liebestod, Edward Gorey gone porno, and THE STENDHAL SYNDROME has sequences that rank with his best.

The sketchy thing about STENDHAL SYNDROME, like the maestro's TRAUMA, is his use of his daughter, Asia Argento, in scenes one cannot imagine a father watching, much less filming. Whatever memoirs come down the pike twenty years later, it must be said: Argento for certain lets it all hang out, and the land-mined terrain he maps is, to my taste, thrilling.
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Argento's vicious return to form, one of his most atmospheric and unsettling from start to finish,
Disarmed-Doll-Parts17 August 2007
Argento has been cursed with a number of duds in recent years. 'Two Evil Eyes', 'The Phantom of the Opera', 'Sleepless', 'The Card Player' and one of the worst MASTERS OF HORROR episodes yet 'Jenifer'. However, the beautiful, poignant 'The Stendhal Syndrome' is an extremely well crafted rose between a number of poisonous thorns. It sees a return to the atmospheric dream-like charm of his earlier films like 'Phenomena' and 'Suspiria', but adopting his more recent sadism (it's always there, just a different style in his newer films) that gave slight high points in his otherwise dull modern films. After two poorly reviewed films ('Trauma' and 'Two Evil Eyes') Argento has finally done it right.

The film stars his daughter, Asia (whose interesting relationship with Dario adds to the intriguing and off-beat persona he puts out), as Anna, a beautiful police detective in Rome. When she is targeted by the serial killer she is hunting, she is raped and beaten and so leads Argento's best character study and one of the most intense of his films to date. Rather than following the madman as he offs prostitutes and impressionable young women through Italy (the film lightly touches on it, but the more left to the imagination the better), the film follows Anna as she loses grip on reality and develops a strange disease in which she can ever paintings in her mind and they help solve the case, called the Stendhal Syndrome. As the film goes on the attacks on Anna become more and more vicious, and the final climatic ending is one of Argento's best.

Asia delivers a interesting performance, to say it is good is to stretch the truth, but it is suited to the role and you can tell she has a lot of acting talent. All the other performances are rather flat, but as with all of Agento's films the performances aren't what really matter. The cinematography is bland, but as with Asia's performance suits the film better than if it were Technicolor. The tension and music is amazing, the film devotes itself to really unsettling you, rather than just entertaining you like other recent Argento's. 'The Stendhal Syndrome' is probably the most violent and disturbing I've seen the man go, the rape and murder scenes are gratuitously sadistic and the scenes where Anna is raped are bordering on exploitation.

Overall 'The Stendhal Syndrome' is a fantastic return to form fr Argento, and I hope 'The Third Mother' is anywhere near as well-crafted as this.

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underrated intelligant thriller
cread18 April 2000
La Syndrome di Stendahl has met cruel critical comments on its initial release but although it is not at all like his earlier work, it is in fact a far more intelligent and mature affair. Anna Manni, the character played by Asia Argento, has more compassion than any other character in an Argento film, quite unlike the carelessly created cartoon-like characters of his other work. It is true, however that the film drags slightly in the middle, although picks up the pace again for a surprising and beautifully directed finale; and although the film is not as bloody as tenebrae, the violence on display is brutal and sexual (leading to it being cut for release in Britain) and genuinely disturbing. Perhaps not as good as Deep Red or Suspiria, but definitely one of this unusual director's better efforts.
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Art can be deadly
ODDBear3 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is a completely spoiler filled review.

Detective Anna Manni (Asia Argento) is on the trail of a psychotic murder/rapist Alfredo Grossi (Thomas Kretschmann) as she trails him to the Uffizi Gallery in Florens. Inside the gallery she succumbs to the influence of the Stendhal Syndrome. She literally enters the paintings, suffers severe hallucinations and also suffers from memory loss afterwords. Later, while in this desperate state Grossi manages to abduct her and physically abuse her as well as multiply raping her, leaving her completely shattered and beaten. But she manages to break loose and kill Grossi and dump him into the river.

At this point the film is only half way through it's two hour running time.

The ever so interesting Italian director of the macabre Dario Argento delves into whether or not art can be deadly. The Stendhal Syndrome is actually real, people suffering from it experience an overwhelming and totally consuming feeling of connectedness to the work of art before them. They literally plunge into the object, experience the fear, joy, anger or suffering it depicts. In short; it absorbs them.

In the film, the rapist/murderer Grossi somehow knows about Anna's weakness (never quite explained how) and uses it to his advantage, to be on top of her (so to speak) and ultimately degrade her for his own sick amusement. In the end Anna overcomes her weakness and then she can triumph over her abuser. But, as we later find out, she hasn't overcome her illness, she just finds another way of dealing with it, by substituting her self with her abuser.

Argento explores many subjects here. Beautiful works of art can have a negative side to it, as is well depicted here because of the Stendhal Syndrome. People can easily be exploited while under the influence and one can think of many similar scenarios to which Argento could be referring to. And in a twist one can think therefore that art can make people kill. So Argento's conclusion is that art can be deadly.

In the second half of the film Argento explores another psychological side; where Manni transforms herself into her abuser. Sort of a weird twist in a way of the Stockholm syndrome; where victims connect in a deep way with their tormentors. Also a transmission of guilt (which apparently many rape victims fall prey to) helps her to not have to face what she went through but also meaning that her inner torment will never be over. So probably it's better to connect with the monster than having to face the humiliation he put her through.

When Anna fully paints herself (circa 40 minutes into the film) it's like she's in some sort of trance, or high (like junkies), it's like she's embracing the syndrome and learning to control it more, even welcoming it. But I'll admit that this part is something I really don't get.

The Stendhal Syndrome is most definitely a detour in the Argento canon. The stylish cinematography, art and set designs and brutal violence are there (as always) but this is much more phsycologically oriented and character driven than his other films. And I'll admit that I completely love the way Argento indulges himself with everything; the slow pacing, the drastic change in the middle, the overly brutal (and experimental) violence. It reminds you of the two and half minute crane shot in Tenebrae, which was mostly pointless but great to look at.

