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I've noticed that a lot of people are taking Opera to task for the way
Betty reacts to the murders. I think they are basing these complaints
on how they imagine a "normal" person would react. The thing is...Betty
is not a "normal" person, due to traumatic events in her childhood. She
has problems way way before the movie ever even starts...and by the end
of Opera...in my opinion...she has become totally unhinged.
---------------------SPOILERS--------------------------------------- You have to keep in mind that when she was a very small child she witnessed her mother's lover commit at least one brutal murder while her sadomasochist mother was getting off watching it.
She was raised by a woman who achieves sexual release tied up watching girls get hacked, slashed, and strangled to death. That does not make for a healthy home life. I think it's pretty easy to conclude that her mother would have employed all sorts of emotional manipulation and negative reinforcement to ensure that her daughter never snitched on her. It is also likely that at her impressionable age, Betty might have been deeply confused by what she saw. Is this just something that adults do, etc.
Betty obviously looks up to her mother...I mean...she's become an opera singer just like her. If mommy likes it it can't be bad, can it...mommy can't be bad, can she? She couldn't tell the police on her mommy or this mysterious hooded fellow she associates with mommy.
Betty has a lot of deep-seated emotional issues. Her mind has for years been trying to block out the memory of what she saw her mother doing...but it keeps coming to the surface, manifesting itself in the form of horrible nightmares, skull-throbbing migraines, a dependence on relaxation techniques, and sexual frigidity She associates brutal violence/bloody death with sex on a subconscious level. There's an inner struggle between the part of Betty that has confused murder/sex and the part of her which believes these things to be wrong.
After she's seen her boyfriend murdered by the hooded man...she calls the police, yet is unwilling to give her name. The part of her that thinks murder is wrong forces her to make the call, but the part that is ambivalent won't allow her to admit personal involvement. The ambivalent part of her takes control before she can go all the way. So she walks away from the phone in the rain...and when she's picked up by the director she's acting surprisingly calm, not as upset as you would think a "normal" person would be...because the part of her that's been blocking stuff since she was a child is trying its damnedest to block the horror of what she's just witnessed.
The state of affairs in her life all contribute to an impasse within Betty's psyche. Her singing career is starting to bear fruit...she's going to be a great opera singer like her mother was. But is she going to become like her mother in all ways? In the darker ways? Or will she be able to make her own path? Add this to the re-emergence of the hooded man murdering everyone around her.
It's not until the hooded man kills Daria Nicolodi's character that Betty really takes an active role in defeating the killer. Here's someone who loves Betty, who's supported her wholeheartedly in her emerging career, who is in fact a maternal figure in Betty's life now since mommy's dead. Imagine how terrible it would be to lose your real mother and then to see the woman who is the closest thing you have to a mother get shot through the eyeball.
I could go on...but I won't. The main gist of what I'm saying is that the character of Betty is a lot more complex than most of the reviewers on here have been willing to acknowledge.
Opera is one of Argento's best...and not just for the visuals alone (although they are truly magnificent) and not just for the inventive murders (although they are). There is a depth here...and attention needs to be paid.
Although many have mixed feelings about this latter day giallo thriller
from Argento, it still stands as another lavish testament to the
cinematic brilliance that is Argento.
A young opera singer has her first break out performance and suddenly finds herself the subject of obsession for a crazed maniac.
In a way, Opera is like a modern-day giallo take on Phantom of the Opera blended with all the glorious style and color that one would expect Dario Argento to deliver. Argento makes terrific use of inventive camera techniques, reoccurring symbols (like those ravens!), Gothic atmosphere, and truly gruesome murder sequences. One scene especially (which involves a peep hole and a gun) will knock viewers right out of their seats! Story-wise the film also manages to be gripping with some strong suspense and given great atmosphere by Claudio Simonetti's gorgeous music score.
The cast does some satisfying performances. Cristina Marsillach is good as our leading lady. The late Ian Charleson does a nice turn as the director, as does Urbano Barberini as an investigator, Daria Nicolodi as Marsillach's agent, and William McNamara as Marsillach's ill-fated lover.
Opera is terrific latter day Argento, and perhaps the last of his great works. It's sure to please his fans and even create some new ones.
**** out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Betty is an understudy for the lead in a production of Verdi's Macbeth.
