Fashion & Italian Horror: The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Following on from my last two entries in the Fashion & Italian Horror series I have decided once again to focus on the films of Dario Argento in order to ascertain how the Italian maestro of horror uses costuming to highlight the themes, ideas and overall aesthetic of his films. In my previous two entries about Suspiria and Tenebrae, I discussed how Argento used costuming to help create a certain mood and feeling in these two films; in the case of Suspiria he used costume to emphasise the dreamy fairy tale feeling of the film and in Tenebrae he used costume to help create his vision of post atomic Rome. In both of these films it is evident that Argento used costuming in conjunction with music, set design and lighting to create heavily stylised worlds. However, in the film I'm going to discuss today, Argento deviates away from using costume to heighten his overall aesthetic and instead uses it to explore the concept of character and identity.

The film that I'm discussing today is Argento's 1996 film The Stendhal Syndrome, a film that is often, in my opinion, unfairly maligned. The Stendhal Syndrome is often regarded as one of Argento's weaker films from a period of time (the nineties) where he seemed to lose his way as a director. Although I certainly agree with the criticisms levelled at the majority of Argento's cinematic output post 1987's Opera, I feel that The Stendhal Syndrome is one of Argento's most complex and interesting films and is a move away from the lavish violence and style that we're used to instead, focusing on the gritty reality of violence and the psychological ramifications of rape and violence on the human psyche. What I find fascinating about The Stendhal Syndrome, is how Argento balances the trends of the nineties, both aesthetically, socially and in cinematic narrative, in order to tell a story that is radically different to his past cinematic output. Whereas Argento's animal trilogy and gialli of the 1970s focused on murder mysteries and his supernatural horrors of the 1970s and 1980s told lavish supernatural stories, The Stendhal Syndrome revels in the brutality of violence and balances realism with fantasy that's peculiarly grounded in modern psychiatry. The Stendhal Syndrome is still very much a Dario Argento film with its obsessions with art and madness but elevates these ideas placing them in the context of the 90s psychological thriller.

I intend to write several pieces on The Stendhal Syndrome in the future and will try not to deviate off topic to much on the writing of this but I can't guarantee that I'll always stick to the topic of fashion in the film so for that I apologise in advance!

The costumes in The Stendhal Syndrome were designed by costumer Lia Francesca Morandini who previously worked on Argento's 1987 giallo Opera. Morandini utilises a colour palette of dull washed out tones that are very much in keeping with the overall early to mid nineties aesthetic and in direct contrast to the flashy neons and bright jewel colours of the 1980s. The nineties colour palette for the costuming fits in perfectly with the muted cinematography in The Stendhal Syndrome. At this point in his career, Argento had moved away from his flashy, stylised look of the seventies and eighties and had adopted a simpler, more realistic style. By adopting this look in the nineties and for The Stendhal Syndrome in particular, Argento was able to convey the very real horror and psychological torment of Anna Manni. The fantasy element of Argento's past works is not as evident in The Stendhal Syndrome. The so called fantasy scenes where the paintings come alive seem to be more of a manifestation of Anna's psychological state rather than as fantastical, abstract set pieces. The over the top lighting, set design and music that we're used to with Argento's work have been replaced by a more stripped back nineties feel adding a much needed sense of realism. The drab colours heighten the sombre mood of the film and a muted red, a muted blue and a little bit of mustard in a shirt design are the most colour we see in the film's costuming.

Colour Palette for The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)

In order to really get a hold of the main theme of identity in The Stendhal Syndrome, I will be examining Anna's wardrobe in relation to the three identities that she adopts throughout the film. I personally regard these phases as "the feminine", "the masculine" and "the hyper feminine". By looking at Anna's physical identity in each one of these phases I hope to ascertain the psychological mind set of her character during these three different parts of The Stendhal Syndrome.

The Feminine

We are first introduced to Anna Manni in her first, original "phase" this is what I dub as her feminine phase/her original self. Anna is a successful police detective, a job that's traditionally considered to be a masculine profession. Despite her typically masculine job it is evident that Anna still retains her femininity, she has not had to appear more masculine to get ahead career wise - this is apparent in her feminine dress, hair and attire. Anna Manni seems to be the embodiment of a modern nineties woman - she is an equal to her male counterparts in terms of career and education and is clearly successful judging by her position in the police force versus her young age. Anna appears to be proficient and capable in her career judging by her assignment to such a high profile criminal case - she is clearly regarded by her superior, Manetti, as one of the best detectives on the force. The Anna Manni that we are first introduced to is a highly successful career woman with an apartment, boyfriend and an independent life. She is an attractive woman who values her own appearance but also values and places importance on other aspects of life - she is not your typical giallo style female protagonist i.e. a woman of leisure, part time model.