Performances are mostly good. Although a 21 year old Asia isn't very believable as a seasoned detective she does display a good range of emotions as she is really put through a lot. Kretschmann makes for a very loathsome character and he looks menacing enough, pretty good job I'd say. Supporting actors range from decent to downright embarrassing, that's at least one thing Argento is consistent with.

The Stendhal Syndrome is an original, uncompromising and brutal viewing experience. Argento has created a very violent film with rich philosophy, psychological exploration and he has done it with style. That's my humble opinion.

P.S. The Italian dub version is superior to the English language dub, which is simply atrocious.
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Pretty solid
dennis707 March 2005
Regarded as one of Argento's lesser works, I find this one much more plausible than any of his early films. Let's face it, Argento doesn't care much about plot or even acting. His films are probably the frustrating I've ever seen: There are things I love, and things I hate about them. I grew up watching much of his films mutilated by Italian Television. I was a kid back then, and strangely enough his films never scared me when they were supposed to. They were really over the top. But I loved the colours, the pictures and once in a while I found myself humming Claudio Simonetti's electronic scores.

Now with this film Argento has Morricone, who is definitely a master and he does a great job here. Anna's character is really intriguing. Some people dismiss Asia's acting style, but I think it goes very well with her father's aesthetics. You wont find the crazy colours here. Everything is more restrained. The opening for example scene is great. But the film looses interest towards the end. Still I think is one of Argento's most solid pieces. The idea is truly interesting and Anna's relationship with the killer is fascinating. The hallucinations scenes of Anna going into the paintings are masterfully done.

After the huge disappointment of Il Cartaio, I hope he truly returns to form, and start doing what he's good at: Going crazy with film. La Sindrome Di Stendhal is a pretty good step.
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Violent, Disturbing, Beautiful, Hypnotic Italian Psychological Crime Thriller
ShootingShark18 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Anna Manni is a police inspector from Rome on the trail of a serial rapist and killer. Acting on a tip, she visits the Uffizi Gallery in Florence but suffers a strange collapse in reaction to the paintings. She is aided by a mysterious man called Grossi, who turns out to be the maniac, and subjects her to a hideous ordeal. She survives, but is horribly traumatised by her experience. Can she recover, when will Grossi strike again and why does he feel such a kinship with her ?

The plot of this movie is hard to describe and equal parts intriguing and unpleasant. As with all Argento's thrillers, the plot is exciting and fun to guess, but it's more of a psychological drama than a crime story. Anna is almost always changing as the film progresses, both externally and internally; she starts off not knowing who she is, then she discovers who she was, remodels herself into someone else and ends up as confused as we are. Asia Argento (Dario's daughter with actress Daria Nicolodi) is iconic in the role, which is almost impossible to play – extremely physical, enigmatic and chameleon-like. She looks astonishingly like her father and she shares his artistic courage to dive into the darkest and most personal recesses of the psyche. My favourite aspect of this picture is her relationship with the many paintings – to her, they are living canvases, with characters who cry, scream and bleed (realised through excellent visual effects work by Sergio Stivaletti). The wordless opening seven minutes as she wanders through the Uffizi and her vision is assailed by the images, culminating with her literally falling into one of the paintings, is as bewitching an opening as I've ever seen, made all the more unsettling by Ennio Morricone's stunning score, featuring a hair-curling simple melody of eight minor notes. Argento's films are an acquired taste; this one features a lengthy rape and torture sequence in the middle which is hard to sit through (though not as hard as say, Frenzy or Straw Dogs), but as with all his work the film is somehow stunningly beautiful. Violence equals art. In a world of banal formulaic television designed for peons with four-second attention-spans, this is stunning cinema, regardless of moral judgements. The Stendhal Syndrome is a real psychosomatic illness, diagnosed by an Italian psychiatrist, Graziella Magherini, whose book on the subject was the primer for the intriguing script by Argento and Franco Ferrini. Shot in Rome, Florence and Viterbo.
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Contemporary Giallo from the Argentos
honeybearrecords11 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw this film four or five years ago, and I felt then as I do now. This film is not a horror film. It's been wrongly judged in that context due to the director's reputation. But I think history will show that Dario Argento isn't really a horror filmmaker. Horror films actually make up just a small percentage of his films and "The Stendhal Syndrome" is no horror film.

Dario Argento is a genius. As an Italian director in the generation (and tradition) of Antonioni, his films are far more cerebral and avant-garde than the traditional horror fair of even Bava and the like. His films are Freudian investigations that exist somewhere between psychological thriller and horror. The violence is a device more so than a selling point.

It took a little while for "The Stendhal Syndrome" to make it to the States. I don't know why that is. But I'm sure there are some politics behind it as Argento is only too happy to criticize Hollywood and of the bad experiences he's had making films for major American studios. What's strange is that this DVD is on Troma (who I love in a weird way) instead of Anchor Bay who have been releasing most of the old Argento stuff on DVD.

"The Stendhal Syndrome" is something of a return to form for Argento. After a couple of severely hacked films done for American companies and a brief hiatus, this film was his chance to make a film strictly following his own muse and without the business end of the film industry in mind. Working with his daughter, Asia, for the second time he was able to explore darker subject matter. The previous time they worked together was on "Trauma" which, despite being ruined by an editing process aimed at success in the US horror market, still dealt with issues outside of the norm and deeper into his psychoanalytical fascination as the main character suffered from bulimia.

Asia Argento has carved a name for herself as an actor not afraid to play characters who either have severe psychological disorders or who has to face emotionally and physically abusive obstacles. In this film, she is a detective named Anna Manni sent to Florence to track down a serial rapist / killer known as Alfredo. While at the Uffizi Art Museum she not only discovers that she suffers from a mental disorder that makes her hallucinate that she is inside the paintings she's observing (the Stendhal Syndrome, of course). She passes out in the crowded museum only to discover she has a bloody lip and her gun has been stolen from her purse. Of course, it turns out that the gun is stolen by the serial rapist / killer who then becomes the pursuer and finds Argento in her hotel room. In a brutal and horrifying scene, Alfredo rapes the detective in her hotel room setting things in motion to create a long, complex story ending with a Hitchcock-ian twist.

