Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo

      Comments Off on Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo

Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo (1974) is a film full of hallucinatory images, vibrant colors, and pounding synth music that takes the tropes of Gothic literature and injects them into the modernist psychological horror film aesthetic associated with the films of Jesús Franco and Alain Robbe-Grillet. Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo is the work of writer and director Roberto Mauri; a close friend and collaborator of Andrea Bianchi who is better known for his westerns than his horror films. Yet, Mauri is a competent stylist within the horror film idiom who manages to create a work with Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo that transcends cliche.

Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo stars Camille Keaton and so much of the film is about her. Keaton’s body is the focus of every shot she appears in as Mauri renders her form as the ultimate object of beauty and desire. As Mauri’s gaze casts Keaton as some unattainable goddess her face and her performance reveal a human fragility. This paradox within the visual lexicon is at the very heart of Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo conceptually. Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo is, after all, a film about a woman’s trauma, nightmares, and psychological domestic abuse.

Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo is a story that is a nightmare within a nightmare within a nightmare. It’s a wholly derivative premise that is executed with all of the slow burning restraint of Hitchcock without ever once compromising the legitimacy of the titular character’s subjectivity and agency. Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo is a study in the toll that the societal pressures of the patriarchy have on a woman and how men exploit that wound, that trauma to delegitimize women and control them. Madeleine’s (Keaton) struggle to recognize the manipulations around her and fight for her freedom become the horrors of the film.

Mauri takes Freudian psychology and fits it to the framework of Gothic fiction while never losing sight of the portrait he’s attempting to construct of the contemporary woman, Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo is a film akin to Le orme (1975) and Identikit (1975) in how it manifests a feminist discourse within the stylistic complex of a popular genre film. These three subversive films, each directed by a man, use the horror film to explore the interiority of female protagonists. Yes, Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo is a film that exploits the naked body of Camille Keaton but, as with these other films, that impulse is countered by a consistent alignment cinematographically with the subjectivity of the main character.

Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo, a post-modernist exercise, is a film of diverse cues taken from films throughout the history of the medium. The opening synth laden dream sequence with the witches in the woods feels like a sequence wrenched out of a film by Jean Rollin or Jacques Rivette. Likewise the scenes of hypnosis and of horses intentionally recall Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964) while all of the poolside seductions and framing devices reveal the influence of Alain Robbe-Grillet. From these disparate sources Mauri has cobbled together a collection of images designed to maximize the intended affects of his film on the audience.

However, none of this would be worthwhile without the central performance of Camille Keaton. Keaton brings Madeleine to life on screen with an almost terrifying vulnerability that immediately ranks her performance alongside that of Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958) as one of the great depictions of female desperation and despair in a genre film made by a man. There are so many films that set out to accomplish what Mauri does successfully in Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo that fail because the filmmakers cannot see beyond their leading lady as a sexual object. Needless to say, Madeleine, anatomia di un incubo is an unsung classic.