Re-imagining the Horror of Suspiria
1977 Berlin is the setting of Suspiria, a remake of the 1977 Dario Argento film. This film uses a much less colorful palette than its vibrant original and instead it is swapped for disturbing imagery inter-cut as nightmare sequences. Luca Guadagnino’s version of Suspiria attempts to look for a much deeper meaning than the original. Rather than going for sheer evil witchcraft, it attempts to make commentary on the socio-political culture surrounding Germany at the time, which may sound daunting to follow, but it deals mostly with Holocaust deniers, a problem in many more places and times than 1977 Berlin. An American in 2018 could certainly be expected to keep up with what’s happening in the plot!
Tilda Swinton takes on three roles in this film as Madame Blanc, the head of the dance academy, Helena Markos, the ailing witch in charge of the academy, and Dr. Josef Klemperer. Klemperer’s character, upon first glance, may come off as slightly unnecessary - but he becomes essential to the narrative of Holocaust deniers being confronted with the horrors of that which they are denying. The effectiveness is something that I’ve yet to decide on whether or not I enjoy, but I can understand and appreciate it for what it is trying to do. Dakota Johnson stars in her third film this year as Susie Bannion who is joining the famed dance academy. She has a suspicious aura for most of the film but you never really find out for sure if she’s in on it until the dramatic ending.
Although the film falters at times, it manages to do the only thing that I wanted it to do: give me the creeps. The horror of Suspiria comes from the mystery of the disturbing imagery which builds both the lore of the film as well as establishes a thematic framework, and haunting music brought to us from by Thom Yorke of Radiohead. I can say without a doubt that I left my theater feeling very unnerved and very unsettled by the overall tone and atmosphere. My biggest gripe with the film is length which it could’ve been cut much shorter had Guadagnino decided to cut out the Klemperer storyline, but that’s just my opinion. Overall, it’s hard to say that I enjoyed the film, but there is something to the viewing of a film that scares you without making you feel completely violated. I also think that Guadagnino intended the film to be something that gets multiple views to fully experience. It’ll be very interesting to see what Guadagnino does as his next film.
Juan’s Grade: 9 Exploding heads out of 10
Adrien’s Grade: 7 Jabba the Hutt Dance Madames out of 10
Sami’s Grade: 8 Perfectly Choreographed Magical Murders out of 10