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If you love Dario Argento as I do, you forgive him his faults. Don't
focus on the small mistakes, just enjoy a true master of horror.
Betty (Cristina Marsillach) takes over the lead in an opera after a car accident knocks out the diva. Then, the fun begins.
She is forced to watch as other members of the cast and crew are horribly murdered one by one. She suspects that she will last.
Then, there were the birds! A real thriller with the outcome in doubt even when you thought it was over.
Marsillach was not great, but she did give a fair performance in another Argento classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Reading Alan Jones excellent book Dario Argento: The Man, the Myths &
the Magic,I noticed Jones mention that despite the title being a box
office disaster,that co-writer/ (along with Franco Ferrini) directing
auteur Dario Argento's Opera is his last true classic,and also a coda
for the final wave of the Giallo sub- genre.With having saved the movie
(which came out the year I was born!) for a special occasion,I decided
that I would use my birthday as the day that I would witness the last
rites of the Giallo.
After lead actress Mara Czekova is injured in a car accident,budding actress Betty gets her hands on the role that she has been dreaming of,when Betty's agent Mira phones up to reveal that stage director Marco has offered her the lead role in his avant-garde opera staging of Macbeth. Ignoring whispers of the production being "cursed" Betty sets her sights on following in her mums footsteps,and becoming the leading diva of the opera world.
During one of the first performances,a light from the auditorium comes crashing to the ground.Checking the lighting equipment after the show,the crew discover that an usher has been ruthlessly murdered.Shaken by the experience,Betty attempts to relax with her boyfriend,after receiving some rather strange fan mail.Waiting for her boyfriend to return,Betty is grabbed by a masked stranger,who ties her up,and put needles under the eyes,so that Betty can't look away from what is taking place.Brutally killing her boyfriend,the killer reveals that after being mesmerised by her performance in the opera,that he is going to put on a deadly special show,that Betty will be unable to take her eyes off of.
View on the film:
For the last big budget Giallo,Dario Argento makes the genres curtain call one which concludes all the themes which he had started in his debut.After taking a look at the effect that violence has on its creators in 1982's Tenebre,the writers here turn their attention to the audience,with the writers superbly using Betty's forced viewing of the murders to slyly suggest that no matter how horrific the killings are,that the viewer is unable to turn their gaze away from the dazzling onslaught,and also showing the level of obsession that fandom can reach.Whilst the "controversial" ending does come a bit from the left-field,the writers make the coda one which sums up topic that Argento had been progressing on since his debut,where animals have a strong connection to the lead ammeter detective,due to them offering an escape route/answer to what the character is searching for.
Although the title does mark the end of an era for Argento's major themes,the writers smartly make sure that the title never turns into a mere summarisation,thanks to the film offering harsh Horror lyrics with a Film Noir composition.Keeping the movie to Betty's point of view,the writers show her being dragged into a gritty Giallo word,as Betty finds her glamorous stage life being destroyed in her bullet ridden flat.Pushing Betty's nerves right to the edge,the writers create an extremely creepy atmosphere,with Betty being surrounded by a trusted group of people on the stage,whose image begins to blur,as Betty finds the killer getting literally under her skin.
Ignoring all of the myths about "the Scottish play",the 15 week production turned out to be a complete nightmare,(with the disasters being .(deep breath!) 1:original studio Titanus dropping the title due to a major corporate takeover taking place.2:Dario's dad Salvatore dying a month before film.3:co-star Ian Charleson (who would tragically die from AIDS a year later) being involved in a near-fatal crash.4:Vanessa Redgrave signing on to play Mara Czekova,only to turn up to Italy asking for extra cash,which led to Redgrave taking the next flight out of Italy! 5:Dario having furious rows with star Cristina Marsillach,to the point where during a scene involving fire,Marsillach got left with burn marks,and to top it all off 6:Dario treating ex-girlfriend Daria Nicolodi with a vile that would lead to them not working together again for 20 years)yet despite all of the issues,Argento directs the title with an explosive energy.
Opening with a breath taking first person tracking shot,Argento and cinematographer Ronnie Taylor unleash a paranoid atmosphere,thanks to Betty's fall into terror being matched by scattering crane shots and knife-edge tracking shots.Basking the stage in vivid, minimalist black & white,Argento and Taylor decay Betty's glamorous life with a brittle,Film Noir bleakness,as Betty finds herself trapped in a Giallo flat,with no sign of light.
