STARRING: DAKOTA JOHNSON; TILDA SWINTON; MIA GOTH; CHLOE GRACE MORETZ
DIRECTED BY: LUCA GUADAGNINO
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
I don't know what to make of the retelling of Suspiria, but I know I love it. The original 1977 film from Italian director and horror legend Dario Argento has found a popular corner in the minds of cinephiles. It has everything, especially for those who share a love for films with a grainy 35mm look, not to mention, witches, a menacing score, and a beautiful composition. To say that Luca Guadagnino's take has the same attributes would be incorrect. It strives for all of those things, only this is not the same film, but a new vision. One that is equally sinister, visually delicious, and extremely challenging. Suspiria is not the masterpiece one wants to claim, but it is something entirely different. You do not simply watch Suspiria. This is a hypnotic, out of body experience.
It is an important bit of information to note that Suspiria is void of men. There is a character, Dr. Josef Klemperer, who is, in a way, the eyes and ears of the narrative, but “he” is played by Tilda Swinton in an unrecognizable amount of makeup. I took this narrative decision as a message. It is the kind of move that sends a message to casting agents everywhere, that women are capable of everything. They can be witches, they can be dance instructors, they can be German doctors, and they certainly can dance. That is what this Suspiria is about. It is about succumbing to the power that exists inside of us, finding that inner strength, and defying the old ways that have been destroyed by men.
The similarities between the 77' version and this one begins and ends with our lead character Susie (played quite spectacularly by Dakota Johnson) arriving to Germany at the dance school of Madame Blanc (Swinton, again). The mystery that this is a dance school fronting for a coven of witches is non-existent, but it is the manipulation, the hierarchy of women, shifting and shaping for position at play. Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz) was once seen as the next to “lead”, but she reveals to be too weak. Not Susie. She is instantly a factor. An American woman who escaped her Mennonite family, to become a dancer of grace and power. She conjures the spirits of Mother Lachrymarum, Mother Tenabrarum, and Mother Suspiriorum. As the beings awake, evil acts at the school take place, twisting the bodies of other dance members to grueling death, taking possession of weak minded men, and the destruction of those unable to give themselves to the coven.
Explaining all of Suspiria is quite difficult to those who have not seen it, it's even difficult for those who have. What I can say is that the direction from Guadanino (Call Me By Your Name; A Bigger Splash) is an inspired effort. The screenplay from David Kajganich is about a divided country. Men going at one another with bombs and hatred, while the ladies of the dance school seek to achieve harmony in their spells. The cinematography from Sayombhu Mukdeeprom is an expert class in mis-en-scene, with deliberately placed books, images on the wall, and food on the table. The score from Radiohead's Thom Yorke is trippy, languid, and embodies the tone to perfection. If there are any problems to mention it is the pace- this Suspiria is nearly a half hour longer- and the fact is, I think it takes at least 3 viewings to fully understand everything it is trying to say. Similar to a film like last years Mother!, it is something to discuss for years to come.
The climactic ending of Suspiria is where the horror angle goes full witchcraft, with blood, body parts, and spell binding chaos. It's truly a thing of beauty, with Guadagnino, Swinton, Dakota Johnson, and the entire coven of witches going full steam to create a wild, albeit imperfect arthouse re-make. It's the kind of movie that I eat right up. I want to see if a few more times, but for now, Suspiria has forced me to give in to the dance.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady