The Stendhal Syndrome
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|The Stendhal Syndrome|
Italian theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Dario Argento|
|Produced by||Dario Argento
|Screenplay by||Dario Argento|
|Story by||Dario Argento
|Based on||the novel "La Sindrome di Stendhal" by Graziella Magherini|
|Music by||Ennio Morricone|
|Edited by||Angelo Nicolini|
|26 January 1996|
|Box office||₤5,443,000,000 (Italy)|
The Stendhal Syndrome (Ital. La Sindrome di Stendhal) is a 1996 Italian horror film written and directed by Dario Argento and starring his daughter Asia Argento. It was the first Italian film to use computer-generated imagery (CGI).
Stendhal syndrome is a real syndrome, first diagnosed in Florence, Italy in 1982. Argento said he experienced Stendhal syndrome as a child. While touring Athens with his parents young Dario was climbing the steps of the Parthenon when he was overcome by a trance that caused him to become lost from his parents for hours. The experience was so strong that Argento never forgot it; he immediately thought of it when he came across Graziella Magherini's book about the syndrome, which would become the basis of the film.
Detective Anna Manni (Argento) travels to Florence on the trail of a serial killer, Alfredo Grossi (Thomas Kretschmann). While visiting a museum, Anna is overcome by Stendhal syndrome, a condition which causes the sufferer to become overwhelmed when viewing great works of art. When Alfredo learns of Anna's disorder, he uses it to disable her before he kidnaps her and subjects her to a brutal and sadistic sexual attack. Although she manages to escape, Anna is left deeply traumatized. Alfredo continues to track her movements and is able to capture her again. This time, however, Anna turns the tables on her abductor, breaking free of his grasp, badly wounding him in the process, and knocking him into a river.
While the police, believing Alfredo to be dead, search the river for his body, Anna meets and soon falls in love with Marie, a young French art student. Anna also takes sessions with a psychologist in an effort to come to terms with her own deep-seated emotional trauma. That trauma is intensified when Anna begins to receive phone calls from the supposedly-dead Alfredo. When Marie is found murdered, Anna's psychologist, concerned about her mental state, visits her at home. While he is there, a colleague of Anna's, Marco, calls to notify her that Alfredo's body has in fact been found. This leads to the psychologist realizing the truth, and he confronts Anna with the reality that she herself is Marie's murderer. Marco arrives at Anna's apartment, only to find that she has killed her psychologist as well. As he attempts to take Anna's gun from her, she confesses that Alfredo is now inside her, ordering her to do terrible things, whereupon she murders Marco. The police arrive on the scene and ultimately arrest her after she wanders the streets.
- Asia Argento as Det. Anna Manni
- Thomas Kretschmann as Alfredo Grossi
- Marco Leonardi as Marco Longhi
- Luigi Diberti as Insp. Manetti
- Paolo Bonacelli as Dr. Cavanna
- Julien Lambroschini as Marie Beyle
- John Quentin as Anna's father
- Franco Diogene as Victim's husband
- Lucia Stara as the Shop assistant
- Sonia Topazio as Victim in Florence
- Lorenzo Crespi as Giulio
- Vera Gemma as the Policewoman
- John Pedeferri as Hydraulic engineer
- Veronica Lazar as Marie's mother
- Mario Diano as the Coroner
- Cinzia Monreale as Alfredo's Grossi's wife
- Eleonora Vizzini as Anna (child)
Bridget Fonda was originally set to star in the role of Anna, but dropped out before the start of production, and Jennifer Jason Leigh was considered as a possible replacement before Dario Argento eventually cast his own daughter, Asia, in the role. Thomas Kretschmann was cast as Alfredo Grossi because he had previously worked with Asia on the film La Reine Margot (1994) and she recommended him to her father.
The work that Anna literally steps into is a painting by Rembrandt, depicting 17th century policemen and titled The Night Watch. The painting that causes Anna to faint in the museum is Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, by Bruegel.