Whilst her shouting matches with Argento have become legendary, Cristina Marsillach gives a tremendous performance as Betty,which contrasts a diva beauty with a tomboyish attitude,as Marsillach shows Betty being desperate to stay on the acting ladder,whilst also setting her eyes on stopping the murderer from bringing the opera down on a killer note.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You know that cliché of "cameraman as killer" POV shots? Unfortunately,
one of the first shots in this movie is one of these, and it was a huge
turn off for me at that point. Remember all those slasher films in the
60s and 70s where the killer was always seen through a POV shot killing
a woman? That's what made those kinds of movies misogynistic (albeit
entertaining to watch when on some sort of drug). Amongst other things,
like some minor continuity errors, wooden acting, and that annoying
hard rock music that comes on every time there's a killing, the thing
that bothers me most about Opera is this indirect allusion to the
misogynistic views of the slasher films of yore. I take issue with this
because, even though there are males killed, their killings are
accompanied by a shot or a few of the killer himself, whereas the woman
killings are only seen through the killer's eyes, as if the audience
were the killer themselves.
On the other hand, Opera is a unique movie of it's own. The thought of not being able to blink, risking losing your eyelids if you do, is a legitimately terrifying topic, and Argento pulls this idea off with such precision you'd think he's an actual sadist. Or perhaps he is? Whatever the circumstance of his mental state, It's suspenseful, it's gory and it's just generally f'ed up, and that's what's great about it.
Also, I'm definitely convinced that the gunshot through the door eye hole was the main inspiration for one of the traps in Saw 2.
Italian horror master Argento's Opera is loosely based on The Phantom
of the Opera. It's set in the 'Teatro Regio' in Parma, Italy, during
the performance of Verdi's Macbeth. The opera is known to bring bad
luck and the production of the film was indeed plagued by misfortunes,
such as the death of Argento's father, while he was filming. The
director returns here to the 'giallo' genre, after his so called
'supernatural years', during which he presented us with masterpieces
such as Deep Red, Suspiria and Phenomena. The lead role is played by
the Spanish newcomer Christina Marsillach, who Argento defined the
hardest actress he ever had to direct.
The score was composed by Brian Eno and Claudio Simonetti, the latter being a regular contributor to Dario's films, and the heavy-metal music, which normally accompanies the murders in his movies, is one of the features that gained him heavy acclaim, and one of the reasons why his films have reached the status of cult. Probably, Opera is Dario Argento's last masterpiece, the following films to date revealing a mere shadow of his former glory, though still being high quality productions.
Argento is known for his cinematic flair, and we are not disappointed here; scenes beautifully composed, violent murders, accentuated here by the element of voyeurism, and some shots that will remain in the memory of the viewer, such as the key-hole murder shot. However, although Argento claimed that every shot and camera point of view were justified by a certain logic, we can't help suspecting that some of the visual choices in Opera are simply dictated by bravado. Nonetheless, the results are amazingly beautiful and proportioned, and the viewer will not be let down. Just think, doesn't it titillate you to watch bloody murders being committed right in front of you, while you are tied and have needles taped under your eyes, so you must watch? Yes, I thought so...
With increasing fame comes an increase in budget and investors. Opera
feels like the most expensive production from Dario Argento up until
that time, although it's still not a budget feature. Of course, money
is not all that important. Dario has everything he needs to work his
magic, and in the end, (despite a plot that feels more blatantly silly
than the rest of his work) Opera turns out to be a very good piece of
work, Maybe not his best but certainly his most energetic.
Betty is a young opera singer, who is about to make her debut with Macbeth. She is nervous and lacks self confidence, but on aria is all it takes to make her a star. But fame may prove to be a bit more than she can handle, when she discovers that she has a stalker, who is killing everyone she knows.
Argento's camera work in Opera is among his best. Nobody composes shots like this today, in part because they draw attention to themselves and their duration interferes with story telling. Argento makes it work nicely. His camera sweeps through the sets almost flawlessly. One of his trademarks of course it to linger in a room, long after a person has walked out of it. This re-directs the viewers attention, causing us to start looking around for what the camera wants us to see. It is almost a form of visual dramatic irony. (Remember the shot of the eye in the closet from Deep Red).
Opera is the closet that Dario Argento has come to presenting a climax, even though it is weird and strangely predicable. All of his previous movies seem to end on rushed notes, with someone dying which is followed by a reaction shot, and then the credits. Opera contains what feels like a more solid book ending, the kind you might be hoping for.
Another trade mark of Dario Argento, is his scoring decisions. Not Unlike John Carpenter, music usually comes in the form of two or three simple licks rather than an official score. Argento seems to have taste for American rock, as he has recruited renowned musician/producer Brian Eno do write a lick that will go well with a chase scene (or two, or three). Frankly, I think it sounds like too much like 1980's metal for a film that is about Opera.
Nobody seems to regard this as one of Dario's best, but Opera may in fact deserve a bit more credit than it has gotten. Sure the plot is a bit flimsy and the dialogue is so-so, but the film has exceptional style and it amounts to a sufficiently weird and wonderful little horror/thriller.
