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« Review: "Charlie Says" | Main | "Wine Country" on Netflix »
Sunday
May122019

We Need to Talk About Suspiria / Third Tilda's a Charm 

Please welcome guest contributor Maggy Torres-Rodriguez

Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria is now available to stream on Amazon Prime. So if you’re looking for a flick to throw on, kick back and re-- really have your stomach churn, this is it. BUT before we get into that, can we first take a moment to talk about Dakota Johnson’s Met Gala dress (pictured above)...

2019's Met Gala theme was “Camp,” and there’s nothing campier than the original 1977 Suspiria, by Dario Argento (in the best way possible). Let’s take a moment to appreciate the allusion of her dress to her own character in Suspiria, The Mother Suspiriorum, crown and bleeding heart and all. A little disappointed she didn’t go with the literal open chest prosthetic, but hey, it was probably the seventh reveal for Lady Gaga (off camera) or Tilda Swinton herself.

Tilda Swinton as Dr Josef Klemperer and Madame Blanc

If you’re looking for a revamped version of the original Suspiria, this ain’t it hun. Director Luca Guadagnino himself calls this more of an ‘homage’ than a remake. If beautiful choreography, psycho-sexual tension, and cracking bones are your thing, let’s talk. Or if you automatically add any film with Swinton in it to your “TO WATCH” list, you’ll enjoy this threefold.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Not only does Tilda Swinton play the enigmatic artistic director and choreographer, Madam Blanc, to terrify us all -- she also played her own creepy nemesis Helena Markos. As if the technical challenge of filming both characters in a scene weren’t enough, she also played the part of Dr. Josef Klemperer, who was credited officially, in jest, as portrayed by actor Lutz Ebersdorf. That’s right, she played three characters who were ALL IN THE SAME SCENE at some point. And nobody knew for sure it was her.

My favorite part of this whole thing is that some were suspicious about Lutz Ebersdorf’s existence. The filmmakers all vehemently denied that Lutz was Tilda, until one day she was just “hehe, gotcha!” When asked why she tried fooling the audience, she said “for the sheer sake of fun.” 

I mean...


While we’re on the topic of talented femmes, let’s take a moment to appreciate Dakota Johnson’s overarching performance from naive Ohio mennonite to the freakin’ Mother Suspiriorum. So glad to see her successfully break away from her public branding of mousy franchise starlet to hardcore badass enigma -- something not a lot of other typecast actors have been able to do. Sorry Daniel Radcliffe.

Guadagnino’s Suspiria felt more grounded in narrative and lore than Argento’s original, which may appeal to a broader horror audience that seeks storytelling on top of nightmarish set design. Despite Argento’s cult-following and overall favorable reviews, it is not lost on this viewer that the plot disappears frequently to make room for another shocking murder scene, for shock’s sake.

Guadagnino’s version, set in 1977, provides more backstory by attempting to thematically tie the inner workings of the academy with what’s going on in wall-era Berlin outside. While the effort to ground the film in reality is appreciated, some critics felt like the war events outside were arbitrary to the narrative we all actually came to see. Witches being bitches. If you’re not familiar with the German Autumn, the whole through-line about German political unrest became very difficult to follow.


What we did get was an abundance of harrowing and gorgeous choreography throughout the film, something that was missing from the original 1977 version, despite it being set in a ballet academy. Kudos to Dakota Johnson and Mia Goth who trained for months to perform authentically in their roles. Not only do we get to watch the spectacle of the dances, the film also focuses on the creative process beforehand -- how dancers and choreographers come up with the ideas for their movements, their bodies creating shapes and angles to inspire feelings of peace, uncertainty, or downright fear. If you’ve ever danced, you’ll know the process takes an emotional toll as well as a physical one. Or in this case, to point out the next host body for the ‘mother’ witch to inhabit. Nuance.

A special warm shout out to Thom Yorke of Radiohead for providing the hauntingly metronomic score for the film, extra warm for Thom who sings so sadly he just might need the warmth. The dreamy soundtrack starkly contrasts the clashing whisper-scream sounds of Goblin, the original Suspiria’s composer. Amazing how such different approaches to horror soundtracks can provide a similarly unnerving atmosphere.

Chloë Grace Moretz is also in this, but mostly served as an expository plot device. 

Tilda Swinton as Helena Markos

Perhaps the most obvious, and rewarding, difference is the shift in direction of the denouement between the films. In Argento’s version, Susie Bannion defeats the evil Helena Markos and leaves the academy burning behind her, smiling as she departs, happy to leave it all behind. Contrarily, in Guadagnino’s rendition Susie Bannion does not run away… she IS the evil. How’s that for female empowerment? As if men didn’t have reasons to fear women already.

