Film Review: Suspiria (2018)

Luca Guadagnino is a director on the brink of creative and artistic freedom following the highly applauded Oscar Nominated film Call Me By Your Name in 2017. So, with the cinematic world at your hands, why would the unique director follow up with a remake of the 1977 classic-camp horror film Suspiria? Clocking in at almost over an hour more of footage, creating whole new characters for the film and a cameo from the original film, Guadagnino creates a blood soaked, poetic and subtextual allegory of evil, darkness and madness for a 2018 audience that may not quite be ready for such a consuming cinematic experience. 

Although remakes usually tend to roll eyes, this is not the director’s first remake. Loosely based on Jaques Deray La Piscine, Guadagnino’s 2015’s A Bigger Splash is a bright and hormonally driven comedic romp that blends dialogue with physical action to the point of hysteria. For his 2018 remake SuspiriaGuadagnino and his Splash screenwriter David Kajganich instill constant fear to a 1977 based German, filled with left wing extremists vying for a better Germany, bombs, not-so-subtle references to the Berlin Wall, and of course, the potential of witchcraft and demonic presences inside the prestigious Markos Dance Academy in West Berlin.

Despite all of this, a young and talented dancer Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) auditions and quickly gets accepted into the Academy following the departure of a young protege leaving the school; the talented Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz). Upon fleeing the academy, Patricia begins donning disruptive and obsessive behaviour, convinced that the mothers and matrons of the school an in fact, witches who, as she claims, “hollow her out and eat her cunt on a plate”. Patricia finds the comfort of German doctor Dr. Josef Klemperer, a psychoanalyst who is fighting his own demons having lived the second World War, and losing his wife to the Nazis. The role of Dr. Klemperer had its own share of headlines and controversy once production began; solely because the initial casting of the role was given to an unknown German actor named Lutz Ebersdorf. Guadagnino, who can certainly cast whomever he wants in his films now, was asked viciously why he casted an unknown for the role, and questioned heavily. It wasn’t until shortly after, that the role was in fact revealed to belong to Swinton, in heavy prosthetic make-up. Yet, while Swinton is masterful in Suspiria as Dr.Klemperer, who role as the audacious Madame Blanc is stiffly terrifying. Swinton, who has appeared in many of Guadagnino’s films, shares a perplexing horror to Blanc’s character, that is both disallowing, yet very humanistic and alluring. Swinton is among one of the biggest reasons to watch the film, as always.

Guadagnino has reached a point of prestige and elitism amongst Hollywood, especially within the independent film community. While Suspiria is by no means a film that would be recommended to anyone, possibly not many, gliding acceptingly within the fine lines of art-house type cinema and independent fanfare, Suspiria is so long, so wrought and entirely unapologetic that Gaudagnino and company seemed to have created a film entirely for themselves; a self-pleasure piece of cinema that is both artistically adventurous and simplistically fine existing for itself, and itself only. While the narrative could have easily been cut down an hour (as seen with the original), that extra bit of runtime allows for Guadagnino’s character study piece (more than a horror piece) to develop in quite a patient fashion.  While its always hard to outdo Swinton when it comes to acting next to her, Dakota Johnson does everything and more to prove that she belong amongst the ranks of rising upcoming actors in cinema. Johnson, who’s claim to fame is the leather-bound role of Anastasia Steele in the Fifty Shades trilogy, gives Natalie Portman a run for her money in her Award winning role as a tormented ballet performer in Black Swan. Johnson intensely physical performance, pair with her dynamic nuances show the actresses acting strengths and gives hope for more captivating roles for many years to come.

While Suspiria can take the shape of many genres throughout its entire runtime, the horror/thriller niche seems to be the most fitting thanks to some memorable scenes that may not entirely scare you, but you can damn well bet they will gross you out. One of the most memorable and equally disturbing scenes in the film shows one of the dancers upset with Patricia’s disappearance, storming out of the Academy, and Susie taking her place. While Olga (Elena Fokina) leaves, in the midst of Susie’s interpretive performance of the now absent Olga’s role, Olga becomes possessed and entrapped in a mirrored studio. Juxtaposing Susie’s movements with Olga’s unwilling bodily movements, her body contorts In inhumane ways. While her body mends, bends, breaks and folds during Susie’s routine upstairs, Olga becomes a human elastic rubber ball, urinating, salivating and crumbling until her body cannot take anymore physical abuse and pain. The scene is perhaps one of the most long-lasting and equally unforgettable (perhaps for all the wrong and twisted reasons) of 2018.

It becomes clear early that Suspiria is so many things that perhaps one review wouldn’t be able to pinpoint it all, but it surely is an ode to Guadagnino’s fascination and appreciation of women and the power of femininity in cinema. While most of the cast, with the exception of two police officers, are women, Suspiria is a decent into the deep and dark expectation of the female form within the world of art, most specifically, the art of performance and dance. There are moments in Suspiria where you cannot look away, and moments where you can’t look straight at it for too long without getting a little wheezy. Yet despite the violence and gore and the strong message of female dominance, one cant help but recognize the fact that Suspiria still exists in the hands of men; director Guadagnino, screenwriter Kajganich and the terrorizing and eerie score by Radiohead’s own Thom Yorke, therefore diluting its all so powerful message, a little too much.

Night Film Reviews: 6.5 Out of 10 Stars.

What did you think of Suspiria? Too art-house or full fledge independent masterpiece? Where you squirming in your seat or wanting more? Leave your comments below, and don’t forget to tell mother! 

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