Along the way, there are some classic Argento innovations with shot design and cinematography. Always an innovator that avoided any sort of computer special effects, there are some amazing sequences including a dreamlike sequence where Anna hallucinates that she sees Alfredo murder another one of his victims. In slow motion, we see the bullet leave the gun, through the wall of the victim's cheek, through her body and out the other side. In another sequence, Anna takes medication and we actually see the pills travel down her throat. This drawing of attention to otherwise mundane events is a lot like the gun battle scene in "Three Kings".

Another surreal moment happens when Anna reflects back to her first contact with one of Alfredo's victims. Rather than say it's a dream or use some sort of obvious special effect, the shot is designed so she can walk directly from one set to another. By betraying the cinematic illusion created by sets, it's an interesting twist on a dream sequence.

Argento has always been good with heightening tension with simple over the top acts done without fanfare. During the rape scene, one horrifying image that stayed with me was when Alfredo produced a razor blade out of his mouth during the rape scene. He claims that he needs to cut her lip so she looked just as she did when she passed out in the museum. The importance of that dialog offsets the fact that he's had a sharp razor in his mouth the entire time.

There are other Argento stand-bys. Soundscape is always very important to his film especially when used to heighten paranoia. Like some moments in "Suspiria", there are sequences in the film that use obtuse audio overdubs of chattering voices. While part of the background, they're recorded so manic and unrealistically, they become a reflection of the protagonist's psyche.

That day in the art museum becomes the factor that binds together Anna's disorder with her victimization by Alfredo. The use of this type of logic plays large in the film and forces the viewer to make a lot of otherwise unrealistic leaps of faith. That's always been part of Argento's style. His intellectual approach and matter of fact form of arguing his characters logic helps make it all believable no matter how absurd. Surrealism and special effects are blatant and never hidden. There are no tricks here that he doesn't want you to see.

A lot of people argue that this is one of his lesser works. I disagree. While nowhere in the area of "Profundo Rosso" or "Four Flies On Grey Velvet", I found the film to be gripping and fascinating. I suppose if you're looking for a horror film like "Suspiria" or "Opera", you'll be disappointed. But I think that this film is one of his better. It's certainly his best in recent times and I really can't think of another film like it.
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a most disturbing entry in Argento's catalog of psycho-horrors
Quinoa19846 August 2009
One of the key things in setting up a horror movie for a director has to be mood: if you get your mood right, then you've taken your first step into a larger, more controlled mis-en-scene. Dario Argento is such a bad-ass with mood that one wonders if he comes on to his sets like one of those gunslingers so ready and able that you can feel him draw his eye on a scene in his own way before anyone else can do it so. The mood he sets up, and keeps going on in a disturbing manner, for the Stendhal Syndrome involves a character who we see in the opening scenes walking along in a busy street, go into a museum and just staring at the paintings. But something else is going on: she (Asia Argento) keeps feeling dizzy, looking around mesmerized, not in a good way. She suddenly stares at a painting, feverishly, and sees herself going into the painting itself, in the deep blue ocean of a landscape - and then she awakes, not sure where she was before in the museum. A man comes to help her outside since she left her purse behind, but is this man who he says he...

OK, Argento can take it from here. This is a story that may, in fact, be more disturbing than his films from the 1970s. This doesn't mean it's quite as unforgettable or masterful - a few little things and a couple of potential big things keep it from greatness - but it's never less than interesting as part of Argento canon. One of the things to notice is that, unlike in the past, Argento isn't interested this time in fetishizing the aspect of the "mystery killer" throughout the film. On the contrary, the killer is right out in the open, a truly, brilliantly insane rapist-killer played by Thomas Kreutschman, who helps Asia outside the museum... but then returns when she's on the phone with him (one of those awesome "JUMP" scares when he sort of magically appears in the room), and rapes and beats her. Argento likes this actor in the role, and he's so effective in that we hate him so much and can't wait to see his just desserts gotten.

The other interesting thing is the treatment of the protagonist in this very (psychologically-speaking) twisted Giallo - in part due to the casting. Some may be able to get past the fact that this is Argento's daughter in the lead (originally, to give the benefit of the doubt, Bridget Fonda was cast and then backed out), and he puts her through some grueling things; aside from the obvious (scenes of rape and nudity and some brutal violence), there's the plunging deep into the scarring of a woman who already has a truly surreal disease not unlike an obscure comic-book hero. These are some of the freakiest scenes I've ever seen in any movie, if one can apply 'freaky' here which it should be: seeing her fall into these paintings, the faces of the sculptures, make it about the horror of the abstract intruding in on life, and these are quite creative. The other thing is how far Asia Argento goes into her sickness after the halfway point, when we think things should be getting better following a horrific encounter and the aftermath.

It's a performance that Asia is game for, and she gives it her all, even when things turn into those ludicrous beats one can see from time to time in Dario's movies. One short scene I loved was when Anna is putting on her make-up, slowly, taking her time, putting on her blonde wig (a Hitchcock touch?) while the buzzer is going off frantically and the Ennio Morricone score- as usual a variation on a great theme- plays on. One of the things that ends up making it tolerable of what the father is putting his daughter through here is that it's such a ballsy movie in typical Giallo clothing, reevaluating true evil vs true psychosis. It's only exploitive in certain little things that stick out, such as the silly CGI shot of the pill going down the throat (unnecessary) or the bullet going through the head or with the slow-motion reflection of the killer on the sheen of the bullet. And there are story things that seem a little too simple to bare on first thought, like how quickly Anna bags a guy whom she genuinely is attracted to and doesn't tell him a thing until a certain day when... well, you'll get the idea.