Anna's first "phase" (I put this in inverted commas as it's really her true self) is the one we are least familiar with as a viewer. We only see Anna for around 15 minutes during this phase and we only ever see her in one outfit over the course of one afternoon/evening. Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain a lot about who she is at this point in the film other than from her initial appearance, her profession and a small bit of dialogue in the film between Anna and Marco later on. Once again, I'll state that I consider Anna to be a thoroughly modern woman when we are first introduced to her and we can see this reflected in her costuming. The cream button down blouse she wears subtly hints at her femininity showing her slender feminine figure. Her blouse teamed with a above the knee a-line tan skirt suggests a certain level of professionalism and feminine sophistication. Without sounding like a first year media student, I think it is of note that Anna wears a white blouse due to the repeated imagery of blood dripping onto white fabric throughout the film, especially in her first phase where we see blood dripping onto her blouse at several points. I certainly think the white blouse (and repeated imagery of white fabric) is supposed to represent innocence - the rape of Anna destroys who she is, it strips her of her identity. It taints who she is, it hardens her. The droplets of blood on her blouse, the bed sheets and the table linen reflect this, the rape has tainted her pure idealised vision of herself and the constant use of reflection in the film hint at this - Anna completely disassociates from the woman she once was. In this case Anna's pure, innocent self has been tainted and destroyed, she can never get it back setting in motion a downward spiral.

Anna's first outfit looks professional as well as age appropriate and fitting for the time. I can imagine Anna's look to be considered fairly stylish in the mid nineties. Despite the outfit being fairly modest and appropriate for a woman pursuing a police lead at the Uffizi Gallery, Anna still looks feminine. The modest brown court shoes and hand bag teamed with form fitting tailoring show that Anna balances functionality with fashion choosing to look stylish but appropriate for the job at hand.

During this first part of The Stendhal Syndrome Anna is captured by serial rapist and murderer, Alfredo Grossi. In a very uncomfortable rape scene, Alfredo overpowers Anna easily undoing her clothes as she desperately struggles to get away from him. In this scene we see two shots of Anna's clothes being removed, first we see her blouse easily unbuttoned and secondly we see her skirt pulled up over her knees displaying her naked body. Naturally, this is a very disturbing scene however, the inclusion of these two close ups of the removal of clothes show how easily Anna is undressed by Alfredo showing how powerful he is. I would argue that the inclusion of these shots show how easy it was for Anna to be overpowered by Alfredo essentially displaying her weakness. Anna, the police woman who in her own eyes, should be a powerful and strong woman and officer of the law has failed to protect herself and the woman who is subsequently killed by Alfredo. Although, in this circumstance anyone would argue that this series of events was not Anna's fault, as is often the case with victims of sexual assault, Anna may feel that her gender, wardrobe and behaviour may have had led to her failure - if only she had been more powerful, if only she had worn this or that. Despite this being a ludicrous notion, it is very common in such cases for the victim to blame themselves and this subsequent guilt and shame propels Anna to adopt a new persona, one she associates with strength and power.

The Masculine

The rape of Anna subsequently strips her of her femininity which is symbolised in the cutting of her hair. Anna then adopts a look which seems at odds with how she is initially presented to us signifying a new persona. As well as the physical change in Anna after her traumatic rape, she also undergoes changes in personality. This is evidenced in a conversation between Anna and Marco when they're reunited in Rome. Marco brings round a movie, chocolates and frozen pizza for Anna to enjoy yet Anna states that she no longer likes any of these things and seems disinterested in the things she once enjoyed. I find it particularly telling that Anna no longer likes chocolate as it is often considered to be something that women particularly enjoy and use as a comfort food when they're feeling low and upset. Anna's newly found dislike of chocolate suggests she is rejecting her more feminine, past self. Later in this scene, frustrated with Marco's insensitive sexual advances, Anna turns the tables on her boyfriend by sexually assaulting him - forcing her hands down his trousers much to his dismay. Again, this suggests that Anna's new self has taken on masculine traits and behaviour by becoming the sexual aggressor. In the face of unwanted sexual contact, this time, Anna fights back by becoming the dominant partner. Anna doesn't want to be a weak woman anymore, she wants to be strong like her male counterparts however misguided this idea may appear to be.

