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Stendhal syndrome

Related: emotion - visual art - Stendhal - psychology

The Stendhal Syndrome (1996) - Dario Argento [Amazon.com]


or Stendhal's syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when the individual is exposed to an overdose of beautiful art, paintings and artistic masterpieces.

It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal (pseudonym of Marie-Henri Beyle), who gave a an early detailed description of experiencing the phenomenon his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy which he published in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.

Although there are many descriptions of people becoming dizzy and fainting while taking in the art in Florence, especially at the Uffizi, from the early 19th century on, this was not described as a specific syndrome until 1979, when it was written up by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed and described more than 100 similar cases among tourists and visitors in Florence, the cradle of Renaissance.

There is also a horror film called The Stendhal Syndrome (penned and directed by Dario Argento) in which a policewoman suffering from Stendhal syndrome is trapped by a serial killer in a museum. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stendhal_syndrome [Jul 2004]

The Stendhal Syndrome (1996) - Dario Argento

The Stendhal Syndrome (1996) - Dario Argento [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The first half of Dario Argento's heady psycho-thriller is a mesmerizing merging of dream and reality. A beautiful young Italian detective (Asia Argento, who does little to convince us she's a tough, seasoned cop) investigating a serial rapist is suddenly overwhelmed when the paintings in an art museum erupt with life. According to the film, this is "the Stendhal Syndrome," an intense and overwhelming response to art that turns the viewer mad. As Anna steps in and out of fantasy worlds like Alice through the looking glass, she's kidnapped by her quarry, who repeatedly rapes and tortures her in a dark, dank underground cave. The delirious nightmare of shattered reality becomes a sadistic, mean-spirited spectacle of murder and degradation--perpetrated on, of all people, the director's own bound and beaten daughter!--and the thriller disintegrates into a paranoid mystery of amnesia, split psyches, and shadowy phantoms. At its best this is a mesmerizing vision of madness: paintings melt into the real world while objectivity disintegrates before our eyes. But before the unexpectedly sensitive conclusion, Argento puts the viewer through a bravura but brutal series of gory murders (a slow-motion bullet passes through both cheeks of a helpless victim, and another shooting is viewed from inside the body) and unsavory violence. The poetic beauty of Phenomenon and the craftsmanship of Suspiria and Deep Red are sorely missed. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com

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