It might sound like a rush in the cinema, but seeing is a central motif, particularly in the early films of Italian horror impresario Dario Argento. His stylistic trademark, the unleashed camera, simulates the viewer’s disorientation; the subjective camera perspective is not a reliable authority for Argento. This uncertainty resulted in some of his best films in the 1970s.
For example “The Secret of the Black Gloves” with Tony Musante or “Rosso – Color of Death” (known by its original title “Profondo rosso”) with David Hemmings: Both films are large-scale puzzles in which the protagonists, eyewitnesses to a murder, spend a long time repress an important detail that will ultimately help solve the case. “Terror in der Opera” from 1987 begins with a close-up of a raven’s pupil, later a victim’s eyelids are sewn up so that she has to witness the murder of her boyfriend. The scene is the quintessence of Argento’s cinema: the horror cinema’s lust for fear, which seduces the viewer to look, forces it.
It is therefore obvious that the now 81-year-old Argento returns to the motif of blindness in the autumn of his career. In doing so, he draws a link to his second film The Nine-Tails (1971), in which a blind journalist, played by Karl Malden, also witnesses a murder. Dark Glasses, his first film in ten years, also begins with a classic Argento take.
A young woman (Ilenia Pastorelli) pulls up in her car to watch a solar eclipse over Rome. She puts on her large sunglasses and looks expectantly at the sky; a first premonition. A conversation develops between the passers-by, who also stop to watch the spectacle. “Our ancestors feared the eclipse,” says one. “You mustn’t stare at death or the sun,” replies another. Right from the start, Argento established his typical mixture of archaism and primal fear without a drop of blood having spilled until then. The Maestro doesn’t seem to have forgotten anything.
“Dark Glasses” is Argento’s return to the genre that he shaped like no other, the “Giallo”: bloody thrillers, immersed in an expressive color dramaturgy, full of excessively sensual violent images. This is good news for Argento fans after his period of weakness (most recently with “Dracula 3D”). You have to understand “Dark Glasses”, which had its premiere at the Berlinale, as a homage to itself.
There have been a few Argento tributes recently: Arsenal was showing a retrospective, the French provocateur Gaspar Noé gave his idol a wonderfully unsentimental role as a film critic in “Vortex”, his first appearance in front of the camera. There was a standing ovation for it in Cannes in 2021. One cannot give enough credit to Dario Argento’s impact on European genre and art cinema.
The dark glasses of the protagonist Julia, a sex worker who goes blind after being attacked by a serial killer, are also a reference to Argento, as is Arnaud Rebotini’s pulsing synth score. Screenwriting has never been Argento’s forte, but his style has also dimmed a bit in Dark Glasses. His night still shines in deep blue-red, but the highly jazzed psychedelic of his color tableaus is a bit flatter than before.