Anna's wardrobe in the second part of The Stendhal Syndrome is reflective of her rejection of her femininity. Whereas Anna wears clothes which display her feminine figure at the start of the film, Anna chooses to hide her womanly figure in part 2 opting for boyish clothes. Anna wears multiple oversized men's shirts throughout this portion of the film which help to hide her feminine curves making her look like a long lost third brother in her predominantly male family. Anna's new wardrobe acts as armour, she uses it to hide her female self and uses her new male persona to project a tough, strong version of herself to the world. As well as baggy shirts and straight legged jeans, Anna wears baggy suits when she returns to work, again projecting a masculine, no nonsense image. Anna now associates femininity with weakness thus by adopting the look of her male counterparts she hopes to come across as competent and able to continue on in her role as a detective on the force proving that she is no longer a weak, incompetent female. Furthermore, Anna often trains partaking in running and boxing and again adopts a uniform of baggy tees, shorts and trainers valuing functionality over style.

The colours used in this part of the film help to convey the masculine aspect of Anna's character. Browns, greys and navys are used alongside murky greens and yellows to give Anna's wardrobe a muted feel that feels fitting with the overall aesthetic and mood of the film. We see flashes of blue and red in the costuming at this point in the film and such bold primary colours hint at strength and power. These colours are often worn when Anna seems to empowered and becoming stronger i.e. the boxing scene, returning to her family home and taking on her father. 

This version of Anna is obsessed with becoming stronger and more masculine. She wants to own the best gun, she wants to protect herself by taking up boxing and beating her male counterparts. Anna doesn't want to be a victim again and feels that by becoming stronger and more masculine, she will be safe from harm or at the very least, prepared for a situation where she finds herself in harms way. When Anna is not wearing oversized shirts and baggy trousers and suit jackets in this phase of her self, she wears baggy t shirts and shorts 

However, despite Anna's attempts to get stronger and get a hold of her affliction, she still suffers from the Stendhal syndrome. The scene where Anna lies on her childhood bedroom floor in tears covered in her paints shows that she is still vulnerable - particularly in relation to art and the hold it has over her. In her childhood bedroom Anna surrounds herself with posters of artworks and attempts to paint her own canvases but still appears to be under the control of her affliction. In this phase Anna suffers from the Stendhal Syndrome once again when she sees graffiti in the cave that she is held captive in. Despite her efforts to become stronger and more masculine to protect herself in a way that she felt she couldn't before, Anna falls victim once again to Alfredo and is raped a second time. This second rape and the subsequent killing of Alfredo sends Anna into her third phase - the hyper feminine. 

The Hyper-feminine

Phase three of Anna Manni is ushered in by the killing of Alfredo Grossi at Anna's hands. Post Alfredo's death we see Anna looking into a mirror (reflections are very important throughout the film) placing a long blonde wig over her short black hair. Hair is very significant to each phase of Anna which I will discuss in more detail below. There are two things to consider regarding Anna's change in hairstyle, firstly long blonde hair is seen as the ultimate sign of femininity, secondly that Alfredo also had blonde hair. By donning the wig, Anna is becoming a more feminine version of her original self and she is becoming more like Alfredo and is assuming part of his identity.

Of course you could argue that the themes of the film up to this point suggest that femininity is bad representing weakness and masculinity is good representing strength and power however, the ending of the second part of the film show that neither of these viewpoints hold up as Anna is a victim in both. Therefore Anna has to adopt a new persona in order to survive and forge a new identity to carry on with her life.

Anna's hair drastically changes in the third part of the film alongside her wardrobe. The baggy shirts, masculine suits and sports wear of Anna's masculine phase have been replaced with strappy high heeled sandals, flared skirts, pretty feminine blouses and accessories like cinced belts and fifties style handbags. Anna has rejected the idea of the modern nineties women she once was, adopting a persona that is at complete odds with her masculine phase, cultivating a look that represents an idealised, fantasy image of femininity. She now has become Venus in Boticelli's painting displayed at the Uffizi, she is an idealised, romanticised image of femininity. There are now clear parallels between Alfredo and Anna, whereas Alfredo appeared as an Adonis like male, Anna has become Venus - both characters (who are different sides of the same coin) represent ideal, almost God like images of their genders. However, just like the mythological characters they are based on, Alfredo and Anna's beauty masks their deep rooted character faults and dark natures.

