The production of Opera was a troubled one, much reflecting the show of Macbeth in the actual film. Dario’s father died during filming, he was drifting away from his girlfriend and collaborator Daria Nicolodi, one of the main actresses pulled out just before the production started and had a cast member die amongst many other accidents while filming. It seems as though the production itself was under the curse of Macbeth. Despite all the problems Opera still pulls through as a very enjoyable film with some of Argento’s best camera work to date.
People think of Opera as either Dario Argento’s last great film or the start of his decline, and in a way both would be right. Many will tell you not to expect good dialog or plots from Argento films but when they affect the film to the extent it does here it’s hard to ignore them.
Unfortunately in Opera you can guess who the killer is from the very first frame he appears as it is made brutally obvious through Argento’s use of camera work. Although this is a complement to his skills as a film maker it also means that the traditional narrative driver of the Giallo genre is lost, making the story less interesting than it could have been.
Another problem is its score. Argento was going through a ‘metal’ phase at the time and this is evident in his productions Demons and Demons 2. In Opera he carries on this fixation with metal music and decides that instead of using the tried and true scores of Ennio Morricone and Goblins he opts for… cock rock. This isn’t quite as bad as it sounds but at the same time a more traditional score would have been far more effective. During the murder scenes the rock music breaks down all suspense and leaves you laughing your ass off instead of being shocked.
This film also has an utter streak of stupidity towards the end when it is revealed that the ‘body’ the doctors took away previously thought to be that of the killers is actually a mannequin. Yes you heard that, a mannequin and worse yet it took the detectives 3 weeks to actually realize that. I mean honestly, what the hell is with that? It takes an autopsy to notice the difference between a mannequin and a human corpse? Jesus Christ could the plot have taken a stupider turn? Well believe it or not, it actually does get worse. The film finishes with a completely random speech where the main character reveals that she doesn’t feel right around people and wishes to be alone… to live with flowers, insects and lizards. Umm ok… how lovely.
All that said the technical aspects of this film are brilliant. In one scene Dario manages to make a normal apartment seem like a large labyrinth completely destroying all geographical grounding the viewer thought they had. The camera twists and turns through the apartment following Betty around as even she becomes disorientated. The scenes in the Opera theatre itself are also brilliant and really help to make the film seem larger than it really is; this is complimented by the avant-garde rendition of Macbeth taking place on the stage reflecting the S&M theme within the narrative.