The footage of Anna underwater after she faints in the gallery was shot in the sea. The huge grouper fish that Anna kisses was a remote model that was being pulled through the water by cables attached to a small float on the ocean's surface. Mere moments after wrapping the underwater shoot, the fish stopped working.
Graffiti artists were brought in to cover the walls of Alfredo's underground lair with graffiti. In one night the group created over one hundred square feet of graffiti-covered walls at the location.
This is the second of (to date) five films in which Argento has directed his daughter, Asia, the three others being: Trauma, The Phantom of the Opera, The Mother of Tears and Dracula 3D. She also had roles in Demons 2 and The Church, both of which her father produced.
Argento planned on making a sequel to The Stendhal Syndrome which would follow detective Anna Manni on another case. However, Asia was unavailable so the character's name was changed (to Anna Mari) and Stefania Rocca was cast. The resulting film is 2004's The Card Player.
Response from critics was mixed, with AllMovie's Jason Buchanan calling the film "a sadistic and disturbing psychological exploration", but one that is "ultimately a victim of its own excess and the director's tendency to overcomplicate a fairly simple storyline." Buchanan praised the film's "stunningly visual opening sequence" and Ennio Morricone's "hauntingly hypnotic score" but criticized how "the seemingly meandering plot grinds to a halt just as it should truly shine."
Variety's David Rooney gave the film a mixed review, praising the film's "exhilarating" opening sequence and Giuseppe Rotunno's "cool and elegant" cinematography, but lamented that "[a]s with much of the director’s work, large sections of plot are pure hokum, and the gradual slackening of both pace and suspense in a sluggish second half only underlines the increasing silliness."
Maitland McDonagh gave a mostly positive review, writing that "this isn't a return to the baroque heights of Opera and Tenebrae. But it's a must-see for Argento completists, driven by a brave and disturbing performance by the director's daughter, Asia", though she criticized the film for taking "a serious wrong turn around the time Anna buys a blond, femme-fatale wig."
For its initial release in the United Kingdom, eleven cuts, primarily to the rape scenes, violence and some dialogue, totaling 2 minutes 47 seconds were made by the distributor before submission to the BBFC for a video certificate. The 2005 UK DVD release, by Arrow Pictures, had all previous cuts waived and represents the full-length English version, although like all English releases it omits the two scenes exclusive to the Italian version. Since the uncut version has never been submitted to the British Board of Film Classification, this version was withdrawn and re-released in a cut form.
Blue Underground released The Stendahl Syndrome on Blu-ray in 2009, which contains the entire film uncut, including the additional Italian-only scenes (still in Italian, with English subtitles).
- The US DVD release by Troma is the complete version of the English language edition but, like all English releases, is still missing around two minutes of material exclusive to the Italian print.
- The Italian release is around two minutes longer than the English export version, including an additional scene where Anna calls the husband of one of Alfredo's victims and another where she meets Marie's mother, played by Veronica Lazar (whose name is included in the credits of all versions, even those in which she does not appear).
- Julian Hoxter. "Anna with the Devil Inside: Klein, Argento and 'The Stendhal Syndrome'" in Andy Black (ed), Necronomicon: The Journal of Horror and Erotic Cinema: Book Two, London: Creation Books, 1998, pp. 99–109.
- "The Stendhal Syndrome". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
- Jones, Alan. Profondo Argento: The Man, the Myths & the Magic (FAB Press, 2004), p. 229. ISBN 190325423X.
- Jones, Alan. Profondo Argento: The Man, the Myths & the Magic (FAB Press, 2004), p. 231. ISBN 190325423X.
- "The Stendhal Syndrome - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 7 October 2015.
- "The Stendhal Syndrome - Awards". Retrieved 7 October 2015.
- Buchanan, Jason. "The Stendhal Syndrome - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- Rooney, David (4 February 1996). "Review: 'The Stendhal Syndrome'". Variety. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
- McDonagh, Maitland. "The Stendhal Syndrome - Review". TV Guide. Retrieved 20 September 2016.