In this phase Anna predominantly wears white, cream, nudes and blush pinks. Again, these are all colours that we associate with femininity and purity. The use of these colours in combination with soft fabrics and pretty detailing like pointed v neck collars, dainty straps and fabric covered buttons help to convey Anna as an almost ethereal character. Anna is a delicate woman who has a coyness to her, she appears to be a heightened image of femininity embodying many of the classic tropes about what a woman should be - she looks pretty, is cultured, well mannered and loving. When she begins to see Marie he, alongside Marco, seem to place Anna on a pedestal viewing her as mythical and mysterious, they are enraptured by her beauty and blindsided to her deeply troubled psychological state. Again, this draws comparisons with Alfredo who used his stereotypical good looks and charms to evade capture and suspicion. Anna uses clothes, hair and makeup to help her become somebody else, to get away from who she once was. Furthermore, at this stage of the film Anna believes herself to be a female Alfredo therefore she can use clothes to make her physical appearance match the person she feels she is becoming psychologically.

In a scene omitted from the English language version of the film, Anna meets her mother at the airport and both characters are wearing black. The majority of characters who feature in The Stendhal Syndrome are male - her family is made up of men (her stern father and immature brothers), her superior, Manetti, is a man and her colleagues are predominantly male. We see no female friends, family members or any other female characters who Anna appears to have much of a relationship with. Therefore, it's very telling that we are introduced to Anna's mother at this stage in the film where Anna is undergoing mass psychological trauma. There's a rather, somber, funereal feel to the part of the film and this is very much reflected in the dark wardrobes of both women. In my opinion, Anna's rather stern and emotionally cold mother perhaps hints at underlying problems that have always existed in Anna's life before Alfredo even entered into it. Perhaps a lack of a mother figure has deeply affected Anna and her view on what it is to be a woman? This may explain why Anna has surrounded herself with men throughout her life. The contrast between Anna's wardrobe during this scene versus her outfits in the rest of the third part of the film suggests that Anna's feminine persona slips when she is confronted by her Mother however, at this stage in the film it is to late for Anna to recover and the damage to her character is perhaps irreversible thus the funereal feel of the scene feels very fitting.

There's a scene in particular that fascinates me in The Stendhal Syndrome and that scene is the one in which Anna meets Mrs Grossi as part of the police investigation into Alfredo and his crimes. Despite Mrs Grossi now knowing the sick perversions and crimes of her husband, she remains very cold towards Anna and insists that she is not present in the room when she discusses her late husband. I find Mrs Grossi's attitude to Anna, a victim of her husband's crimes to be particularly telling. I wonder if Mrs Grossi would feel quite as hostile to Anna if she visited the Grossi household in her masculine phase. There's definitely an element of female rivalry in this scene and an almost blaze attitude to Anna and her suffering - she is seen by Mrs Grossi as more of a love rival than a victim. What's also interesting is that Mrs Grossi still displays photos of her husband around the family home still holding him in high regard perhaps because she doesn't believe or want to believe what he was really like. I think this scene is important as it highlights that women can be just as vicious and cruel to one another as men. It confronts this idea of female solidarity and turns it on its head. Anna has been wronged and abused by the men in her life but the women in The Stendhal Syndrome appear to be as unsympathetic as the men. There is no justice, Alfredo is dead but Anna is held responsible and viewed as the one who should be blamed whereas the real villian of the story never paid for his crimes and is still viewed as a loving husband by his widow. This scene is perhaps crucial in Anna continuing her transformation into Alfredo. Alfredo is essentially stronger than Anna in death than Anna is in life. 


Hair in relation to femininity is a significant part of The Stendhal Syndrome, each phase of Anna's self is characterised by different hair styles that all reflect the different sides of Anna throughout the film. By changing Anna's look significantly in the three parts of the film, Argento uses hair as a visual indicator of the psychological and emotional changes that Anna goes through throughout the duration of the film. Anna's hair is arguably the biggest visual change that indicates to the audience the changes that her character is going through and the connotations and meaning behind each hair style allow us to make assumptions about the woman that Anna is and who she is becoming. Once again I'm going to look at each phase of Anna Manni and what her hairstyle in each says about her psychological state and image of herself at that time.

