These days I find that I like a lot of things without ever really knowing why. For instance, I really like to eat oatmeal with a certain spoon in the silverware drawer. But why? I have no idea. I just know that I like that spoon. The same thing goes for Inferno—a film that many people seem to get all mad at because it’s not as good as its older sister Suspiria. Unfortunately for Inferno and just about every other Argento film ever made—nothing is as good as Suspiria. If you want to start liking Argento and if you want to really start appreciating the work that he does, you need to first repeat those words to yourself.
All set? Good. Inferno is something that I’ve always really enjoyed and I realized recently that I don’t have a good reason for doing so. What is it about this film that keeps me wanting to watch it? Why do I feel like people are really selling Inferno short, when it deserves to be looked at in a much more favorable light? In order to figure out why exactly Inferno rubs me the right way, I have decided to dissect it much like I did with Suspiria. The following is a study of why this film remains steadily on my top 5 list of favorite Argento films.
There are some nights when I lay awake and think about the underwater ballroom scene. It’s not because I have some raging hard on for it, rather it’s because it reminds me of a nightmare. A common “theme” in my dreams is the idea of finding a doorway into a whole new section of a house that leads to an entirely new room. I can’t describe exactly the feeling that happens when I discover the new passageway, but it’s an odd sense of both dread and excitement. This is the way that I feel when watching the underwater ballroom scene. It’s a scene filled with beauty, stillness, quiet and horror and it gets better and better every time I watch it.
That same feeling of unease and excitement is found when Mark discovers the hidden floor in the apartment. I swear I've had a nightmare just like that. That feeling that this whole other realm of living has existed right beneath you without knowing? It's an idea that somehow makes my screen crawl and I secretly love it.
In the past when I've watched Inferno, I've been very confused by one thing in particular. Who is this crazy looking woman and why did she bring her cat to music class?
Aside from the blatant jealously that I feel knowing that I'll never be able to take my cat somewhere without her running amok, I've always felt that this scene in particular means more than we initially think.
For starters, why have I never given serious thought that part of Inferno takes place in Rome? We know that the three mothers live in Germany, New York and Rome. With the bulk of Inferno taking place in New York and the rest in Rome we must of course wonder if we are perhaps exposed to the third mother prematurely? The answer I believe is yes. And also, YES.
It's so obvious that this strange woman stroking her cat in music class is the Mother of Tears. She's terrifyingly beautiful, is mumbling some crazy witch spell under her breath and is stroking a cat. I believe she sensed the danger of Mark reading the letter from his sister and aimed to get him away from it..which she partially does by causing the window to burst open. Later, we see the woman drive by in a sinister cab right after the murder of Sarah.
Furthermore, when Sarah is in the library she stumbles into the lair of an unknown scary man with scary demon hands.
Hands that of course bear a strong resemblance to the minions hands in Suspiria. This man, was clearly a servant of the Mother of Tears. Just as the scary hands that eventually kill Rose belong to the servant of Mother of Darkness
AND just like how the scary hands that kill Pat Hingle belong to the servant of The Mother of Sighs.
Signs of Hell
It's no coincidence that Inferno is largely made up of the kind of hellish imagery that makes my head spin. For starters, Inferno is much like Suspiria, in that it is plagued with a fairly decent amount of snake imagery. Snakes on the building and Rose's keychain to name a few.
There's also no shortage of red and fire throughout the film. In fact, while the main complaint of Inferno seems to be that it bears little resemblance to Suspiria, one must wonder how these people can ignore the red lights flooding our senses. Much of Inferno is cast in shadows
(rightfully as Mater Tenebrarum is the mother of darkness) and it is constantly bathed in RED.
Most exciting however is the discovery that the same cab driver from Suspiria appears again in Inferno.
The two taxi scenes are practically identical, both taking place in torrential down pours with the constant flashing of headlights behind the cab. Due to the fact that the cab driver appears at two critical times, in two different films and makes an appearance right before a critical death scene, many have interpreted the taxi driver as a sort of version of Charon--the ferryman of the underworld. NEAT is right!
Sarah, Sarah, Sarah
Did you know that there are three important characters named Sarah in all three of the mother films? Sarah, Susie's friend and the girl who truly cracked the witches code in Suspiria. Marks classmate and unfortunate victim in Inferno and of course Asia Argento's character in the Mother of Tears. What does this mean? I don't know but perhaps Argento is entirely too fond of the name Sarah?
More Suspiria Connections
There seems to be no shortage of ways to connect Inferno with Suspiria--at least on a visual level. Perhaps this is why I gravitate so strongly towards Inferno in the first place. While there isn't as much of a reliance on geometric patterns, there is still quite a bit of striking colors, angles and shots. Some of these shots could even directly match up with Suspiria's me thinks.
Not only that, but the Great Gatsby eyes return in Inferno
and there's even a similar shot that depicts the houses cooks.