Kinoeye: New perspectives on European film

Vol 2
 Issue 14 
23 Sept

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Dario Argento's Profundo rosso (Deep Red, 1975) CORRESPONDENCE
Mundanity before murder
Further comments on
Dario Argento's Profondo Rosso
(Deep Red, 1975)

Julian Coldrey suggests additional means by which Argento uses "ill-founded associative thinking" in Profondo Rosso.

Dear Kinoeye,

Thank you for Aaron Smut's insightful article on Dario Argento's Profondo rosso (Deep Red, 1975). (See "The principles of association," vol 2 no 11.) I particularly enjoyed Smuts's discussion of the "visceral technique" Argento employs in presenting violence on screen.

In the article, Smuts posits that "associational techniques [...] play a disproportionately large role" in both the film's narrative structure and its cinematic effectiveness. He also gives specific examples of these associational techniques. In addition to these examples, the film contains another structural conceit that feeds quite well into his discussion.

Throughout the film, many murders are foreshadowed by apparently meaningless, everyday events. For example:

  • The "death by scalding" is prefigured by David Hemmings scalding himself on an espresso machine,
  • The "death by elevator," specifically the close up of bile vomit, echoes the psychic as she spits water out of her mouth at the start of the film,
  • When David Hemmings discusses a psychoanalyst's possible view of why he plays the piano ("bashing my father's teeth in"), he foreshadows a later scene where a character has his mouth repeatedly smashed against a mantelpiece,

These structural associations complement Smuts's discussion of the "ill-founded associative thinking" present in Profondo rosso, though they are not as pivotal in terms of narrative as Smuts's example of the "children's song / folk tale" association. Instead, they operate as a mechanism to unsettle the viewer by creating a narrative "meta-structure" where logic and reason are both slightly skewed and disturbingly predetermined. In this, they are similar to some of the film's other, obliquely referenced themes, such as the cyclical nature of childhood pathology.

Julian Coldrey

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Also of interest
About the author

Julian Coldrey is a film enthusiast who, when not overheating his DVD player, works in information technology. Julian lives in Sydney, Australia.

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