Reasonable requests for the rest of 2019: More leading roles for Dakota Johnson, and a redeeming opportunity for Chloë. It’s going to happen, girl!

 

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Reader Comments (15)

My favorite film of 2018. One of the most exhilarating cinema experiences I've had.

May 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

I hated the remake of "Suspiria" which is boring not even the ridiculous disco in hell climax can save it. Dakota Johnson should be in better movies.

May 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Greta is one of my favorite movies of the year so I feel like Moretz is covered on the redemption front.

May 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCliff

Geez, spoilers much?

May 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

I think it's one of the best films I had ever seen last year. I knew it wasn't going to be some box office hit nor it would please everyone but goddamn. It blew me away.

May 12, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

James from Ames, the remake came out last year, not last week. The original itself was released 40+ years ago—spoiler warnings are N/A for ‘70s cinema.

P.S. “Chloë Grace Moretz is also in this, but mostly served as an expository plot device.” As is entirely fitting.

May 12, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

First I'd like to understand why was this so bad. Secondly, a film of this studio quality should have been superior in the horror genre. Unfortunately, it was not scary. All it had going for it was the original movie name, and general characterization. The limited script structure with all of it's meanderings should have been exploding with thrills and chills. Instead, you get two hours of sleepy run time and tired useless subtitles. It a shame Dario Argento didn't get a chance to assist with editing, perhaps that would have given this a chance.

May 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Rutherford

@Daniel Rutherford: judging horror movies solely on whether they were "scary" or not is pretty reductive. For example, Bride of Frankenstein isn't scary in the least and yet it's an overall wonderful movie. I really liked the Suspiria remake a lot, it was very much Its Own Thing and that counts for a lot. For me, anyway.

May 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

I agree that judging a horror film solely on whether it was scary or not is a bit reductive, but I don't think that's what Daniel Rutherford was saying. First, Bride Of Frankenstein isn't technically categorized as a "horror" but as a drama/sci-fi. More importantly, Bride Of Frankenstein was probably QUITE scary to people in the mid '30's, so even if one were to call it a horror, it surely frightened the people of the day...and Susperia should be frightening to us now. What I noticed was that the new Susperia added some gore and a grotesque witch in an attempt to scare us, but it didn't work. The original Susperia has a threatening, intimidating vibe, which skillfully created suspense for the viewer. That aspect is completely missing from this remake. The original Susperia also feels 10 years ahead of it's time, which is part of why it has maintained a cult status for so long. That cannot be said of this new version, which is VERY much of the current day, and will be forgotten like so many other mediocre horror films we're seeing lately. If a film is to be called a "horror", the viewer should feel some fear and/or suspense at some point during the film. This is especially true if the film is a remake of what was indeed a suspenseful, unique and timeless horror...which clearly should have been left alone.

May 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom

@Tom: okay agreed it's missing a certain fear factor (which is not to say it didn't have a good amount of tension), but I'm pretty sure scaring us wasn't Guadagnino's major concern. We'll just see if his film is forgotten by history - I'm guessing it will not be - it's not just a tiresome remake made strictly for money by a hack (see or rather don't see recent retools of Carrie or A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc) - but by an artist with his own crazy vision.

May 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

What do you mean a horror movie is not suppose to be scary?! Tha's the whole point of the genre- even "Hereditary" which I hated even more has couple of scary moments. The "Suspiria" remake was made by people who might be talented but have not idea how to make a horror film- and what was the point of the terrorist subplot that goes now where? And the lame ending?

May 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

@Jaragon: As a horror movie fan, I've seen a lot of them in my lifetime. Maybe because I've seen so many I don't get that genuinely frightened a lot of the time. So I also pay attention to the acting, the sets, the dialogue, etc, etc. Hereditary evoked some dread in me for what was happening to the protagonists, but it didn't genuinely scare me. I also really liked it a lot. Clearly you and I would not see eye to eye on too many films. So we can agree to disagree.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

@Tom: I see what you're saying but trust me, look in any good book on the history of horror movies and you will see the Bride of Frankenstein discussed within. it is witty and falls also within the Sci-fi genre but It is by and large a horror film and has always been categorized as such.

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

@Rob I respect your very civilized response- I'm also a long time horror movie fan and I understand your point- but even if a horror movie does not scare me- in order to work it has to create a sense of dread

May 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I couldn't agree more. The original Suspiria, while it's definitely intriguing in its own rite through its cinematography, it and a lot of Dario Argento's filmography is so similar and so seemingly ironically adored. New Suspiria was the epitome of atmospheric and handled dread so well. It's a totally different experience, but I don't have to force myself to enjoy it ironically like I would the original.

There's so much more rhyme and reason and decisionmaking in the filmmaking for this new one. I guess the lack of that in the original could be what people love about it, but Argento just lathered, rinsed, and repeated the same trick.

May 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

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