Though I think I am in the minority, if I was asked to pick a favourite Dario Argento film, it would be Opera. I agree that Deep Red, Suspiria, and maybe a couple of others are better films, but I just adore Opera, it’s like everything I love about Argento all rolled into one package and ramped up to the max. It’s the ultimate Argento compendium [except that nobody’s head goes through glass!]. It’s a technically stunning piece of filmmaking, and it’s also totally bonkers. It’s crazy, it’s gorgeous, and it’s vicious. If you just want to see one Argento film, then I think it should be Opera, because it tells you what Argento is about more than any of his others.
The film mostly takes place in an opera house where the lead in Verdi’s Macbeth is injured in a car accident. Young Betty, played by the gorgeous Christina Marsillac, is thrust into the limelight when she is offered, and accepts, the role. During her first performance, a murder takes place in one of the opera boxes. Someone seems to recognise Betty from a long time ago, and when an usher interrupts the unseen viewer in the opera box, who is obviously not supposed to be there, he is impaled on a coat hanger for his pains. The first night is a great success though. Betty gets a huge applause and even one fan, but she’s worn out and retires to her dressing room. Her boyfriend, Stefan, shows up to congratulate her and invites her back to his apartment for some intimate time. Cut to said apartment, where they have just made love. Stefan gets up out of bed to make some tea. While he’s in the kitchen, the hooded killer attacks and overpowers Betty, ties her to a pillar, and tapes a row of needles beneath each of her eyes so she can’t close them or even blink. Stefan comes back and….
BOOM! The heavy metal music starts, extremely loud, as a knife enters in Stefan’s cheek and we even see it go into the throat. Stefan falls onto the floor and is stabbed a few more times, and, as he often did, Argento shows some restraint here. There may be tons of blood, but you don’t really see the knife going in again, the emphasis being on Stefan’s reactions, actually enhancing the horror. All the time, Betty has to watch, unable to look away or close her eyes. Much like us, I suppose, you like watching violence and gore and can’t look away. Theneventually the killer, who gropes Betty’s breast and says: “you’re like a bitch on heat”, unties Betty and then flees. You know he’ll be back though.
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIOLENCE [though I didn’t need to say that, did I?]