Dario Argento’s Suspiria is a murder mystery that reveals a supernatural undertone through its unique colors and tones.
By Dario Argento Suspiria is a film that captures the mind-blowing atmosphere of the European horror of the seventies. The film tells the story of a girl named Suzy Bannion who travels to a Tanz Dance Akademie ballet school where only the best attend. At first, it seems extremely strict, but as Suspiria progresses, a murder mystery emerges that reveals something more sinister is afoot. While the twist doesn’t come until later, the hints are subtly displayed through its stage design.
On SuspiriaIn the climax, it is revealed that Tanz is actually a coven of witches who kill young women if they delve too deeply into their occult affairs. The exterior of the school is surprisingly tame in design, acting as a way to lull new students to a false sense of security. However, each room becomes increasingly disorienting due to its geometric pattern and bright colors. He presents the idea that the school has its own personality and casts a spell to ensnare the young girls.
One perspective for the maze-like stage design could be that the stress of being a dancer and the strict schedule affects Suzy mentally. However, it is clear that the cost of their passion is not the cause, as others begin to disappear or are found dead. In fact, some of the best uses of stage design and color are found during kills. For example, when Suzy’s friend Sara starts snooping, she realizes that her detective has been discovered.
While in her room, the influence of the witch is noticeable in a room bathed in a shade of green. When you enter the hallway outside your room, the area is covered in red to indicate the danger inside. Finally, the room where she is inevitably killed is covered in a soothing blue, tricking her into feeling safe before being attacked and eventually becoming another victim.
Using primary colors in the scene, Argento conveys Sara’s emotions without uttering a word and shows how much power the witches have over the school. Added to the idea is the revelation that everything seems normal every time the film leaves its walls. This is represented through the locations, which feature modern architecture for the time and traditional lighting or natural light. The difference in presentation makes Tanz Dance Akademie feel more like a different dimension than a ballet school.
To help ensure the students don’t escape, the witches continually drug girls who don’t have the energy to uncover the secrets that lie beneath the surface. However, when Suzy finally breaks the spell and stops eating her “restricted diet” meals, the danger becomes apparent. The drugged tea you are drinking has a red hue staining the sink, representing how difficult it is to escape the danger you are in.
But what makes the school’s effects even more intriguing is that once you’re in your right mind and find your way to the witches’ coven, the setting becomes less maze-like and the sets are less colorful. and disorientating. It shows how Suzy is free from the control of the school and how much of that was just a facade to keep her trapped.
SuspiriaThe set design is a masterpiece in non-verbal storytelling. It highlights how the color and appearance of a location can instantly affect the emotional state of characters and viewers. As a result, the film tells an underlying story of the Tanz Dance Akademie, a school that is more of a living enchantment than a building that traps and confuses its inhabitants. However, once that spell is broken, the terrifying reality can be shown.
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