Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic Suspiria was released on Oct. 26, 2018, a film he believed found him at the age of 10.
A movie that notoriously made Quentin Tarantino cry, Dario Argento’s Suspiria was a testament to what horror pictures could be in a world pre-Halloween and cluttered with B-horror, and Guadagnino further achieves this by applying his art-cinema qualities in a genre film in the age of #MeToo and motifs that surround the idea that “evil has a history.”
Guadagnino’s revisioning pays homage to the original, set in 1977 and in the middle of a revolutionary Berlin backdrop- the left-wing terrorist group Baader-Meinhof gang, being the root cause. Unlike the original picture, Guadagnino wastes no time- revealing the dance school in Suspiria as a front for a coven of witches within the first thirty minutes. From the jump, the director uses his unique film language best attributed to his dramas with the use of a hypnotic score dubbed Suspirium by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, in addition of a less-is-more approach to his dialogue.
With as many things as this film has going for it, a glaring mistake persists throughout the film. Prior to it’s national release, reports revealed the male Dr. Jozef Klemperer is played by Tilda Swinton, who personally insisted on taking up this role. Swinton’s range is capable of many things, even playing a third and pivotal role as a puss-spewing leader called Helena Markos but unfortunately, Klemperer steals the magic out of key moments, like the beginning, climax, and ending. Besides the excessive mouth breathing, courtesy of Dakota Johnson character, Susie Bannion, a prosthetic clad Klemperer doesn’t have a place in this film whereas Susie or the escapee Patricia, played by Chloe Grace Moretz hold up their own while the veteran actress falls short. The character could’ve been written and executed so weakly due to a man’s place in this world that idealizes womanhood, but a man could’ve played the role just as pathetic yet believable at the least.
Opposed to the original, Susie’s arrival at the school is a force to be reckoned with, literally; her dancemate’s contorted into a human pretzel that leaked fluids out of every end and synchronized with Susie’s dance. The protagonist quickly establishes her place at the academy as the rising star which in turn reveals the relationship between the top instructor, Madame Blanc, and her unfold, until the film’s highpoint resulting in her execution at the hands of Susie.
John Truby said in his book The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller that the main character, in this case, Susie, and the main opponent, Blanc, use each other to drive the story. Their relationship blossoms into almost a mother-daughter bond, something Susie lacked in with her own mother, in which we see in the nonlinear storyline by screenwriter David Kajganich.
The style over substance factor is far more equal in the remake than the original picture as Guadagnino and cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom shoot the world of this coven in which they dance a dance embracing the free-formed rawness and emotional sacrifice that comes with it while both the coven hierarchy that is Suspiriorum and a lingering historical backdrop crumbles.
For as beautiful the culmination of choices Guadagnino made were, the picture is equally as grotesque. In some of the most bold sequences in the picture, Guadagnino brings audiences into what can only be described as hell.
Without giving away too much of the film’s grandiose but resounding the sixth act, it realizes true destiny of this film’s characters which leads to the demise of Markos, posing as Mother Suspiriorum, the last living member of the Three Mothers leadership, at the hands of Susie and Death himself; Guadagnino brings the story full circle with this fulfilling final act. Accompanied by this sequence are the agonizing screams of the coven while the audience is literally seeing red, which are all collectively used to effectively present an unsettling climax and a unique reimagining of witch films for this generation.
Living in a world where men are predominantly in a position of power while women are in a position of humiliation or discomfort, Suspiria retaliates against this patriarchy with a reminder to all men in it that these women are more powerful than they appear to be or allotted. Set to a multilayered version of Suspirium entitled Suspirium Finale, Susie restores order to the Suspiriorum hierarchy and the dancers of Helena Markos Dance Company continue to dance, or as Thom Yorke might add “all is well, as long as we keep spinning.”