Sure, we've seen the detective-plot stuff, and sure the acting isn't all around very good all of the time save for its two main leads. But when its director gets going with something, it's still invigorating and cringe-worthy a lot of the time. My face when watching this film was a series of slack-jawed pauses and upturned eyebrows. It's gory and flamboyantly directed and it's a hell of a mind-f***, but it works, ultimately, and even underrated.
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Excellent Argento thriller
Eviljomr24 May 2000
I don't really understand why so many Argento fans dislike this film, I think it's one of his best works. It's not always easy to watch, it has some very nasty violence, even for an Argento film, I wouldn't recommend the film to sensitive persons; but it's not for exploitational purposes. Argento does a good job of juggling real-life horrors with a dreamy, hallucinatory atmosphere, and pulls off some typically Argento-esque setpieces, such as the one in which a bullet is followed through a woman's mouth with the aid of CGI. The great Ennio Morricone delivers possibly his best score for a horror film, the haunting main theme with his trademark wordless female vocals stayed with me long after the film was over. Frequent Fellini cameraman Giuseppe Rotunno does an excellent job on the film too.

The Stendhal Syndrome isn't for everyone, but it's worth a viewing for fans of European horror and psychological thrillers in general.
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Argento's personal...
alucardvenom30 September 2013
I haven't seen "Stendhal Syndrome" in more then ten years, so I was quite thrilled when I found it on DVD (the sweet 2 disc edition) and decided to give it a shot and see if I could still be amazed by Argento.

and how does this movie hold?

Rather well I must say. While it's certainly not good as some of the Argento's earlier work, it's still one of the highlights of Argento's career. Comparing it with his early masterpieces is hard, since "Stendhal Syndrome" is much more different. It's based on personal experience Argento had as a child, much like "Phenomena" was based on Argento's current obsession of that time.

Narrative is very complex and it might be bit hard to fallow if you aren't fully concentrated or you are not familiar with Argento's narrative style - while his stories are usually linear in terms of story progression, but he often uses fragmented narrative which give some scenes dream-like narrative (this worked rather well in his supernatural movies, like Suspiria).

Story itself is bit different from his early giallo movies, because in this one, violence doesn't happen often (but when they do, they are rather nasty) and it's more character driven. It's true psychological thriller (modern filmmakers who sell their torture porn as "psychological" please learn from Mr. Argento and this movie) where we fallow the psyche of detective Anna Manni (played by Asia Argento, director's daughter) as she tries to fight serial killer and her personal demons that grow stronger after each encounter with him. (I won't go into much details because of the spoilers).

Dario Argento's visual style is still impressive, and his camera work fits perfectly with narrative and storytelling. There are some beautiful shots and interesting camera work. There's also use of contrast much like in Suspiria, but in SS, Argento had some very good moments that impressed me. In some scenes, where we fallow Anna in her apartment, contrast is strong and colors can be bright, but as the movie progresses, colors are becoming much darker and "realistic". There's a scene where Anna confronts the killer in underground (sewers) and movie drastically changes from white and red (Anna's apartment) into black, gray and brown (not only because of the set, but because Argento decided to saturate those colors even more).

Asia Argento is beautiful as usual and she gives a strong performance here.

Music is haunting and creepy, and perfectly fits with the movie.

Watch this in original Italian audio, English dub wasn't that good.

6.5/10 but I gave it 7, because Dario Argento is awesome guy in person. Meet him few years back and he was funny, charming and very down-to- earth.
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Psychological 90s Argento
Dario Argento is one of my all-time favorite directors, and probably THE living director I admire the most. The 1990s were a weak decade for Horror in general, and also Argento's weakest. Argento is a cinematic genius, however, and while 90s achievements get nowhere near the brilliance of his masterpieces from the 70s and 80s, films like "Trauma" (1993) or this "Stendhal Syndrome" are nonetheless more than decent Thrillers that outshine the majority of 90s Horror outings.

"La Sindrome Di Stendhal" aka "The Stendhal Syndrome", which was made in-between "Trauma" and the disappointing "Il Fantasma Dell'Opera" (1998), is certainly one of his lesser films, but definitely a more than decent, very suspenseful, atmospheric and often quite weird psychological Horror effort that his fans cannot afford to miss. I like it about equally as I do "Trauma", with a slight preference for "The Stendhal Syndrome" due to the brilliant score by Ennio Morricone. What I found a bit strange is that the film is often labeled as a Giallo, when it is not really. There are no stylishly bloody murders from the killer's perspective, and really what makes the term "Giallo" quite out of place is the fact that the killer's identity is not really a mystery. The suspense is there, however, and most true Horror fans will agree that Argento is the absolute master of suspense. While the film is not quite as exceptionally gory as many other Argento flicks, it is definitely violent, especially the several rape-scenes (one of them taking place quite in the beginning) are more than a bit brutal.

Argento reportedly first wanted to get Bridget Fonda and Jenifer Jason Leigh for the leading role in the film, but his beautiful daughter Asia Argento is, as far as I am considered, the perfect cast for the role. She may look a little too young for an experienced female homicide detective, but she fits the character of her role perfectly, and, as far as I am considered, that is most important. Asia plays detective Anna Manni, a Rome investigator specialized on sex crimes, who is trying to track down a serial rapist and murderer... I do not want to give any more of the plot away. The rest of the performances are also quite good, especially the German actor Thomas Kretschmann delivers a good performance, but Asia Argento sure is the highlight. The film is quite different to Argento's other films, but certainly not bad. None other than the great Ennio Morricone delivers a brilliant and immensely eerie score that intensifies the creepy atmosphere, and, as it is always the case with Argento's films, the film is visually stunning and highly suspenseful.

