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The Three Mothers Trilogy

Updated on August 11, 2016

GIALLO and The Three Witches

The "giallo" film born in italy from the fictional crime, thriller, and mystery novels which all were bound with a "yellow"(giallo in Italian) cover. These paperback books were cheap and readily available for anyone who wanted to read a good piece of mystery literature. 1929 saw the first wave of the pulp novels called Mondadori Yellow Books or in Italian, Il Giallo Mondadori. Often times these novels bound in yellow were translated into Italian from English or British authors who were known for their crime/thriller/mystery books. Other publishers then caught word of the popularity of the coined term of look of these novels and started to copy the format to release their own similarly bound crime novels. The film market was soon to follow. What we in America and other English speaking parts of the world would know as a "thriller" movie would in Italy be known as "Giallo". Many films were made into these "thriller" genre monsters and usually included an unknown killer pursuing his victims through the night with a knife in his black leather gloved hand and stalking the victims by day. The terror which the killer brought to the big screen after breaking out from the pages of literature was found very titillating to the audience at large and naturally, became a well known genre favorite. One of the most well known film makers in Italy is DARIO ARGENTO. His work in film is not limited to giallo specific movies but that is where he excels as a director and story teller. The musical scores created for the giallo film has been mainly exclusive in sound to that particular type of film as well. All of the pieces fit together like a perfect crime novel to create the subgenre of Giallo Films. Dario Argento is one of the forerunners in the genre after he released "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" which was heavily influenced by Mario Bava's work in film. Argento brought a new light into giallo films with extreme visions of violence and death yet coupled with beauty in set design, color, and nothing short of brilliant cinematography. In Dario's career he made three films which have always stood out from everything I have ever seen in life. They are referred to as "The Three Mothers Trilogy" and we will begin to explore the realms of The Three Mothers now.



SUSPIRIA (1977) - Mater Suspiriorum / Mother of Sighs

In 1977 Dario Argento set the stage for the trilogy with Suspiria. The film itself follows an American ballet student to Germany where she attends "Tanz Akademie(Dance Academy)". The school is for dance and black magic along with other occult practices. Helen Markos, The Black Queen, is the head ballet mistress at this school which sits alongside the black forest which is outside of Freiburg, germany. The town locals have feared Markos and heralded her as a witch and she had faked her own death in the early 1900s. Long thought dead, she is said to have passed the ballet school onto her prized pupil but we find out that in fact, it is The Black Queen who still reigns over the students at the ballet school and terrorizes the new American student. The witches Coven that Helen Markos had created over the years concealed her identity throughout the years so that the public at large would not come oust her from the town. The witch tries to kill the girl to gain more power in her witchcraft by using her powers but eventually meets her demise and the coven falls due to the fact that the head witch has been weakened to a form of death.

The Mother of Sighs is the oldest and wisest of the 3 mothers until her demise brought on by the American ballet student, Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper). To me personally, the Mother of Sighs represents the oldest, most decrepit, and is a hint of what evil lays beyond in the 2nd mother. She is 1 part of death, personified. With death, comes the last sighs of life.

"Suspiria" 1977 International Trailer



INFERNO (1980) - Mater Tenebrarum / Mother of Darkness

Released in 1980 "INFERNO" was the followup film Argento directed to Suspiria and was in fact his next creative endeavour since Suspiria. Now that Suspiria had gained such praze and awards as a film, the sequel to the movie was next. Inferno is Argento's 8th directorial work of art. Suspiria was his 7th after his journey into founding the "giallo film" alongside Mario Bava and a few other Italian directors. With the success of the 20th Century Fox Suspiria, the pressure was on to finish the proposed "trilogy of the three mothers"

The film itself follows the tragedies surrounding an American college student living in Rome and his sister that lives in New York City. The apartments that they both inhabit each have a coven of witches residing within the building as well. By the time he arrives to New York from Rome his sister has been killed and he must investigate her death. He had correspondence with his sister, who is a young poet named Rose Elliot, saying that she found a book and has learned about the three mothers and thinks her apartment is where the coven is at. Rose's brother Mark leaves behind a letter from his sister explaining the details in class and his friend Sara picks it up and learns that the school in Rome is run by Mater Lacrimarum. Sara is later killed for the knowledge she should have never known. With the witches covens being kept secret it is a matter of time before someone finds out something as to what is going on. Towards the end of the film Mark Elliot comes across Mater Tenebrarum after figuring out who she is exactly and confronting her. The beast of hatred and violence inside of Mater Tenebrarum brought her to attack her maid and when the maid is in fits of death, she catches the house on fire. Mater Tenebrarum says to marks, "It is all going to burn down...just like before" which refers to the death of Mater Suspiriorum years ago. Mater Tenebrarum seals herself in a room and chants a curse, I believe, and then is gone forever until we see her face emerge from a mirror. The face Bursts out of the mirror and is the face of death. After Elliot breaks free from the home which is in flames and you can see the skeleton of Mater Tenebrarum roasting in fire and ash of her crumbling charred home.

Mater Tenebrarum goes without any credited name in the film but she is said to be a centuries old witch that resides in New York City. 1910 is when she came into existence so the legend says. She definitely the most cruel, vile, evil, and youngest of all 3 of the witches or "mothers". She is The Mother of Darkness. Mater Tenebrarum is part 2 of death, personified. When she emerges from the mirror we see that she is death herself. When death is involved, the sighs come first right before you die, then you die and lose life into darkness. The Mother of Darkness is the point of which death occurs. The Mother of Sighs is the point of right before death while you are dying still.

"Inferno" (1980) Official US Trailer

Mother of Tears


Mother of Tears (2007) - Mater Lachrymarum / The Mother of Tears

After a long wait for the final installment in the trilogy, Argento brings us the final chapter which stars his daughter, Asia Argento as a lead role. 13 more director credits under his belt since "Inferno" and back to finish it off. He was busy making more giallo films that have gone on to become of his fans most favorite films. He also has directed two episodes in the "Masters of Horror" series which were very good. A trail of gore and stab wounds has led us to the next mother.

Mother of Tears begins with the opening of an ancient urn which was uncovered in a cemetery near Rome, Italy. Once the urn was opened to be examined a plague of violence hit the city and terrible things started to happen around the area. Inside of the urn were 3 artifacts that I have always thought represented the three mothers/witches. Once the urn was opened a convergence of evil looking women started to invade the city. The Mater Lachrymarum became aware of this after reigning down terror and death over centuries before. She is the last mother to be defeated and the only way to defeat her is by the spiritually gifted art student. They must battle for the hope of mankind. Who is to win? I guess I will make you watch to figure this one out on your own. I hope you enjoy.

Mater Lachrymarum is the most powerful and evil of all 3 witches. She is the eldest witch and resides in rome. She can summon demons to do her bidding. Known as The Mother of Tears she embodies life after death. A rebirth into the world of evil. The feelings you get when someone is murdered and you want to take it out on who did the murdering. You cry after someone takes their final sighs before they actually die. The Mother of Tears represents the tears of those who have mourned and we all have. She is the collector of all sorrows.

"Mother of Tears" (2007) Official Trailer

A Trilogy of Three Evils

There are three holy trinities in which modern day catholicism has come to know. There are three graces and three fates as well. For every positive there is a negative. So it is only natural that there are three sorrows. All three mother together represent death in it most true form. Through their evil ways they have lived on death and unholy happenings. Sorrow is what follows death. So for each of the three mothers impact on the world at large, they have created a single sorrow after all the death and pain they have left. These are now know as the three sorrows.

Viewer's Voice

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