I've only given this a "5" because I know Argento can do (and has done)
The story is perfect: An opera understudy is thrown into the spotlight by an apparently "cursed" production of "Macbeth" and we quickly realize the unfortunate events revolve around the up-and-coming diva herself. As murder and mayhem ensues and the body count rises, more truths are revealed as to who is behind the madness.
Okay - great premise, right? And with a strange dose of surrealism and dream imagery this film has the makings of a horror masterpiece. Unfortunately, this movie is so flawed that it cannot save the story and winds up sinking drastically with every new minute that passes.
Lets start with the pluses: The set design is inspired. You can tell that if Dario wanted to direct and opera of this caliber, it would be one helluva ride. The camera work is pure Argento at his creative heights. (it seems he spent his bigger budget on the look of the film, but let the story suffer.) And the deaths... well, if you like his other films, you'll love the brutality of these scenes.
The negatives: The music. The music. The music. While hearing the wonderful Maria Callas during the suspense scenes is perfect, it quickly switches to this AWFUL metal/rock music for the kill scenes and it turns the whole film into a joke. All the while the plot becomes completely mired in some half-baked attempt at surrealism that the final reveal makes no sense whatsoever.
When all is said and done I was left bored and completely disappointed.
Considered by many to be Argento's last truly great film, this now 20
year old giallo was his last film of the 80s. And what a way to go!
Though my personal favorite is his 1985 film Phenomena, Opera is
definitely in my top 5 of movies by him. And I must say I agree with
most who say he hasn't done anything really impressive since because
his latest work has been average at best and embarrassing at worst.
Pros: Good performances all around. Though not one of the best, the score for the film is quite good. Stylish direction by Argento who gets many great shots, close ups, and uses some neat camera tricks. Suspenseful from beginning to end. Has enough brutal, bloody kills to please fans. Once again Argento uses buildings with exquisite architecture. Some creepy images and close ups. And I gotta say that Cristina Marsillach has quite the voice. Where is she nowadays?
Cons: Some, but not all, of the dubbing is bad. The very end feels out of place and doesn't make much sense.
Final thoughts: For a film said to have been plagued with problems, it sure turned out to be quite a knock out. This film is more proof that the Italians know a thing or two about beauty and that no one can make a slasher film like Argento, though some have tried and failed miserably.
My rating: 4/5
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hi to everybody! I am a careful movies'analyzer and I watched some
errors also in this one. Note that each time a murder is committed the
killer's weapon(knives or scissors)are always clean! After killing the
murderer always cuts Betty's ropes and the weapon is not blood
covered.This happens also in the killing of Betty's friend(the
dressmaker):after killing her,the scissors taken by the killer are
About the movie,I believe that the first twenty minutes are very interesting and I can see the real Dario Argento in them. What I don't like is the final part and the fact that a boy like me who has always watched thrilling and horror movies can understand immediately who the killer is!You can deduce this when the cop is in the elevator and stares Betty(after having given her a rose).
In general I am a fan of Dario Argento but what I don't like in some movies is the final part,like INFERNO. I also realized a report service about SUSPIRIA,I went to Munich to visit the movie's locations for a site managed by a friend(www.witchstory.com):in the part titled LOCATIONS SUSPIRIA you can find some interesting photos. I think this is one of the most terrifying movies I have ever seen,it's very violent and deaths are really horrific.It looks like Lucio Fulci's Zombie!
I have never been one to get scared, disturbed or freaked out about anything. This movie makes me freak out when I get my eye checked by my doctor. Terror at the Opera has some of the most amazing camera shots. Dario Argento is truly a master of horror. I am not one to give the story away. But once you see this movie you will know why I am sensitive about my eyes. The story is original and will keep you wondering who the killer is, which is typical for an Argento film, and why the person is killing everyone around one opera singer. This movie will always remain one of my favorite horror films. There are scenes that have been embedded into my mind every since the first time I ever saw it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK, so I watched this movie after indulging in Suspiria. Had some friends that argued which one was better. Well folks, Suspiria wins the overall award because the ending is not messed up. Opera had me going nuts. It was relentless and constantly putting the victims into the horrible task of viewing. I just could not believe the ending. What the heck was that all about? I'm sorry but I guess I'm supposed to feel happy that she went nuts in a nice sort of way? I think I would have been nuts after killing number one. During killing number one, I tried to keep my eyes open and guess what, I could not do it. I guess I would just had to have been sent to the looney bin after that.
The ending made me think of Sound of Music. Seemed quite bizarre for this Pollyanna walk in the mountains. I was quite disappointed in that incredibly lame ending.
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