The Stendhal Syndrome is a 1996 Italian horror film written and directed by Dario Argento and starring his daughter Asia Argento. It was the first Italian film to use computer-generated imagery (CGI).
Stendhal syndrome is a real syndrome, first diagnosed in Florence, Italy in 1982. Argento said he experienced Stendhal syndrome as a child. While touring Athens with his parents young Dario was climbing the steps of the Parthenon when he was overcome by a trance that caused him to become lost from his parents for hours. The experience was so strong that Argento never forgot it; he immediately thought of it when he came across Graziella Magherini's book about the syndrome, which would become the basis of the film.
Detective Anna Manni (Argento) travels to Florence on the trail of a serial killer Alfredo (Thomas Kretschmann). While at a museum, Anna is struck by Stendhal syndrome, which causes people to become overwhelmed by great works of art. Alfredo uses this disorder against Anna, kidnapping and raping her. She escapes and is deeply traumatized. Alfredo tracks her movements and is able to capture her again. This time, Anna manages to break free, badly wounding her captor, and knocking him into a river.
While the search for the body is underway, Anna meets and falls in love with Marie, a young French art student. Anna also takes sessions with a psychologist to try and overcome her trauma. Anna begins to receive phone calls from Alfredo. Marie is found dead, and her psychologist visits her at home. Her police friend Marco calls to notify her that Alfredo's body has been found. This leads to the psychologist confronting Anna with the reality that she is Marie's murderer. Marco travels to Anna's apartment, only to find the dead psychologist's body. He attempts to take Anna's gun, but she kills him after confessing that Alfredo is now inside her and ordering her to do terrible things. The police arrive on the scene and arrest her.
- Asia Argento as Det. Anna Manni
- Thomas Kretschmann as Alfredo Grossi
- Marco Leonardi as Marco Longhi
- Luigi Diberti as Insp. Manetti
- Paolo Bonacelli as Dr. Cavanna
- Julien Lambroschini as Marie
- John Quentin as Anna's father
- Franco Diogene as victim's husband
- Lucia Stara as shop assistant
- Sonia Topazio as victim in Florence
- Lorenzo Crespi as Giulio
- Vera Gemma as policewoman
- John Pedeferri as hydraulic engineer
- Veronica Lazar as Marie's mother
- Mario Diano as coroner
Director Dario Argento tried at first to get Bridget Fonda and then Jennifer Jason Leigh to play the role of Anna.Script error He eventually cast his own daughter, Asia Argento, in the role. Thomas Kretschmann was cast as Alfredo Grossi because Argento had seen him working with Asia on the set of La Reine Margot (1994). Argento was impressed enough by Kretschmann that he would later think of him for the role.Script error
The opening scene was shot in Florence at Italy's famed Uffizi Gallery. Argento is the only director ever granted permission to shoot there.Script error
The work that Anna literally steps into is a Rembrandt painting of 17th century policemen titled The Night Watch. The painting that causes Anna to faint in the museum is by Bruegel, called Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.
The footage of Anna underwater after fainting in the gallery was shot in the sea.Script error The huge grouper fish that Anna kisses was a remote model that was being pulled through the waters by cables attached to a small float on the ocean's surface.Script error Mere moments after wrapping the underwater shoot, the fish stopped working.Script error
Graffiti artists were brought in to cover the underground lair of Alfredo with graffiti. In one night the group created over a hundred square feet of graffiti-covered walls on the location.Script error
This is the second of four films in which Argento has directed his daughter Asia: the three others are Trauma, The Phantom of the Opera and The Mother of Tears. She also had roles in Demons 2 and The Church, both of which Dario Argento produced.
Argento planned on making a sequel which would follow detective Anna Manni on another case. However, Asia was unavailable so the character's name was changed (to Anna Mari) and Stefania Rocca was cast. The resulting film is 2004's The Card Player.
Critical reception Edit
AllMovie called the film "a sadistic and disturbing psychological exploration driven by the horrifying concept of a rape victim who begins to take on her attacker's dark persona", but one that is "ultimately a victim of its own excess and the director's tendency to overcomplicate a fairly simple storyline."
Home video Edit
For its initial release in the United Kingdom, eleven cuts totaling 2 minutes 47 seconds were made by the distributor before submission to the BBFC for a video certificate. These cuts are to rape scenes, violence and some dialogue. The 2005 UK DVD release, by Arrow Pictures, has had all previous cuts waived and represents the full-length English version, although like all English releases it omits the two scenes exclusive to the Italian version. Since the uncut version has never been submitted to the British Board of Film Classification, this version was withdrawn and re-released in a cut form.
Blue Underground released The Stendahl Syndrome on Blu-ray in 2009, which contains the entire film uncut, including the additional Italian-only scenes (still in Italian, with English subtitles).
- The US DVD release by Troma is the complete version of the English language edition but, like all English releases, is still missing around two minutes of material exclusive to the Italian print.
- The Italian release is around two minutes longer than the English export version, including an additional scene where Anna calls the husband of one of Alfredo's victims and another where she meets Marie's mother, played by Veronica Lazar (whose name is included in the credits of all versions, even those in which she does not appear).
- Julian Hoxter. "Anna with the Devil Inside: Klein, Argento and 'The Stendhal Syndrome'" in Andy Black (ed), Necronomicon: The Journal of Horror and Erotic Cinema: Book Two, London: Creation Books, 1998, pp. 99–109.