When a car mysteriously hits the lead, Betty is thrust into the
spotlight. Opening night is a smashing success and Betty decides to
leave the after-party to celebrate in private with her boyfriend. But
when the boyfriend leaves the room, Betty is grabbed from behind by an
unknown black-gloved, masked figure. The unknown assailant ties Betty
to a column, gags her, and places needles under her eyes that will
cause incredible damage and pain should Betty close them. The boyfriend
returns to the room and is stunned to see Betty in such a predicament.
He's even more shocked when the killer grabs him and shoves a knife
through his lower jaw with such force, the tip of the knife can clearly
be seen in his mouth. And Betty has been forced to watch all of this.
So begins Betty's terrifying ordeal with a killer not just intent on
hurting her, but also on forcing her to watch as he mutilates her
Opera gets classified as a Giallo, but to me, it differs in quite a few ways from the model. Less emphasis is placed on the mystery elements of the story than in something like Argento's Tenebre or The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. The black-gloved, masked killer may be omnipresent, but the clues and red herrings normally associated with a good Giallo are absent. Instead, Opera is all about the tension of an unknown killer and making the audience uncomfortable. The focus is on the grisly death scenes, Betty's fear, and the killer's obsession with Betty.
Opera features what I think are some of Argento most artistic death scenes. When the killer grabs Betty after her boyfriend leaves the room, you're sure that Betty's had it. But the sadistic killer only wants to force Betty to watch as he brutally stabs her lover in the neck the knife emerging in his mouth. It's a well shot and designed scene. And those needles in the eyes brilliant. Or, take the death of the seamstress. At first her death seems like an ordinary, run-of-the-mill murder. But when the seamstress accidentally swallows the killer's locket, what started out as just another death scene turns it up a notch as the killer uses a pair of scissors to cut the girl's throat open to get his chain. Finally, there's the most famous death scene in Opera that I'm amazed with each time I see it Mira is shot in the eye while peering through a keyhole. That scene displays a lot of what I like about Argento. It's got style to burn. As implausible as it may be, it's creative, memorable, and a blast to watch.
Argento certainly wasn't the first Italian director to concentrate on eye mutilation, but in Opera, he's taken eye trauma to a new level. Needles holding eyes open, a bullet in the eye, and ravens pecking out an eye are all part of Argento's vision (pun intended). And these scenes do have the effect that I believe Argento was going for. The first time I saw the killer putting those needles in Betty's eyes, I couldn't stop blinking. It actually had a physical effect on me. What is it about the eyes that make them such a target for abuse in Italian films?
To be fair (and not sound like such a fanboy), there are problems I have with Opera that keep me from rating it as Argento's best. One of my problems is with the air duct system running through Betty's apartment building. While I don't doubt there are air duct systems in older apartment buildings that connect the apartments, the ducts in Opera are HUGE. I'm no expert, but I sincerely doubt any building like the one in this movie would have had such mammoth air ducts. It doesn't seem practical at all. And don't you think someone would have done something about them long ago to keep criminals and nosey neighbors out of the other apartments? It's convenient for the plot, but it's not very realistic.
But I suppose my major problem with the film comes with the finale. What's up with that ending? It feels totally out of place, tacked on, and like a bad afterthought. I'm not sure what else to say other than it's horrible.
"Opera" is one of the greatest achievements in horror genre. This masterful picture has everything what should be in the pure horror movie:good, captivating story, a lot of symbols, wonderful visuals and plenty of gore. The killings are very shocking and bloody. An unforgettable atmosphere of dread and fear. A must-see for a true Argento fan, so if you get a chance watch it.
Usually I float over titles I see on this website and let it be as
karma to the film, or whatever, but this one seems to have a bad rep
that I intend on redeeming. This film is worth me putting my foot in
the door and saying something, I can't physically change your mind, but
I can try and push the bad reviewers out of sight (by finding out where
they live, kidnapping them with 3 rolls of duct tape per body, some
heavy duty garden rope, and dropping them off the shortest peak of Mt
Everest.) Some reviews say it's just a film that panders to gore
hounds, where others say the story makes not a blip of sense. I
recently watched another Italian horror director's (Lucio Fulci)film
"House By The Cemetery", and I realised something about the whole genre
of Italian Horror, whether it be very grounded Giallo types, or the
supernaturally dream like horrors that feel like a hallucination.
