Friday, 5 January 2007

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud

One of the staple locations in the giallo filone is the elevator. Yet, the more you think about it, the more you realise that not all elevators are created equal and, indeed, how they express different things about their distinctive worlds, much in the same way as human character might – the way in which, for instance, the Edwige Fenech protagonists of Sergio Martino's The Strange Vice of Signora Wardh and All the Colours of the Dark convey a very different model of the modern woman than the Susan Scott protagonists of Luciano Ercoli's Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight.

Thus, for example, the elevator in a film like Dario Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage – and, at this level at least, its many imitators – operates according to an impersonal and mechanistic logic, in accord with the scientifically understandable modern world in which it is squarely situated.

It simply does not care whether a maniac awaits a passenger at the other end; whether a passenger is a maniac, perhaps about to spatter its confines with his / her victim's blood; or indeed if it will subsequently open up a chasm for the killer to fall into or remorselessly descend to crush them.

In Argento's more fantastical films – and here subsuming them within the giallo because of the presence of black gloved killer and amateur seeker protagonists – elevators seem however to have personalities and minds of their own, subordinate to the occult powers they serve and operating according to their rules.

Note how, for instance, following her sojourn into the basement of the witch-house Rose Elliot must take the stairs after the elevator fails to arrive and she hears some of its other inhabitants coming in Inferno, or the way in which the distinctive design and décor of the building in which Sonia lives retrospectively signal it to be part of Mater Suspiriorum's domain and thereby no place of safety for the fleeing Pat Hingle in Suspiria.

Still in the belly of the beast (the Tanzacademie building is actually called 'The Whale')

Like the rest of the building the lift obeys its mistress's logic

The finale of Deep Red perhaps presents the tipping point here, the moment when the scientific logic of the Animal Trilogy transforms into the associational / magical logic of the Three Mothers films, as the lift “conspires” with Marc Daly to decapitating Martha, but perhaps only so that he can gaze into the pool of her blood and recognise his own irrevocably altered being.

Again, albeit probably coincidentally, triangular formations

How did she produce such a perfect pool of blood; a deep / shallow reflecting surface of hidden profundity?

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