I recently watched Dario Argento’s Inferno without seeing the first part of the trilogy, the much renowned “Suspiria.” Was it a mistake?
Before 1980’s Inferno, Dario Argento was already an influential, imaginative filmmaker. With movies like Deep Red and Suspiria cementing his horror cred, he aimed to establish a trilogy. It would be called the “Three Mothers trilogy” — with each “mother” being an evil, powerful witch. Suspiria was the first of such movies, and Inferno the second. Incredibly, the third installment wasn’t released until 2007 — or 30 years after Suspiria!
Being a Bad Argento Fan
While I sound like a horror nerd with my introduction, I assure you I’m not the foremost Dario Argento historian. In fact, I still have not seen Suspiria, which is often considered Argento’s penultimate horror treat. I have really only seen clips of it. In other words, I’m kind of a lousy horror fan at times.
Still, I did watch Inferno recently, which inspired me to contemplate something: Did the movie stand well on its own, without my having seen Suspiria? Honestly, the movie seemed to be missing something, and that may be context. I have seen other Argento films, like Deep Red, Unsane, Creepers, The Stendhal Syndrome, and his bizarre take on The Phantom of the Opera. However, for whatever reason, I haven’t seen that dang Suspiria movie. It seems like a mistake.
While “The Three Mothers” concept may tie the movies together only loosely, it still seems unfair for me to criticize (or even praise) any single movie of the trilogy, without first seeing them as a unified whole.
It’s actually kind of a weird feeling, much like Argento’s movies themselves. Things kind of make sense, but they never really do, do they? You’re dealing with the mysterious, the intangible and the unknowable. This is largely what art and horror are about, and Argento naturally taps into that.
So, in a way, one can easily watch (and enjoy) any of the “Three Mothers” trilogy without the other two. What they can’t do, however, is adequately criticize each movie independently. If you’re going to condemn a movie intended as a three-parter, you’d better suffer all three first. If nothing else, you win an endurance contest, and can lament the series under a catchy title, like “The Unholy Trinity,” or something like that (ironically, though, Argento would probably like that).
My Impressions of ‘Inferno’ are My Impressions of Argento
Sacha Pitoëff as Kazanian, from Inferno
Despite everything I just wrote, I will break my rules and offer a very light response to Inferno. Basically, these are my impressions of the movie — which is almost all I have anyway.
The funny thing is, after having watched Inferno, I barely remember concrete details of what happened. I’m just left with these vague impressions, like it was a dream that I’m only half-remembering. There were scary, quirky and silly moments often rolled into one — like a man being attacked by rats after drowning a bag of cats. Again, it’s hard to write about it with a straight, sane face. Every Argento movie is like that with me, and it’s not because he’s a bad filmmaker, or that I’m a bad watcher. It’s just a weird reaction I have to his dream-like, quirky movies.
That seems to be Argento’s deal, and his art stands alone in that way. Argento does not require your understanding. You can’t approach these movies from a normal standpoint, at least not without being subverted somehow.
An Argento film, is there to not only shock, but to dismay and confound. The mystery isn’t so much plot details in the film, but what you add or take away. It’s almost like a trick, and it works quite well. Thanks, Dario Argento, for creeping me out, making me think, making me forget, then making me wonder what the hell is wrong with me!
What are your thoughts on the “Three Mothers Trilogy?” Is it fair to consider each film individually? Let us know in the comments!