They're films that go for a "definite feeling", how they get there at
the end, however unorthodox or off the wall they are, they achieve
dread through little quirks and symbols, artistic motifs, camera shots,
music that is genuinely saddening and horrifying. But whatever
criticisms you might have about the acting, the strange, unrealistic
script, the gore... you get "there". It creeps up your skin. It goes
for a densely packed experience, filled with all kinds of dreams,
fashion, themes and nightmares. On a documentary about Italian Horror
films, it said something very important about the cultural significance
of them and it is something that Fulci said: "Violence is an Italian
art". There's something about their overbearing, bloody, Roman past,
and their highly emotional society, and how even today it is so
constricted by religion and class orders, and how this is represented
in their horror output as a kind of rebellion. Sure there is worthy
Italian comedy, but it's the horror that is done artistically and
poignantly, and always in anything gruesome, there is a sense of humour
anyway. It seems what they want us to believe is that it comes
naturally to them and we should understand that their understanding
serves a purpose in the universe.
With "Opera", the setting is that familiar scene of paparazzi, false love, real pain, celebrities, the fans, that cold world where talent, and love for what you do, takes you. Least of all, it's about Guiseppe Verdi's opera- "Macbeth". Actors at odds with their fans, A dark celebration of youth, life imitating art, it could be interpreted many ways, but ultimately I think what's clearest about it is its disdain for celebrity worshiping culture. It's fantastically cynical and has a seething hatred running through it. It's shot like a dream, which is not uncommon for Argento films, but a dream which turns sour for the unsuspecting protagonist who is unsure about the power of her singing talent, but coerced into taking the role of Lady Macbeth. The art direction in this is grey and futuristic looking, everything is the colour of granite, splashed with blue. Every element of the movie is densely layered, the cinematography, the music, the pacing is so tightly packed it's like watching someone get stuck in a black hole where no man has gone before. And that's my last point about this movie and why you should see it... it's a completely original film, an artistic accomplishment in its own right. It's a rebellious statement, it's brutal, it's seductive, it's confidently done, I just hope you read this review before the others and at least give it a chance. Saying it's rebellious has made me realise something: modern horror films are done for the enjoyment of watching them, it's like the makers enjoy it and that carries on, whereas the old films were made by men and women who were fighting in their own small ways, an oppressive society, who enjoyed fear above all else because the horror makes you think, they used their dream like horror as an intellectual and educational tool. This film is still a part of that "Old School". I don't know what to say, maybe my love for this movie is as irrational as the whole Italian horror canon, as the dream-like way in which they shot the films, but as far as going on pure feeling goes, my gut tells me to follow this one, and you should too. Get a creep under your skin, get a view of the world you've not seen, watch this!!
Betty (portrayed pathetically by Cristina Marsillach) is an
up-and-coming opera singer, who gets her big break after the star diva
breaks her leg. Promoted from understudy she becomes the breakaway star
of Guiseppe Verdi's "MacBeth", an opera with a long history of bad
luck. During the opening night a murder is committed. Even later that
evening a masked man gags Betty and forces her to watch him gut the
stage manager after which he lets her go unharmed. Who is the murderer
and what wicked game is he playing? Dario Argento during the years
mastered his trademarks, which include long travelling shots, exquisite
classic-inspired sumptuous settings as well as the use of colour (with
a specific obsession with red ochre) to instill an unrelenting
all-engulfing atmosphere. This time however Dario exaggerated and
overused the long shots making his typical slow pace virtually stop to
a halt. Almost nothing happens during over 100 minutes, albeit when it
finally does occur it is engrossing and damn near to perfection.
Sadly this movie has probably one of the worse scores in any Argento movie, save for the absolutely classical and unmistakable captivating beauty of Verdi's "MacBeth". The remaining music however consists mostly of loud and severely outdated heavy metal, that cruelly rape the ears and kill visual enjoyment.
Additionally this is probably Argento's 'easiest' movie in the sense, that the script is severely underdeveloped and lacks the prerequisite mystery. Shortly after the first murder it becomes quite apparent that there is only one possibly killer. I naturally expected some twist to turn the events upside down (however illogical the twist), but none happened and the only possible culprit does not fail to not surprise. At the same time he must be one of the stupidest Argento murderers ever with plotting and ideas so thinly planned out, that were it not for the even more imbecilic victims he would have been caught within 30 minutes. But when victims fail to finish him off after knocking him unconscious with an iron or policemen require several days to differentiate a corpse from a mannequin this villain gets more screen time than he deserves.
The only mystery worth finding out concerns the reason to the murderer's killing spree, which is suitably wicked and Argento-style twist. Also the ending itself is devious, albeit a lot of substance lost due to the terrible Marsillach, who lacks enough vibrant emotion to convey the terrible truth. All in all not a bad movie, but I fail to find anything worth note in this ultimately repetitive and flawed Argento thriller.
