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Dissecting the Macabre: Suspiria (1977)

Dissecting the Macabre: Suspiria (1977)

Hey there, Creepy Peeps! Hopefully you enjoyed my Dissecting the Macabre video on Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977); if you haven’t seen it, you can click here or scroll down to the end of the post! For this week’s discussion video, I thought I would discuss the color palette of Suspiria. I didn’t get a specific discussion question from any single source, it’s simply a common discussion that comes up whenever you search for the film.

It’s probably a well-known fact at this point that Argento used three-strip Technicolor technology in making Suspiria “which even then was considered archaic” (Anderson, “Terrifyingly Beautiful – The Colours of Suspiria”). Because of this technology, there is an emphasis on the three primary colors – red, blue and yellow – in the film with red being the most prominent color.

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The vibrant colors serve, mostly, to create a nightmarish fantasyland that Suzy (Jessica Harper) finds herself in. Paired with the highly stylized set that borrows techniques from the German Expressionist movement, the vibrant colors make watching the film feel more like you’re reading a storybook.

Argento’s use of red is used to convey the danger the Suzy and Sara (Stefania Casini) find themselves in the more they investigate what is going on at their school. From the moment Suzy gets into that cab, red lights from outside are reflected onto her face, foreshadowing the impending horror. One of the more iconic scenes, in a film full of iconic scenes, comes after the maggot infestation which causes the students to have to spend a night camping out in the practice hall. Once it’s time for lights out, the whole room is cast in that same intense red color. When Sara wakes Suzy up and we hear the director, Helena Marcos, breathing on the other side of the curtain, the red lighting becomes even more sinister. Even without the lighting, the school is wallpapered in the same vibrant red, suggesting there is no safe place within the walls of the school:

SUSPIRIA RED LIGHTS 2.jpg
“As Suzy frantically meanders through the vast hallways, endless rooms, and hidden, claustrophobic mazes inside the dance academy that are padded with red velvet wallpaper and drapes, Argento’s surging red lighting not only underscores her isolation and panic, but it adds to the film’s pulsating heartbeat” (Arabian, “Suspiria [1977]: A Technicolor Spectacle Canvassed onto Celluloid”).

However, any scene that takes place outside the school is mostly devoid of any color. In Daniel’s (Flavio Bucci) death scene, he is in a vast, open courtyard that is all concrete and stone, gray and lifeless. Even the outside of the school, while still red in color, looks weathered and dull, suggesting the real danger is inside the walls. There is also some greenery in the scenes outside the school, which reminds the viewer that this story is set in the real world and contrasts the fantastic/nightmarish ballet school.

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There is so much you could discuss about Suspiria, the color palette is really only scratching the surface – and I barely scratched the surface of the color palette discussion. Hopefully, this was somewhat enjoyable, as short as it was! You can watch my Dissecting the Macabre video on Suspiria below!

Thanks for visiting and stay strange!

Works Cited

Anderson, Ros. “Terrifyingly beautiful - the colours of Suspiria.” The Chromologist, 4 Nov. 2016, thechromologist.com/terrifyingly-beautiful-the-colours-of-suspiria/.       

Arabian, Alex. “SUSPIRIA (1977): A Technicolor Spectacle Canvassed Onto Celluloid.” Film Inquiry, 29 Aug. 2017, www.filminquiry.com/suspiria-1977-review/.

Suspiria (Two-Disc Special Edition)
$74.97
Starring Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Alida Valli, Joan Bennett, Udo Kier
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