Dario Argento's masterpieces are his films from the 70s and 80s, and he returned to old greatness in 2001, with the ultra-violent and greatly old-fashioned Neo-Giallo "Non Ho Sonno" (aka. "Sleepless"), which was made in brilliant Argento-tradition. His 90s outings are certainly a bit inferior to the rest of his brilliant repertoire, but they are nonetheless way above average. While it is one of lesser films, "The Stendhal Sydrome" is nevertheless a suspenseful, atmospheric and highly recommendable film with some downright ingenious elements that Horror lovers should definitely not miss. Highly recommended!
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A Psychological Thriller by Dario Argento
claudio_carvalho6 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
In Rome, Police Inspector Manetti (Luigi Diberti) assigns detective Anna Manni (Asia Argento) to travel to Florence to investigate and track down a rapist serial-killer to understand why he did not kill his three victims from Florence. However Anna suffers from "Stendhal's Syndrome" and she faints in a museum while watching the paintings and the killer lures and rapes her. The disturbed Anna changes her behavior and has sessions with the psychiatrist Dr. Cavanna (Paolo Bonacelli) that suggests that she should spend a couple of days with her family in the countryside. However the maniac is obsessed with her and she stays under the protection of Detective Marco Longhi (Marco Leonardi), who has feelings for her, and his team. But soon the serial-killer abducts Anna, ties her to a mattress and rapes her again in an isolated cave used by junkies. Anna learns that his name is Alfredo Grossi (Thomas Kretschmann) and she succeeds to release; when Alfredo returns, she shots him in the stomach and blinds one of his eyes. Then she drops his moribund body in a waterfall. However the police does not find the corpse. Anna has the feeling that Alfred is alive, and when there is another victim, she is sure that he has not died.

"La sindrome di Stendhal" is a psychological thriller by Dario Argento with magnificent cinematography and haunting music score by Ennio Morricone. The story is based on the "Stendhal's Syndrome", unknown for most of the viewers and in accordance with the Wikipedia, is "is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art." ( The problem is Asia Argento's character, presented too fragile and confused for a police detective. Anna Manni should have been developed before the event with the rapist serial-killer. The surprising plot point is a big surprise for the audience. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Síndrome Mortal" ("Mortal Syndrome")
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Argento breaks formula at last
Shinwa11 October 2000
Definitely heady stuff from a filmmaker whose prior experience with psychological subtext has been problematic at best, this film highlights a fearless performance by Asia Argento. The obvious "Argento touches" (i.e., pills rattling down an esophagus, the bullet through a woman's face) stick out like a sore thumb, as they act not in service to the story but rather to reference what is expected from Argento; after the catastrophe of Trauma (Argento imitating a hack filmmaker imitating Argento), this film goes in directions that the director's previous films had only hinted at, and doesn't lead to rely on trademarks for a crutch.

The pace of the film is extremely well-handled in the first half, although it seems to lose track in the second half exactly where the narrative should be tightening up. But given Argento's lack of experience with more plot-driven material, this is in some measure to be expected. Cinematography, sets, art direction are all exemplary.

The acting is always a sore point for Argento movies. Here, only a couple of actors are allowed to give performances, but they make them count. Thomas Kretschmann is only on screen a few times, but gives a strong enough impression in that time (and not simply because of the brutal material contained there) that his role seems much larger. However, the film lives or dies with Asia's performance, and she throws herself into it with abandon. She's ultimately more convincing when she's required to be fierce than when she's required to be vulnerable, but goes through a bewildering range of emotions with scarcely a false note. And it's to her credit that it's so unsettling watching the torments her father subjects her to, so to speak, because she commits herself to their realization so thoroughly.

Comparing this to films from Argento's peak period is not really comes from an entirely different vein. Which makes it all the more depressing that his next movie would be Il Fantasma dell'Opera, easily his worst.
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Argento's most personal, disturbing film!
directjw5 November 1999
After watching this film the first time, I was left feeling a bit troubled by something, and because of this I wrote this film off as a failure by Argento. However, about a year later, after watching and actually enjoying Argento's newest film "Phantom of the Opera," I had a strange yearning to watch The Stendhal Syndrome again. This time, I was blown away! Yes, I admit, The Stendhal Syndrome is not exactly what I would call a pleasurable viewing experience. However, it is undeniably unsettling, and at times genuinely frightening. It is also deeply disturbing in its depiction of Argento's daughter, Asia. Obviously, there's some kind of deep-seated Freudian attraction going on between Asia and Dario. Throughout the whole film, Asia is constantly being threatened by hostile external forces, and whenever she attempts to flee the vice-like grip of these forces (as when she falls in love with the French art student), she is inevitably pulled back into the suffocating hold of these higher, darker forces. The serial killer in this film is obviously a stand-in for Dario, i.e. the serial killer is a substitute father figure. Hence, in the Stendhal Syndrome, Asia's father in the film is depicted as a hostile, malicious figure-- but he is a figure which she cannot escape. As Asia's character says at one point, in reference to the serial killer, "I feel like he is a part of me." Ultimately, The Stendhal Syndrome is about the deep, primal bonds which keep us together as humans, and which can be deadly if too harshly enforced. At the end of the film, which I won't reveal, Asia finally escapes from the bond of both her father and the serial killer, but with the menacing music playing over the closing credits, we know that the dark force will always be over Asia, watching over her every move, and protecting her.
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Ambitious, off-putting but nonetheless, fascinating Argento's crime/horror/thriller.
hu67520 September 2007
An young police detective Anna Mannai (Asia Argento) is tracking down an rapist/serial killer (Thomas Kretschmann), who's been terrorizing in Central Italy. But Anna is been obsessed with the works of beautiful Art and she finds herself drawn into the unconscious mind of these beautiful paintings on the art gallery in Rome. But Anna's unusual reaction begins to haunt her of these painting, while the depraved killer is stalking her and raping her as well. Once she gets control of the rapist/serial killer and killing him. Now Anna is becomes fascinated of what she experienced and she's becoming an sexual predator/murderer herself.

Directed by Dario Argento (Suspiria, Inferno, The Third Mother) made an interesting, bizarre, stylish film with plenty of the director's trademark and as well for some suspenseful sequences. This surreal crime thriller has elements of horror like most Argento's movies do. Director's daughter Asia gives an good performance here but she's probably quite too young to play an police detective. Since she was only 19 at the time, when the movie was made. Since the director tried to cast Bridget Fonda (Who's fan of Argento's work) and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the police detective but they doth declined. Argento chosen his daughter for the lead. There's some controversial scenes in the movie, when the lead character gets raped and tortured as well. Which is off-putting, especially when Argento is directing his daughter in those scenes. But they both knew the risks they tacked in this film and also it's not the first director to use their blood in those kind of scenes.