We are first introduced to the character of Anna as she purposely strides through the crowded streets of Florence on her way to investigate a tip at the Uffizi Gallery. In this initial scene we see Anna from the shoulders up and what we perhaps first focus on is her beautiful flowing brunette locks that cascade below her breasts. Anna looks typically Italian with her dark, thick hair and looks like a natural beauty wearing light, minimal makeup. Our first impressions of Anna's beauty is that it is genuine and feminine, she does not draw attention to herself. Anna's beauty does not define who she is and we can see this through her behaviour in the initial scene - she looks feminine yet she does not necessarily act "feminine" we see her stride through the Florentine streets confidently, pushing past tourists who get in her way. She moves through the Uffizi gallery with purpose and displays mannerisms that suggest she is fairly serious and determined.

Many paintings are shown throughout the Uffizi Gallery scene and they all have great importance to the ideas and story of The Stendhal Syndrome - Anna standing in front of the portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino is perhaps the most important visual indicator of the changes her character will go through in the film but perhaps examining the significance of each painting is a post for another time. However, Boticelli's The Birth of Venus and its appearance in the film feels relevant to the discussion of Anna's hair. Anna's long flowing locks closely resemble Venus' own hair in terms of style and length. I feel like Argento invites this comparison by filming a close up of Venus' face/hair and immediately following this with a close up of Anna's face/hair. This makes us the viewer consider the possible connection between Anna and Venus, on the surface we see this as a visual one but it will take on new meaning in the third act of the film where we see the rebirth of Anna after the death of Alfredo. In this third and final act, Anna dons a long blonde wig making her look even more like Venus in Boticelli's famous painting. According to mythology, Venus was born from the sea after the castration of the god Uranus at the hands of his son, Chronus which I think has clear parallels with Anna (the masculine) killing Alfredo allowing her new self to be born. It's also worth noting that in Anna's hyper feminine phase she seems to revel in the passion and culture of Italy as we can see in her love of art from the art shop to the sculpture gallery/studio to riding around the streets of Rome with Marie yelling out Italian artists names to the backdrop of the eternal city.

For me, the most iconic scene in The Stendhal Syndrome is when Anna Manni cuts off her beautiful dark tresses with a pair of surgical scissors symbolising the loss of her feminine self and her transition to becoming a stronger, more hardened person. Short hair is often considered to be unfeminine and ugly on a woman and the cutting of one's hair is often seen as removing one's femininity. In biblical terms, the cutting of one's hair is supposed to represent shame which seems particularly relevant in The Stendhal Syndrome as rape victims such as Anna, often feel a great amount of shame as a result of their ordeal. Coupled with her role as a police officer, Anna's shame is amplified as it was her job as an officer of the law to prevent further rapes and murders from occurring. Anna's rape and the murder of the women in the car represent a failing of Anna the police woman and the subsequent hearing in which Anna, the victim, has to account for her actions and justify to the board that no wrong doing has occurred reflects her overall feeling of shame.

After the aforementioned scene, Anna has an informal meeting with her superior, Manetti - a character who acts as a surrogate father figure to her character. Manetti asks why she has cut her hair and Anna simply states that she wanted to, likes it this way despite Manetti's disapproval once again showing that Anna in this part of the film rejects the male view on what she should be, adopting a look that she feels is true to her self in that moment.

Anna's third phase is particularly interesting as in this phase she has taken on part of Alfredo, yes in personality and behaviour but also in appearance. Anna dons a platinum long blonde wig in this part of the film and uses her long flowing locks to hide the deep scar that Alfredo gave her in the cave. Anna's wig symbolises that she is putting on the identity of Alfredo, it is not her true self or a reflection of who she is as a person, it is not organic and part of her like real hair. Instead, the wig is something she places over her real hair, to cover her real self. The identity is assumed. The immediate connotation of blonde hair is the ultimate image of femininity and desirability - the blonde bombshell who has power over any man. Anna wants to regain power like the power Alfredo had over her by assuming an identity that she and us the viewer, associate with feminine strength and power - in this case sexual power which is evident in her sexual relationship with Marie. It is telling that Anna becomes sexual and sexually pursues a man with a traditionally female name, this once again suggests that Anna has taken on the persona of Alfredo and is the one in the traditionally male role within a relationship despite appearing feminine thus fitting into the femme fatale archetype - Anna uses her sexuality to wield power. As mentioned previously, on a simpler level, donning a blonde wig is a visual clue that Anna has become Alfredo as she has adopted the same colour of hair as him setting herself apart from the other versions of herself. This is also reflected in her wardrobe which is in contrast to her previous looks throughout the film. 