If you're OK with the outlandish work of Italy's premier horror
directorable to accept his outrageous story lines and flamboyant
stylethen you should have a great time with Opera. If you don't, then
Cristina Marsillach plays Betty, a beautiful young opera understudy who is given a shot at fame (in an avant-garde production of Macbeth) when the star of the show is hit by a car. As any thesp who has 'trod the boards' will know, Macbeth is a production that carries a curseand Betty soon discovers that the show in which she is now the star is no exception: a killer is systematically offing the staff at the theatreand poor Betty is forced to watch by the sadistic murderer (who tapes needles under her eyes to prevent her from closing them!).
With the help of a little girl who crawls through her air-conditioning ducts, her director and agent, and a few ravens who have seen the murderer's face (!!!), Betty discovers the killer's identity, and the truth about her mysterious past.
Let's face it... Opera is one crazy film, with its preposterous plot-turns, convoluted death scenes, and an ending that beggars belief. And whilst director Dario Argento has never been one for, shall we say, conventional story lines, this particular giallo is so daft, and features so many of his trademark stylish touches (all ramped up to the max), that it's almost as if, with each successive film, he is seeing what he can get away with (at times almost parodying his earlier work).
This is exactly why I find the film such fun!!!
Argento's camera movements are absolutely incredible: gliding, creeping and, in one amazing scene, even swooping around the opera house above the audience; the power of Verdi's music is combined perfectly with the synth majesty of Claudio Simonetti's score, providing a suitably grandiose accompaniment to the sumptuous visuals; and several outstanding set-pieces (featuring Sergio Stivaletti's nauseating gore FX) go to prove that no-one does death better than Argento (check out one character's stunning demise, in which a bullet passes through a spy-hole in a door in slow motion, and straight into their eye!).
7.5 out of 10, rounded up to 8 for IMDb.
This is not Argento's best film by far, but if you are a fan of the director, or just a fan of the horror genre in general, this movie is worth a watch. Argento is always original, and Opera is no exception. His death scenes are top notch. Nothing of his that you watch is the same as anything else out there. On top of this, Opera is visually stunning, with beautiful backdrops drenched in lots of color; this is an Argento staple. Subjective shots are constant, which is also an Argento staple, but in Opera it is a little different. With Argento, subjective shots usually show the world through the eyes of the killer and make the audience relate to him or her. In Opera the audience also sees through the eyes of the victim, who is forced to watch everything unfold around her. The problems with this film are the acting and the script. Starting with the former, Argento's young leading lady gave him problems throughout the shoot. She did not take direction well due to her inexperience; Argento claims this is the first time it ever happened to him. With the script, there are holes throughout the story, and everything gets wrapped up a little too neatly as the killer explains why it all happened. The ending is also dreadful. The company releasing the film in America asked Argento to cut the final scene, but the director refused.
Opera (the U.S. title is terror at the opera) is somewhat of a letdown after
some of Dario's other movies like Phenomena, Tenebre, and Suspiria. (i still
can't find Inferno anywhere.)
it's one of those movies that has a great first half but midway through it's
like someone started slowly letting the air out of the screenplay and
the basic plot involves a beautiful opera singer who is being stalked by a deranged obsessed fan. this killer begins killing people close to her in a most unique fashion. he binds and gags her and tape tiny sharp pins under her eyelids so if she tries to close her eyes she'll gouge out her eyes. this forces her to watch while the killer murders her acquaintances in typically brutal and gory Argento fashion.
unfortunately, about midway through the film becomes sluggish and illogical. (this is especially directed towards the killer's motivations. i still haven't completely figured out why he's such a nut.) the ending especially come out of left field in the worst possible sense.
but, for about the first hour or so this is some of Dario's best filmmaking and the camera work is breathtaking. too bad it couldn't maintain it through to the end.
I understand that to truly appreciate Argento, you must check your sense of logic at the door. Suspiria and Deep Red are wonderfully inventive, creepy, frightening, etc. movies. That being said, Opera only rates a 5 in my book for what it should have been. With a better script, no inappropriate/silly heavy metal music, and a more coherent plot, Opera would be one of the greatest horror films of all time. As it stands, it is merely a good-looking misstep. The production values are superb, the camera-work and cinematography is near genius (the bullet through the door! the shots of the heroine with needles under her eyes! the sickening violence! the crows!). But the aforementioned mistakes dragged Opera down much further than the subject matter and visuals deserve.
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