Arrow Video continue to impress with their superb run of Blu-ray releases, this time with Massimo Dallamano’s classic giallo What Have You Done to Solange? (1972). Enrico (Fabio Testi) is a charismatic but sleazy teacher at an English Catholic girl’s school, engaged in an ill-advised affair with one of his students, Elizabeth (Cristian Galbo). In typical giallo style, the film opens with Enrico seducing Elizabeth in a row boat, while only meters away one of her classmates is being horrifically murdered.
Elizabeth thinks she spots something, but Enrico initially dismisses her as trying to distract him from his lascivious advances. Enrico soon changes his tune, however, when news of the murder reaches the school, and in a fit of guilt and morbid curiosity, he returns to the scene of the crime, implicating himself in the process. What follows is a superbly plotted, dark and perverse thriller that is equal parts slasher and detective film, ringing with violence and dripping with sexualised imagery – a carefully positioned white kitten is a particular moment of on-the-nose symbolism – with a final twist to rival that of The Skin I Live In (2011) for sheer, gut-wrenching horror.
As with most giallo, the politics of What Have You Done to Solange are deeply problematic, especially with its explicit and gratuitous marrying of sex and violence. Of the women who are murdered in the film, most are naked when they meet their end, and all but one are sexually brutalised in a manner that defies description. Solange’s ending complicates matters further by offering a twisted motivation for the killer’s brutality; a motivation with which it is nauseatingly tempting to sympathise. What Have You Done to Solange’s ability to make us sympathise with the worst it has to offer may be its greatest strength – the success of the giallo tradition can be measured by how far it blurs the fine line between moral outrage and voyeuristic pleasure. Moreover, the film tempts us to go beyond sympathy and simply enjoy the brutalities happening in front of us, before reflecting on our own depravity. Whether this dark mirror is one satirically fashioned by director Dallamano, or the creation of an audience trying to morally reason itself out of guilty pleasure is debatable; nevertheless, in the final analysis of our righteous, voyeuristic and complicit outrage, we are forced to ask not what horrors have been done to Solange, but who is complicit in them. Dallamano shows us, either by accident or design, that the answer may be closer than we’d like to admit.