Genre: Thriller / Horror
original title: La Sindrome di Stendhal
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marco Leonardi, Luigi Diberti, Paolo Bonacelli
After trying his luck with an all-american production of Trauma (1993), Dario Argento returned to Italy to do a personal project based on a powerful experience he encountered as a child on vacation with his parents.
When he later came across a book by Graziella Magherini about the Stendhal Syndrome, he figured out that this was what he had experienced as a child and he immediately became very interested in this strange syndrome, making it the basis for the story of this film.
The Stendhal Syndrome deals with the young and promising police detective Anna Manni (Asia Argento) who is on the hunt for a serial rapist/killer. Her hunt brings her to the famous Uffizi Gallery museum in Florence, where she experiences a traumatic feeling of becoming lost and overwhelmed by the displayed art.
The killer exploits the opportunity by kidnapping and raping Anna. He does not kill her though, but even after the rape he still keeps track of her and Anna cannot feel safe that he won’t attack her once again… unless she finds a way to get to him first.
The Stendhal Syndrome reunited Dario with his daughter Asia once again. Asia played the leading character in Dario’s previous film Trauma, and she even had a topless scene in that film making it a bit weird considering that she is being filmed by her father. The weirdness does continue here as Asia’s character Anna is brutally raped and abused and she would continue to play in Dario’s future projects, even having several nude scenes in them aswell.
The film itself is also quite strange and unique. There are plenty of weird visuals in the film, setting it apart from everything that Dario has done before and after and it’s not a film that could be compared to the work of anyone else that I’m familiar with either. It does have some giallo elements to it, but unlike a typical giallo this one does not attempt to hide the identity of the killer.
This was also the first Italian production that would feature CGI. It is a bit hit or miss, as to be expected at the time, but it does succeed in adding to the bizarre universe that the story takes place in. The violence is brutal, but never goes over the top and it is not a film you will seek out just for the gore.
What doesn’t work though is the characters. Character developement is not Dario Argento’s strength, but in some of his other work like Suspiria it isn’t needed as much as it is in a film like this. That being said, I do like Asia as the tormented and broken Anna though and I’m gonna give most of the credit for that to the actress and not to those behind the camera.
The Stendhal Syndrome is a very interesting film that are not made for the masses. Fans of Argento should find enough to be happy about and it is also a film that I enjoy more and more over the years.