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Manuel de Layet [Film Festival 11.30.11] horror thriller mystery giallo

Year: 2011
Directors: Andreas Marschall
Writers: Andreas Marschall
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: The Crystal Ferret
Rating: 9 out of 10

A beautiful young woman stranded in a strange art academy. The shadow of a killer, a shining blade held in a gloved hand. Instantly recognisable music. Lots of blood and nudity. These elements should normally mix together into your heads and form a title: “Suspiria”, one of the greatest landmarks of the Italian thriller of the late seventies.

Andreas Marschall’s Masks could, therefore, be seen as remake, a tribute, or any other paraphernalia of this classic. It’s much more than that.

It can be called, amongst many things, the first German giallo. Which is somewhat ironic since German krimi are widely recognised as father to the Italian giallo. If you’re lost at this point don’t despair. I will explain all these foreign words. The amusing thing here, if you don’t know what both Krimi and Giallo are, is that you’re right into the target audience, one of the goals of Marschall with this motion picture being to show unsuspecting people that contemporary horror goes way beyond the Hostel and Saw franchises.

So, little brush up on the thriller sub-genres of the 20th century. The “krimi” first, short for Kriminalfilm, is, as it name implies, a sub-genre of polar based at first on Edgar Wallace novels, produced by the Rialto film company in the sixties. Apart from some codified editing and filming methods, they are mostly known for the standardisation of their plots : the main villain being masked and staying that way till the very end. Thus achieving suspense in a way the usual thrillers weren’t.

Through some German-Italian production the genre made its way down the Alps, picked up a new name in reference of the cheap detective pulps sold under yellow cover, it also picked some aspects of Italian narrative construction, iconised the villain through the eminently powerful image of the gloved hand holding a shiny weapon, made a tremendous use of bloodletting and, the seventies in Italy being like the seventies everywhere, sexed up the whole enterprise by focusing the plots more around the heroine in vaporous clothing than the hardboiled detective.

The contrast of red blood on pale white skin shot in lascivious fashion is one of the trademark and, I’d say, source of the popularity of the genre.

Saying Masks is a true giallo should therefore give you an tremendous insight on what’s going on inside. There are a few twists here and there that I wont dwell into, but on the overall you get what’s on the cover.

The plot is like I say earlier much akin to Suspiria start. The similarities ending past the set-up. Our young and quite beautiful heroine wishes to become an actress, she had her success at school and college level but isn’t quite managing to pass a real audition.

On her last refusal, on of the judge advises her to go to a particular Theatre School that could help her improve quite rapidly. The school is, as usual remote, laced with derelict parts, and overly ominous. As will be her first contact with the students therein.

During the course of things she’ll be proposed private lessons based on some avant-garde method of acting professed in 1973 by the school founder.
1973 here is quite an important date, it’s the year the “Panic Movement” was dissolved, and beautifully the “Method” picks it up where it stopped and goes beyond that, shifting the focus from the audience to the actors themselves in some powerful psychomagic reasoning. I do love a filmmaker that goes that far into anchoring his fiction to reality.

Starting there the action will go crescendo till the transcendental finale. And you’ll appreciate it all the more if I shut up.

There are a few other things to be noted, everything was shot within a real drama school during the weekend and holidays, the cast being mostly made out of the students and teachers that found the project interesting. Financially it’s entirely private funded, which bodes well for the disregarded genres of cinema if we can now hope of corporate funding instead of public subsides.

As for the public reception, Masks won both the Public award and the Cine+ award during the festival.

You might like:Suspiria (Two-Disc Special Edition)

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