The Troma DVD is average at best, since Argento probably had an hard time finding an US video release of his import film. But the Troma DVD is sleazy as well, when co-president Lloyd Kaufman and as well co-president Michael Herz all over all the DVD features. Since these guys will do anything to promoted their Grade Z movies.

DVD has an OK non-anamorphic Widescreen (1.66:1) transfer and an decent English Dolby 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound. DVD features are incredibly boring at best but at least the two Troma Interviews with the director are decent enough and sometimes quite interesting, it has an hidden feature (another interview with Argento), special effect crew member interview (who worked on the film) and more. The upcoming "Blue Underground DVD" is an two-disc set with plenty of featurettes with digitally remastered Picture Quality and Sound. Since the cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno (All That Jazz, Popeye, Wolf) supervised this upcoming DVD edition.

Argento's first half of this film is terrific but once it's enters the second half, the movie turns into an different style. Which it was more disturbing in the first half, when Kretschmann (Who's best known for different movies like "Resident Evil:Apocalyspe", "The Pianist" and "U-571") is around. The picture suffers from some awful CGI work. Since it was the first film to use Computerized Special Effects in Rome. Good camera-work by Rotunno and an memorable music score by legendary composer:Ennio Morricone (Once Upon an Time in the West, The Thing, The Untouchables) make it worthwhile as well. Inspired from the novel by Graziella Magherini. Screenplay by the director and Franco Ferrini (Demons, Once Upon a Time in America, Phenomena). Certainly not for the faint of heart. (*** ½/*****).
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A haunting film that reminds us, art can be deadly.
Nightman8527 October 2006
Brooding and powerful horror film by Dario Argento is perhaps his finest film of the 90's, and certainly an unforgettable one!

Detective on the trail of a crazed rapist learns she has an illness where artwork puts her into trances, but that's the least of her worries when she becomes the obsession of the maniac she's after.

The Stendhal Sydrome is a truly dark and disturbing film. It packs bursts of bloody violence and lulls of chilling madness; it's a film that's psychologically disturbing as well as intensely suspenseful. Argento's direction is excellent, not only giving the film strong atmosphere but some sequences that are wonderfully dream-like and some nightmarish. The art direction is finely done. The special FX aren't bad either, even some early CGI is thrown in. Ennio Morricone's music score is a perfect piece to this film, very eerie.

Cast-wise the film isn't half bad either. Asia Argento makes for an acceptable heroine, but its Thomas Kretshman who does the best performance as the horrific yet handsome villain. Marco Leonardi is also good as Asia's co-worker; as is Julien Lambroschini as a young art student.

The Stendhal Sydrome isn't a film for all taste by any means. It's a brutal shocker that had best be avoided by the faint of heart. A must for Argento fans and a good find for those that like their horror films extra intense.

*** 1/2 out of ****
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You can't take your eyes off it.
yogurt-38 January 2000
Warning: Spoilers
One of those rare instances when I rented a film with zero expectations and was actually surprised just how good it was. The film starts off confusing as hell but stick with it and you will be rewarded with answers. Argento always keeps you guessing what his characters are capable of and what they might do next. As with Argento's "Opera", the ending is the weakest piece of the puzzle, but what a trip to get there! The violence here is brutal rather than blood drenched like "Tenebre". Hard to watch but important to establish the mindset of both protagonist and villain. Not for everyone, but what Argento film is?
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Intense study of a psychopath at play
Leofwine_draca30 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A fairly middling-to-good thriller from Dario Argento; not up there with the best of his, but worth watching anyway, even if just for the stylish photography and twisting character study of madness. It's a very brutal film, too - not particularly gory, but unflinchingly violent nonetheless. Asia Argento is this film's lead, and she has both her good points and bad. Physically, she is able to convincingly look flaky and neurotic, but it has to be said she isn't much of an actress. She's capable, yes, but this is a demanding role and she doesn't quite convince in it. On the other hand, the villain of the piece, Thomas Kretschmann, goes frighteningly over the top as a rapist/psychopath, sweating profusely while spinning a razor blade in his mouth.

However, I felt more for Marco Leonardi's supporting character than I did for Asia. He's an obviously doomed, hopelessly lovestruck cop, Asia's previous boyfriend who doesn't have a chance but who keeps coming back, rejection after rejection. You have to admire his persistence. The film is in typical giallo territory - nice locations, a serial killer brutalising women, a slow police investigation, a tormented lead - and the idea of the Stendhal Syndrome of the title is both original and interesting, in that it really exists. Argento enjoys having us transported into the world of pictures (although unfortunately this reminded me of King's disappointing novel, Rose Madder), where things go really weird.

There are a couple of nasty rape sequences which are difficult to watch, but the gore isn't too bad. One scene has our killer taking a massive beating and getting drenched in blood, which is pretty impressive. The expected twist ending is well-handled, yet rings a bit hollow. Overall, THE STENDHAL SYNDROME is a passable thriller, with some nice suspense, excellent scenes of psychological insanity and another good score from Ennio Morricone, but is a bit too long and both very cold and very distant.
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Fantastic atmospheric music score but the film isn't that fantastic
ernesti1 November 2014
Argento had seen his better days as a movie director and surely it's not easy to top such masterpieces such as Suspiria and The Inferno.

Asia Argento as detective Anna Manni isn't the best casting choice but as an actress she certainly did her best. It's difficult to believe that she really is a police detective at such a young age. It's obvious that a more mature actress should have been cast. Nevertheless that obscurity could have been used to make the film better. Would it be a better film if Anna Manni was just a woman living in her delusions.

The film certainly had it's moments but on the other hand it has some annoying flaws such as very bad cgi effects. Why use experimental effects if they look dumb. They should have gone back in time to the 70's or 80's how they made the effects without computers.

