The 1977 original Suspiria is hailed as a horror classic. I think it’s outdated, disengaging and dull, however I was very keen to see the new reimagining of the story, for three reasons. The first being because it’s directed by Luca Guadagnino, who due to his last film Call Me by Your Name, is now one of my favourite people working. The second reason being Dakota Johnson, who is stunning in everything she pops up in, and deserves more credit on screen. And the third reason being that the film has been marketed incredibly well, and since the first trailer I’ve been excited for its release. The film on a basic level is about Susie Bannion (Johnson), an American who travels to Berlin to audition for an esteemed contemporary dance troop. She gets in, because it’s clear that she’s a bit of a prodigy, and quickly she becomes the centre of the school, a school that is run by witches.
Where to even begin with this? Actor, comedian and now podcaster (Films to be Buried With) Brett Goldstein tweeted after seeing the film that he found it strange that reviewers were giving it three stars. He said that by the films design you could only give it a one, or a five, you either were amazed or repulsed. As much as I like Brett, he’s wrong, the film is very meh, but I’m not sure it would even reach three stars for me. Let’s start positively though, well to an extent anyway. The film is very long, about 2 and a half hours, so it could probably lose a few scenes, but what I will say is that I was never bored. Similar to the original, there’s a sense that something horrid is around the corner and it’s edging towards it. It’s a slow advance, yet the story is intriguing enough to keep your attention. What the film lacks however, is direction. I’m still not sure what Guadagnino is trying to say with it all, and the only real (and thin) takeaway is that those responsible for the Holocaust should feel guilt, and those who weren’t shouldn’t? This underlying theme isn’t fed badly into the film, and I disagree with the critics who say that it is, but it wasn’t effective. Perhaps this was because the choices from the main character were so obtuse, and misdirecting. Dakota Johnson plays her well, being both soft and intimidating in her face, and tough to decipher, which I liked, yet ultimately her character became pointless whilst being the main point of the film. I’m aware that doesn’t make much sense, but this review may end up a bigger question mark than the movie. And not an interesting question mark, more like watching my cat torture a mouse in front of me then him waiting to be applauded when the mouse is finally dead.
Stylistically, the film is pretty dry. Guadagnino has ditched the painted, florid beauty of Call Me by Your Name for a washed out, grim palette of greys and browns. The original was all about striking imagery, and pop colours, whereas the new one is about the sadness of blandness. There is some exceptions – the dance scenes were lovely to look at, and the highlight of the film, the gore and violence were beautifully putrid, and in the second to final act Guadagnino dives head first into some devilish imagery, which was entertaining. That climatic satanic scene was actually really funny, and when I watch this film again in the comfort of my home, I won’t be afraid to laugh more at some of the ridiculous things that happen. A strange stylistic choice was to cast Tilda Swinton in ‘at least’ two roles, one being an old German bloke in coats of make-up. It’s obvious from the start that it’s a young actor in the role, but I had no idea that it was Swinton until my friend told me after the film, and it’s another ‘???’ moment. I mean obviously Swinton is fucking great in the film, and the character was quite sympathetic to follow round, but Swinton playing the role added nothing, and meant nothing. Her other character’s (Madame Blanc) relationship with Susie was a solid part of the film, so having her as the other part was unneeded.
The friend I went to see the film with said that he’s starting to like the film more, now he’s thought about it and read a bit on it. I have no desire to think about it, because I don’t think the film is profound in any way, however I do want to watch it again, as it may be one of those where it takes repeat viewings to appreciate it. And I do hope that I grow to enjoy it more, because the intentions of the filmmakers seem admirable. It was just a bit empty, and lacking something. Maybe if Thom Yorke had made a better soundtrack (other than one song) the spaces in between the film would have been better. His efforts were totally disappointing, and so was the film.
Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket?
This is a tricky one, because you definitely get your money’s worth. What I would say is that the film is hard, and gruesome, so general audiences might want to stay away, because nothing of substance comes from that unpleasantness.