Argento's Aesthetic Alignments:
: A Cognitive Approach to the Films of Dario Argento

  • Nia Naseem Edwards-Behi

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Arts


A man’s teeth smash onto a table edge, before he is stabbed through the neck. Another is dragged along a road by a truck before having his skull crushed in oncoming traffic. Another is killed by his own dog, and another is eaten alive by rats. These are all scenes from films by Dario Argento, and they are scenes that typify his work. They are under-analysed scenes, however, demonstrating the “blind spot” within the theoretical field as recently identified by Patricia MacCormack. Although Argento’s body of work features consistently brutal, stylised scenes of violence and death, analyses of his films return to the same, tired arguments regarding the aestheticisation of violence toward women, displaying, in McCormack’s terms, an “astonishing specularisation of women” by comparison to the male characters in the films. McCormack rightly claims that work on Argento’s films routinely favours an approach which assumes the women therein are filmed in such a way as to be purely aesthetic, when in fact his films, generally, are aesthetic throughout, regardless of a character’s gender. Dario Argento is a contentious filmmaker for many reasons, from his illogical narratives to his recent films’ poor quality, but perhaps above all else it is Argento’s treatment of female characters which most often causes debate. Argento’s films are consistently over-shadowed by the issue of the aestheticisation of female death. The above quote, apparently demonstrating Argento’s love for killing off women, is often cited as a means to support arguments that Argento’s films display a hatred for women. What I intend to demonstrate in this study is that a fresh approach to Argento’s films is both worthwhile and long over-due
Date of Award2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorPaul Newland (Supervisor)


  • Tenebrae
  • Terror at the Opera
  • Suspiria

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