Ennio Morricone's score is amazing though and certainly does a big favor for the film's atmosphere. To sum it up this film is watchable even for Argento fans but it isn't anything like his films used to be. It's really evident that Italian film industry had been in a recession since the late 80's.
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A last blast from a master
grahamcarter-117 May 2017
After the disappointments in America that were 'The Black Cat' episode of the omnibus film 'Two Evil Eyes' (1990) and 'Trauma' (1993), Dario Argento made 'The Stendahl Syndrome' back on familiar Italian soil. He was rewarded with what became his highest grossing film in his homeland.

As Anna walks through the streets of Florence, the film is reminiscent of Roberto Rossellini's 'Voyage to Italy' (1954). Statues like those that overwhelmed Ingrid Bergman smother Anna with the cultural past. Entering the 'Galleria degli Uffizi' she is immediately entranced by the power of the fresco; Bruegel's 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus' causes Anna to faint and split her lip (an image recalled from 'Trauma,' which on some levels is a less sophisticated 'Stendahl…'). We know nothing about her, or why she has gone there, other than she seems to be looking for somebody, and someone is watching her.

Outside the museum Alfredo introduces himself by returning her bag. Anna is still stunned and Alfredo, trying to make talk states, "Great works of art have great power." Anna escapes into a taxi, and rolling up of the taxi's window a reflection superimposes his face onto hers indicating that the two will become intricately bound.

Finding her way back to her Hotel (the name is on the key), she discovers her name is Anna Manni a Police Detective from Rome. Finding sleeping pills with a prescription stating 'to help relax and go to sleep,' she takes the tablets and rests. Does she fall asleep? A copy of Rembrandt's 'The Night Watch' (1642), hangs on the wall and seemingly comes alive with Anna stepping into it; she has entered a crime scene. Inspector Moretti tells her that there is another victim of a serial rapist who operates in Rome and Florence, and has stepped up to murder. Inspector Moretti wants Anna to go to Florence and liaise with the authorities there. She steps back into her room, and Alfredo is there. He rapes Anna, cutting her lip with a razor blade making it bleed as it did in the 'Galleria.' She blacks out and awakens in a car; Alfredo is raping a woman on the seat next to her. Anna escapes the car, and the 'Bystander Effect' materialises as she runs bleeding down the street and ghostly faces passively gaze out on her from the surrounding windows.

This extraordinary opening with dream like logic tells us who Anna is, why she was in Florence, as well as introducing the crimes to be investigated and the hurdles Anna will have to overcome. On waking in hospital, Anna cuts her hair and on the train back to Rome develops a taste for self-harm, deliberately cutting her hand. Psychologist Dr. Cavanna diagnosis her with Stendhal Syndrome; conveniently situated on his desk is Stendhal's 'The Red and the Black'.

Without giving too much away, Argento's favourite alternate killer theory enters the story. And yet shortly after the 'fresco chaos' overwhelms Anna, and the narrative takes a discordant shift. The film takes a turn for the Brian DePalma, with Anna donning a blonde wig, and nothing is quite as it seems. The film ends on a chilling note with disturbing image that suggest Anna's conflicted relationship with the hostile frescos that have repeatedly challenged her concept of reality.

Stendhal Syndrome is a real syndrome, which was first diagnosed in 1982. Graziella Magherini's book, 'La Sindrome di Stendhal' (1993) forms the basis of the film, which is an Argento film that has none of his characteristic long takes or tracking shots; the film also lacks his tell tale set pieces. One of the things that work best in the film is the reuniting of Argento with Morricone, who delivers a score reminiscent of 'Vertigo', whilst still being highly original in its own right. The score which follows the same tune played either forward or backward, is beautifully hypnotic yet strangely disturbing.
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Not bad!
mrc7710 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I am giving this an 8 out of 10 because it is by Dario Argento, who I love. There are several things about Dario Argento's films that I don't love. Number one on that list would be the dubbing. I would prefer it if Argento would let the actors speak Italian and have subtitles at the bottom of the screen. I would love to hear Asia Argento speak Italian in this movie. I would love it if her vocals were not put in later, but instead were recorded by a boom mike over her head. I hate dubbing period, but I have gotten used to the use of it in Argento's films.

The first half of the movie was kind of hard to get through, but it wasn't bad. I think Asia is a great actress, and she has a great style. I think she is going to have a breakout role one day that will cause the whole world to know her as a household name.

The second half, I would call the "blonde wig" half of the movie was so much better than the first half. However, you can't have one without the other. If the first half is dark, the second half is the light. The scenes with Asia and Marie in the park and on the scooter were great. The scooter scene with Asia and Marie riding along the street with the old buildings in the background was one of the best cinematic moments I have seen in a while. I even liked how the people in the other cars were waving.

I did not see the twist coming at the end. The whole movie reminded me of Silence of the Lambs, Cape Fear, Vertigo, Alice in Wonderland (when Asia is in the blue dress, running down the alternate exit of her building), and that Ashley Judd movie, Kiss The Girls. There were also several parts that reminded me of other Argento movies, but that is a given in all of his movies. The score was really cool. The closeups of the bullet traveling through skin was kind of neat, too.

All in all, not bad - much more complex than his Hitchcock movie, but that wasn't too bad either. I also love how Argento always uses great locations for movies ... as if he is paying homage to all the beautiful parts of Italy (and Germany sometimes). It really makes you want to visit every place, and Hitchcock did the same with his movies.

