‘Why are there always three?’: The Gothic Occult in Dario Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy

Article


Hallam, L. 2017. ‘Why are there always three?’: The Gothic Occult in Dario Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy. Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies. 5 (2), pp. 211-227.
AuthorsHallam, L.
Abstract

Thomas De Quincey’s essay ‘Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow’ provided Dario Argento
with the spark of an idea, which was further ignited by tales from his then wife, Daria
Nicolodi, who told him of her grandmother’s stay at a music school which was run by a
coven of witches. From these sources Argento came up with the mythology of The Three
Mothers, which were to feature in three of his films: Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980) and La
terza madre/The Mother of Tears (2007).
This article will examine the occult and esoteric sources of The Three Mothers trilogy, and
explore how these references work to create a series of films that may superficially appear to
use the supernatural and occult to create scares, but actually incorporate elements of Western
Esotericism rather than traditional Christian images of evil. By doing this, these films
transcend their apparent flaws (in terms of shallow plot and character development, a
common complaint directed toward many Italian horror films) and instead imbue the mise-enscene
itself with meaning, character and narrative. Although the films are situated within the
Gothic genre, and in many respects follow traditional Gothic lines with witchcraft and the
occult becoming synonymous with evil, I will argue that the films actually belong to the long
tradition of art forms that have attempted to investigate the allure and the danger of occult
exploration.

JournalJournal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies
Journal citation5 (2), pp. 211-227
ISSN2047-7368
Year2017
PublisherIntellect
Accepted author manuscript
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1386/jicms.5.2.211_1
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1386/jicms.5.2.211_1
Publication dates
Print01 Mar 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited31 May 2016
Accepted01 Mar 2016
Accepted01 Mar 2016
Copyright information© 2017 Intellect
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