Dario Argento Can't Sleep

An interview with the celebrated
horror director on his newest giallo film
I Can’t Sleep

Murder, Death Farm-style

Dario Argento on DVD - the Anchor Bay release of Deep Red reviewed here

A Shivers interview by Alan Jones

Selected from Shivers #83

Dario Argento, maestro of that quintessentially Italian art form, the giallo picture, has gone back to his roots with his latest Horror thriller Non Ho Sonno (the literal English translation is I Can’t Sleep). Many Argento fans feel his early work in the giallo format that he has made well and truly his own – including The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red – represents the finest in the genre and many themes from each of those hits are echoed in the tightly constructed I Can’t Sleep script written by Argento, his long-time collaborator and best friend Franco Ferrini (co-writer of Phenomena, Opera, Two Evil Eyes etc) and best-selling Giallo novelist Carlo Lucarelli.

Argento said, “I meet so many fans at festivals and in my Roman shop ‘Profondo Rosso’ and they all say one of two things. It’s either. ‘Please complete the Suspiria trilogy’, or ‘Please can you make another movie like Deep Red.’ This has been going on for years and I’ve been adamantly opposed to doing either. My life and career is my own adventure. I’ve resisted those easy options because I’ve followed my own path no matter where it has led. I want to do what I want when I want to do it not be dictated to by audiences.

"I’ve been lucky enough to have had the luxury of being able to make the picture I’ve wanted to make each time on my own terms and without compromise. I know that’s rare in the film business and I’ve emphatically embraced that freedom because it is such a unique commodity.”

Full Circle

But now Argento feels ready to come full circle as he explained. “I went through a phase where I thought nostalgia was a bad thing. It irritated me that my fans kept wanting me to retread old ground. Then I realized my early work did have something special that audiences adored apart from what I humbly thought about them. They occupy a distinguished niche in Italian film history and probably always will.

"So, I thought, let’s wipe the slate clean and see where I can take my speciality for contemporary urban thrillers today. I got so excited by the prospect that I’ve already signed a deal with Cecchi Gori Films in Italy to make two other Giallo pictures after I Can’t Sleep. Together they will form a new trilogy like my first ‘Animal’ one.”


Argento is convinced the opening of I Can’t Sleep will outdo the impact of Suspiria because it’s a catalogue of gory and mystifying murders mostly set on a moving train. He remarked, “The opening sequence is fifteen minutes of pure blood-letting as the killer loves to have a warped sado-masochistic relationship with his victims. He’s like a cat who’s cornered a rat. I’m purposely trying to make the murders feel exasperating, like they’re being done by a petulant child.

"The theme of childhood runs all though this picture because that’s when the most psychological damage is done and there’s a heartlessness about young children that is quite menacing. I used to scare myself when I was young by reading Poe stories, 1001 Arabian Nights and fairy tales at night. I was often too frightened to go to the bathroom because it meant walking down a long dark passage. My mother would always complain about me leaving the lights switched on. I hated her for that and often think I tend to kill more women in my films because I viewed her as some sort of monster.

"The whole point of the Italian title is that it refers to a child whining to his parents about not being able to sleep unless a bedtime story is read out. The murders are all based on a nursery rhyme for that reason as the murderer reverts to those fond/harsh memories of being rocked to sleep by gruesome fairy tales and their deliciously scary after effect.”

I Can't Sleep - the story

Dario Argento supervises on-set effects Shot over nine weeks on location in Turin throughout early Summer 2000, I Can’t Sleep stars Max Von Sydow, Stefano (The Arcane Enchanter) Dionisi, Chiara (Nero) Caselli, Rossella Falk, Paolo Maria Scalondro and Gabriele (Inferno) Lavia.

It tells the story of widowed detective Ulisse Moretti (Von Sydow), pulled out of lonely retirement to help police investigate a new batch of crimes bearing the hallmarks of a serial killer he thought he’d closed the book on two decades earlier.

Moretti has always been haunted by the fact that he might have blamed the wrong person but, because the murders ceased after the final novel homicide, all based on a nursery rhyme from a yellowing children’s storybook titled Death Farm, everyone assumed he had cracked the case and got the maniac’s identity right.

Shivers #83, bumper issue

Dario Argento talks in much more depth to Alan Jones in this bumper issue (#83)

Feature © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction

For the full feature, get Shivers #83
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