Monday, May 9, 2011

[Review] Opera

Hours before the new opera production of Macbeth is to premiere, its lead gets injured in an unfortunate accident, forcing her inexperienced understudy, Betty, to step in. Betty's reservations about taking on the role in this supposedly cursed opera proves valid when a fanatic psycho shows up with a serious obsession with bloody voyeurism.

After being tied up, sharp sewing needles are placed under Betty's eyelids to prevent her from closing them and forcing her to watch as this psycho brutally butchers one person after another.

I don't quite know how to feel about Dario Argento at this point; my thoughts on him tend to drastically change from one moment to the next. After seeing Suspiria for the first time as a young'un....I hated it. But as time went on, it began to grow on me more and more until it ended up as one of my favorite films and Argento became a master of horror. This hate/love system has pretty much become routine for me when it comes to his films, and I can feel it happening once again with Opera.

Argento's iconic style is mostly present here with much attention paid to visuals and the giallo techniques we've come to expect from him. The giallo-rific killer, roaming around in the shadows wearing the typical ski mask and black leather gloves, doesn't exactly go easy on his victims, stopping only when buckets of blood have been shed and Betty, forcibly watching, has been treated to a "great" show. Unfortunately, though, the killer's show didn't exactly work for me. I didn't necessarily enjoy the murders, nor was I disturbed by it, leaving me feeling very underwhelmed by it all. And considering how the film's success relies on voyeurism and the affects it has on people, this is a major flaw, ultimately hindering Opera from being as great as it should have been.

Between the killer's vague motive and Betty's odd choice of actions that leave you scratching your head, the characters/actors in this film are laughable at best. Most of the actors use inappropriate body language and facial expressions and are topped off with some truly dumb dialogue and awful English dubbing by voice actors who clearly don't know the meaning of subtlety, all amalgamating into a big, unrealistic mess.

However harsh that may sound, though, that's not to say the film is an altogether failure. The setting of the opera house, the opera itself and the clever use of ravens, which automatically invoke thoughts of Poe, drench the film in a gothic tone that compliments the giallo approach quite nicely. Although the voyeurism theme isn't entirely successful, it's still worked into the story well in other ways, keeping you on edge as everyone seems to have a creepy, watchful eye. And it makes you wonder what message Argento was even trying to convey in the first place. Are horror film directors as sick as this killer, who forces Betty to watch him kill? Are we Betty, watching these bloody films that they make? How are we meant to be affected by such grotesque imagery? These ideas are enough to make the film an intriguing watch.

In the end, I'm still not entirely sure how to feel about Opera or Argento. As I mentioned earlier, I always start out hating his films, but then grow to like them as time goes by. So who knows how I'll feel about Opera in the future. But at the moment, I'm going to give it a marginally favorable review and recommend it to those giallo fans out there. Opera clearly has style, gore and some great ideas—enough to make me appreciate the film, but not quite enough for me to like it all that much.


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