Label: Arrow Video
Release date: 22 March 2010
Running time: 118m
Director: Dario Argento
Stars: Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann
THE STENDHAL SYNDROME represented a remarkable return to vintage form for the Italian master of suspense and terror, Dario Argento (TENEBRAE, SUSPIRIA, TERROR AT THE OPERA). It stars the director's real life daughter, Asia Argento (TRAUMA, THE CHURCH, SCARLET DIVA, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LAND OF THE DEAD) as Anna Manni, a young detective in Rome's anti-rape unit. Anna suffers from Stendhal Syndrome, a mental condition that causes her to retreat into horrifying hallucinations when confronted with works of art.
On the trail of a serial rapist and killer, she is tipped off about the suspect's whereabouts. But, unknown to Anna, the killer has discovered the secret of her illness and uses it against her, eventually kidnapping her and forcing her to become an unwilling witness to his crimes. Of course, this being a Dario Argento film, nothing is quite as it seems and the plot takes a terrifying twist when Anna discovers the true face of madness.
Dario Argento first came to most people's attention with his supernatural giallo SUSPIRIA in 1977. In the early 1980's two more of his excellent gialli (DEEP RED, 1975 and TENEBRAE, 1982) suffered the indignity of receiving the label of 'video nasties' from the British authorities.
Made in 1996, THE STENDHAL SYNDROME marked a return to vintage form for Argento, whose films after TENEBRAE had been decidedly patchy. After his US excursion (TWO EVIL EYES, TRAUMA), Argento returns to his home turf, and the great centre of Italian art, Florence; the film opens at the Uffizi Gallery. The director's daughter, Asia Argento plays Anna Manni, a police detective suffering from the Stendhal Syndrome. This is a mental condition that causes her to retreat into horrifying hallucinations when confronted with works of art. (In fact, there is a hospital in Florence that has three beds put aside for sufferers of this condition). When serial killer/rapist Alfredo Grossi (Thomas Kretschmann) discovers the secret of her illness, he uses it against her, forcing her to become an unwilling witness to his crimes. Throughout the film Argento, as usual, impresses us with inventive hallucination and murder sequences that are handled very well by Sergio Stivaletti, who uses CGI to enhance his usual array of bloody special effects.
The film is a complex thriller rather than a giallo in the usual sense, there are no black gloves on display, and the killer's identity is known to us from early in the film. Argento concentrates more on the psychological makeup of Anna. There is however an important link to Argento's earlier gialli; the film features a wonderful Ennio Morricone score. Morricone had also scored THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, 1970, CAT O’ NINE TAILS and FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, 1971. Musically this provides a much-needed return to his roots, after the irritating flirtation with heavy metal in PHENOMENA, 1985 and OPERA 1987.
An atmospheric and chilling study of the effects of insanity and violence, THE STENDHAL SYNDROME is full of the dazzling cinematic style and technical wizardry audiences have come to expect from Argento. Co-written by the director's frequent collaborator Franco Ferrini (PHENOMENA, TRAUMA, OPERA), the film also features a haunting score by award-winning composer Ennio Morricone (THE UNTOUCHABLES, THE MISSION).
THE STENDHAL SYNDROME has been released a few times in the UK. The first time it was cut, then it was released uncut but in 4:3 aspect ratio. Arrow remastered the film for their previous release and it is presented in wide-screen 1:66:1 which is ideally suited to the picturesque shots of Florence and Rome. However the previous Arrow disc lacked a 5.1 audio track. This problem is now rectified and the disc is a must for anybody interested in Argento's work - its rightful place on any DVD shelf is next to DEEP RED and TENEBRAE.
There is a full analysis of this film here, but beware - major plot details are discussed.
THE STENDHAL SYNDROME (cert. 18) is released on DVD (15.99) by Arrow Video on 22nd March 2010.
Double sided sleeve featuring new artwork
Exclusive collector's booklet
Dario Argento trailer gallery
English 5.1 and Italian 5.1 audio options