Following on from the three distinctively different hairstyles and wardrobes that Anna has throughout the film, her makeup is no different. Each side of Anna is drastically different in terms of how she presents herself to the world. Although we don't get much of an idea of who Anna is at the start of the film, we know from what we are told and shown that she is a fairly typical young women in the 1990s in terms of her overall appearance and her relationship with Marco, living situation and career. This is reflected in her makeup which is very typical of a woman Anna's age in this time period. The natural, matte makeup look is worn by Anna when we are first introduced to her. Anna doesn't wear a lot of makeup but she wears soft natural lipstick, foundation and blusher. Again proving Anna likes to look feminine but not overtly so.

Once Anna enters her masculine phase she disassociates from her feminine self. The cutting of her hair is the most obvious signifier for this change as well as the drastic change in her wardrobe. However, a subtle change in Anna's makeup also reflects the changes that her character is going through after the ordeal of her rape. The makeup look used on Asia Argento emphasises her natural dark eye sockets, she is made up to look pallid and almost sickly. Her character does not wear any aesthetically enhancing makeup as Anna Manni is no longer concerned with looking aesthetically pleasing instead favouring the physical changes that come with getting stronger.

In Anna's final hyper feminine phase she wears heavy makeup which is typical of what we associate with a femme fatale type character. Anna wears a bright red lipstick throughout this phase and is seen applying it as she stares at her reflection in a dissociated manner. This scene is particularly interesting as mentioned before, Anna puts on the wig as if she is putting on the personality of Alfredo. The fact that she also puts on a bright red lipstick in this scene suggests that Anna again is putting on an identity, altering her self to disassociate from the woman she once was. Anna is projecting an overtly feminine person via use of bold makeup.

Anna's Final Self

Although I've discussed Anna's three phases of self, there's arguably another phase of Anna Manni that reveals itself at the very end of the film. Although I don't personally feel like this is a clear phase like the others, I think how Anna presents at this stage in the film tells us a lot about the person Anna is at the very end of The Stendhal Syndrome. In the final scene, Anna's world is starting to unravel. The police and Manetti know she is the killer and are hunting for her as she appears to completely lose her mind. After killing Marco, Anna rips off her blonde wig revealing her real short black hair. Her makeup has now been wiped off and she is starting to resemble her previous self yet Anna still wears her hyper feminine look of a white fitted flared skirt, blouse and strappy sandals. The different personas of Anna have become mixed together and are fragmented just like her psychological state. Anna is a muddle of different people and different personas, she no longer knows who she is or is trying to be. As she wanders the streets going over the monotonous chores she has to do oblivious to what she has done, she is chased down by the Italian police. In the disturbing final moments of the film, Anna is apparently saved by her male colleagues yet the entire scene is filmed like the previous rape scenes. Screaming and clinging to her blouse, Anna screams and claws at her face as several hands outstretch over her grabbing her face and body supposedly in comfort. As Anna loses her will to fight them off, she is scooped up and processionally carried through the streets by her male colleagues who pat her and coo "there there" as Anna's substitute father, Manetti looks on worryingly. If anything, in my opinion, this scene is more disturbing than the rape scenes that have come before it. Supposedly Anna has been saved but if anything, we feel like another "rape" signifies another change in Anna. As the credits roll on this image, we the audience wonder what will become of Anna - we get the sense that she will never get better and will further fall into a trauma that she will never recover from. Whereas Suzy in Suspiria, Jennifer in Phenomena and Betty in Opera feel like victors and survivors in their respective stories, Anna feels very much like a victim - something she desperately tried to not become. However, I don't feel like Argento wants Anna to be a "weak" character, instead he has used the film and her character to offer a multifaceted view of the resulting trauma of sexual violence. Yes, Anna is a broken woman but she has also harnessed a lot of power through the film. She is a killer yet she is a victim. In The Stendhal Syndrome Argento moves away from the black and white, paint by numbers approach to psychological trauma and instead gives us a detailed, complex view of what it can do and what it can make a person become. This is perfectly highlighted in the costuming used throughout the film which beautifully portrays Anna's descent into madness.


  1. According to Argento, The Card Player was originally intended to be a sequel to The Stendhal Syndrome. Since Asia was unavailable at the time, the character of Det. Anna Manni was changed to Det. Anna Mari. As a sequel, it would have have made no sense whatsoever.

    1. I've heard this story before and I'm so relieved that Asia was busy as that would have been awful. I can't imagine how you could continue Anna's story with the plot of the Card Player without ruining her character's journey in The Stendhal Syndrome.

      Fantastic name btw! Love George Hilton!


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