Coherently Incoherent? Dario Argento’s Phenomena and the Influence of the Music Video
This article examines one of Dario Argento’s most critically overlooked films, Phenomena (1985). Scholars have tended to dismiss this film as a confused mess, and frequently point to Argento’s incongruous use of heavy metal music as evidence of its textual incoherence. I challenge this critical dismissal by examining Phenomena’s production history and the wider media landscape within which it circulated, and suggest that the emerging form of the music video – which was becoming prominent in Italian media thanks to the rise of the Videomusic channel and several music video television shows – was a key influence on both the film’s overall form and its use of music. Read in terms of this influence, Phenomena acquires a formal coherence, and testifies to a key moment in 1980s Italian media history when the country’s film, music and television industries were consolidating.