The only thing about Argento that bugs me is that he never can seem to make a really good, dark, complete movie. I think Suspiria is one of his few movies that worked on every level. I enjoyed Phenomena (Creepers), too, and I remember liking Deep Red (but I need to watch it again ... it has been a while). I just wish he would do something that really puts all of his talent into one movie.
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Gloomy Argento.
HumanoidOfFlesh25 February 2005
Horror maestro Dario Argento's daughter Asia Argento portrays Anna Manni,a beautiful detective in pursuit of a savage serial killer-rapist who has been terrorizing Italy.When his trail leads Anna to Florence's famed Uffizi Museum,the investigation takes a violently psychotic turn.Anna is struck by the bizarre phenomenon known as the Stendhal Syndrome,a psychological reaction to artwork that forces Anna into a mysterious trance."The Stendhal Syndrome" has to be one of the nastiest films ever made by Dario Argento.Asia Argento is perfect as a street-tough,confident cop.The score by Ennio Morricone is also excellent.The rape scenes are particularly brutal,so if you are easily offended avoid this film.The story is intriguing and well-developed,and there are some gruesomely surreal moments including Alfredo waving at Anna through the hole he's blown in another woman's cheek and the messy puncturing of a man's gullet with a pair of rusty springs.So if you are a fan of Dario Argento give this one a look.It's certainly much better than "Trauma","The Card Player" or "Phantom of the Opera".
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Classic Mental illness Flick
sydneyswesternsuburbs2 August 2011
Director Dario Argento who also created other classic flicks, Masters of Horror - Pelts 2006, Masters of Horror - Jenifer 2005, Phenomena 1985, Tenebre 1982, Suspira 1977 and The Cat o'Nine Tails 1971 has created another gem in The Stendhal Syndrome.

Starring Asia Argento who has also been in other classic flicks, Land of the Dead 2005 and The Church 1989.

Also starring Thomas Kretschmann who has also been in other classic flicks, Wanted 2008, Downfall 2004, Immortal (Ad Vitam) 2004, The Pianist 2002, Blade II 2002 and Stalingrad 1993.

Also starring Marco Leonardi.

I enjoyed the violence.

If you enjoyed this as much as I did then check out other classic mental illness flicks, Bad Boy Bubby 1993, Black Swan 2010, Body/Antibody 2007, Boogeyman 2 2007, Bug 2006, Chasing Sleep 2000, House of Usher 1960, Grace 2009, Heart of Midnight 1988, Housebound 2000, Next Door 2005, One Point O 2004, Play Misty for Me 1971, Psycho 1960, Psycho II 1983, Repulsion 1965, Retribution 1987, Single White Female 1992, Sisters 1973, Sweetie 1989, Taxi Driver 1976, Excision 2012, The Babadook 2014, Danika 2006, Starry Eyes 2014, Crave 2012, The Fan 1996, Look Away 2018, Audition 1999 and The Ugly 1997.
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Quite Interesting if a Bit Slow
konky20002 April 2004
This movie is structured in such a way that the 'climax' appears to occur much earlier than one would expect. I was left wondering what in the world Argento was going to do to keep the action going. I was eventually thrilled by the result, but I still must admit that there was a 15 minute stretch in the middle when I just couldn't figure out at all where the movie was headed. In this way, the structure reminded me a bit of Vertigo.

Unfortunately, the one thing that is usually the best in Argento's work -- the cinematography -- is obscured by an unbelievably bad DVD transfer by Troma. Compared to Anchor Bay's treatment of films like Deep Red and Phenomena, Troma's release of Stendahl Syndrome looks like a 3rd generation VHS. If you care about your DVD transfer quality, you definately need to preview this one before buying it. Movie 7/10, DVD transfer 2/10.
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Underrated Art-House Horror.
Giallo196319 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This has got to be one of the most disturbing and tightly filmed horror Art-House movies ever made. It is psychologically intense and even intelligent. It is one of the few movies made that I feel portrays violence and insanity honestly. It is typical for an Argento movie to make the violence uncomfortable and sexually tense, with this it is a lot more obvious and more brutal in its depiction. As usual with an Argento movie it is full of dread and relies more on atmosphere than mere storytelling. Typical for a Giallo the movie has a simple but strong and focused plot. It doesn't spend too much time on giving the movie sub-plots which is great if you ask me. It only adds to the story to forward the plot. So I would say the movie is straight to the point. To be quite honest it is a simpler and more straightforward story compared to Dario Argento's other movies, usually they have a complex and convoluted story with a murderer hiding in plain sight first revealed near the end of the movie. In the Stendhal Syndrome the killer's identity is revealed early on. So this is not your usual Argento movie. Although the themes are basically the same as with most of his movies: violence, dark side of human nature and sexuality. He rarely goes outside of these themes, but the way he makes his movies is often different than what he did before often leaving audiences not knowing what to expect. Even I find it hard to know what to expect besides the core themes.

Here we have the Stendhal Syndrome as the main theme and key to set out the plot and story. It is fascinating since the director was given the chance to explore violence and art at once. There have been cases with people driven insane by the syndrome and the movie captures the atmosphere of it brilliantly with beautiful yet disturbing images. It is similar to Barry Lyndon, in the sense that it was like watching paintings coming to life. Except it felt like the paintings really were alive in Stendhal and not only that, also in a dreadful, ominous and disturbing way. Brilliant. The violence depicted in the movie is very disturbing and often macabre, made even more disturbing by combining rape and violence. Let me tell you, this movie left me shaken to my very core. The psychological intensity of the movie is potent, I dare say venomous even and it is quite thought provoking. It shows the viewer how close we might really be to lose our minds. Asia's character, female-victim-turned-hero/insane is portrayed by Asia with such flexibility that I find it a bit hard to see another actress playing the main character. Besides only a few might have the courage to take on such a role. Thomas Kretschmann is also quite impressive, he played his character in such a way where he was able to add depth and some humanity to his character. Usually those kind of characters turn out to be cheesy and unbelievable, but here it went well. P.S. the cinematography is as usual extravagant and is pure eye candy for Art-House aficionados. I admit I am one of them.

Overall I think this is a disturbing and disgusting movie but made with great sensitivity and intelligence. Great cinematography, with eerie music by the great Ennio Morricone and good acting (yes, good acting. There is always some German Expressionism feel in the acting in Dario Argento's movies) It kind of drags a bit after Kretschmann's character dies but it was still solid. Also it has some sense of humor but it is so odd it seems like a bad attempt at trying to be funny. Oh also some very early CGI effects that seems childish in our times, but it doesn't hurt the movie since it is a short sequence. Great movie.
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