suspiria | remake | witch | witches | coven | luca guadagnino | david kajganich | dakota johnson | tilda swinton | doris hick | fantasy | mystery | thriller | italy | united states | malgorzata bela | chloe grace moretz | angela winkler | vanda capriolo | mia goth | alek wek
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Writer: David Kajganich
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton and Doris Hick
This film was one I was intrigued to check out. The original Suspiria is one of my favorite horror films of all time. I thought it was interesting when I saw that this version was going to run 2 and half hours as the original was just an hour and half. My first viewing was at the Gateway Film Center with an ex-girlfriend. I’ve now given it a second viewing as part of the Summer Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs and with my wife Jaime. The official synopsis for this film is a darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.
It should be set up first that this movie is told in six chapters and an epilogue. We start off with Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz). She seems to be manic and goes to the psychotherapist from the synopsis, Dr. Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton). This film takes place in 1977 in Berlin, so it is interesting that the Berlin Wall is up. Building from that, there is a lot dealing with the aftermath of World War II as well. As this young woman goes through a manic episode, we see that Josef thinks she is delusional. We do learn that Patricia is possible working with the RAF around the terrorist event when they took over an airplane full of Jewish people as part of the backdrop.
The film then introduces us to our lead. She is Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson). We get an image of a mother (Malgorzata Bela) as she is passing away and Susie has fled from her Mennonite farm to dance for this famous company. She arrives in Berlin and makes her way to the dance academy where she meets with Miss Tanner (Angela Winkler). Susie is asked to audition, but they tried to reschedule. Susie didn’t learn this until she arrived. Regardless, they allow her to tryout. She is natural and this draws Madame Blanc (Swinton), even though she wasn’t in the room originally. She is accepted into the academy.
This movie doesn’t shy away from the fact this dance academy is run by a coven of witches. There is a struggle of power over who should lead them and whether to continue with their plot. Sara (Mia Goth) is the next best dancer since Patricia has disappeared. She becomes friends with Susie at once. She also tries to figure out what has happened to her friend. They are trying to bring Susie along, but her natural abilities and feeling a prescence that helps her dance. Those in power are faced with a decision that will alter the fate of this academy.
As I stated above, I love the original film even though the story might be lacking a bit. Something I explained to Jaime is that Italian cinema uses a lot of nightmare logic. They don’t necessarily feel the need to clarify everything. When I saw that this one had a run time of an extra hour, I was intrigued that they could flesh of more of a story, which they did. Originally, I had an issue with the power struggle in the movie. This time around, I think it adds a layer. I’m going to tie-toe around this as I don’t want to spoil it. There is Helena Markos (Swinton) who is in charge and Madame Blanc is vying for that position. Markos says some things to keep this position that might not be true. They’ve also failed with their plot and Blanc thinks there is another route they should go. Susie complicates things and I love what happens at the climax.
Now something I really liked about this film was fleshing out Susie’s character a lot more. We see her mother passing away, but through dreams this is fleshed out. I love that she was raised as a Mennonite, which to those that don’t know are very similar to Amish. They are allowed to use some machines, but it brings a level of corruption to the more devoutly religious. We also see that there is a perversion to Susie as well. Her coming to the school she is embracing it even more. We also see that she is talented, but raw. Blanc sees potential there and wants to cultivate it. Jaime pointed out there was sexual tension between them and I think this is an interesting point. Johnson does a great job in this movie. She is another actor who got a bad rap for being in not so good movies to make her famous, in her case the Fifty Shades of Grey movies. It is something like this I saw she has talent; it was just hampered by poorly written material.
Moving to something else that I liked was the dance scenes in this film. They’re captivating as well. I saw this film with my ex-girlfriend originally, so I asked her about the dances done in the film as she did this in college. She stated that for a dance that was created in the 1940’s, it is a bit too modern. It might even be a little too modern for the 1970’s. What I took from this though, being that it is a coven, it has to be more vulgar and I actually really like the idea as it is more of a ritual. I’m not normally into films about dance, but for whatever reason they were done amazing and it sucked me.
Next, I will go over the pacing for a movie that is this long is something that is important. I do feel that this film is a bit lengthy. We get some things that I don’t necessarily think are important. With that said though, I didn’t find it boring. I was drawn in from the beginning and it held my attention throughout. There are some great intercuts of two different things happening the same time that are similar in building the story or in something happening. I really liked that. This movie flies in my opinion despite its runtime.
Going along with this, the acting for the film I thought was amazing. I’ve already said how Johnson surprised me at how well she played her role. What I haven’t said was that she has such innocence when she arrives, but we see that there has been ‘sin’ in her past. She embraces the darkness that is within the academy and I think a lot of that is wanting to be like Blanc. She wants to be great. Swinton was phenomenal in this film. I thought the portrayal of three characters were unique and very well done. She is such a talented actress so I give her a lot of credit. Moretz was solid for the role that she plays, even though it is quite small. I wanted to comment on Goth, who is beautiful and great here as well. The rest of the cast round out for what the film needed. Shout out to Jessica Harper, who was Susie in the original and her cameo.
From there I will go over the effects which were great as well. This film did something that the original didn’t, which was body horror. There was some CGI used there, but I didn’t have an issue with it. There were two scenes in particularly that really had me cringing, so kudos to the effects team. I do think there were some practical effects in the film as well which I thought was also good. The film was shot beautifully so I do have to commend them for that as well. It is quite the opposite of the original visually, but still works. Instead of using the color palette, this movie is drab. I like that with the backdrop of the Berlin wall. We are getting a lot of greys. We also get some interesting cinematography where we focus on certain characters while others are talking. The use of mirrors is interesting as well. I was quite impressed with all of this to be honest.
Then finally is the soundtrack and sound design for the film. This was something else that I thought was good. During the main dance scene and the climax, it fit beautifully. The movie seemed to go with quiet scenes for a few stretches where I thought have a lower key score could have helped build the suspense. It isn’t as iconic as the Goblin score, we used in the original, but to quote my friend Mr. Watson, it is hard to go that route and try to out ‘Argento’ Dario Argento.
Now with that said, I took some time before writing this to let it process after my first viewing. There is a lot going on this film and they added quite a bit to the story. I’m glad this is the route they took. I thought the acting, effects and how the film was shot was amazing. How they edited certain things together was good to show the duality of different things. The soundtrack fit for what was needed in my opinion. I think this is a good film and I have it just a bit below the original. I’m glad that I’ve now given it a second viewing to solidify my feelings. It’s not for everyone, but I really did enjoy it.
My Rating: 9 out of 10