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The Stendhal Syndrome Reviews

A morbid thriller by Italian horror icon Dario Argento, this isn't a return to the baroque heights of OPERA and TENEBRAE. But it's a must-see for Argento completists, driven by a brave and disturbing performance by the director's daughter, Asia, as a police detective tormented by a serial sex killer. Acting on a tip, Rome-based Inspector Anna Manni (Asia Argento) pays a visit to Florence's Uffizi gallery, where she feels suddenly dizzy; she hears murmuring voices, hallucinates diving into a painted seascape and finally drops to the floor in a dead faint. Anna has succumbed to the Stendhal syndrome, a little-known affliction triggered by exposure to great works of art and first described by the 19th century French novelist. A stranger (Thomas Kretshmann) lends her money for a taxi; back in her hotel room, Anna is troubled by the fine-art poster on the wall. When she falls asleep, she has a troubling dream in which she passes through the work on the wall into a piazza in Rome, where she and her police colleagues discuss a vicious rapist who's just graduated to murder. Manni is assigned to investigate a string of sexual assaults in Florence. She awakes to find a man in her room — the "stranger" from the Uffizi, who's also the man she was sent to find. He rapes Manni, forces her to watch him murder another woman, but inexplicably lets her live. Back in Rome, Manni slowly unravels under the twin pressures of the assault and her brush with Stendhal syndrome. Though it takes a serious wrong turn around the time Anna buys a blond, femme-fatale wig, this psychological horror picture is harrowing and occasionally macabre — you'll come away wondering what kind of father would cast his daughter in such a sexually brutal film.