Last year I saw the film Call Me by Your Name. It’s a small indie film about a romantic fling between a teenager living in Italy and an older man. When I originally heard the premise, it didn’t really appeal to me. I’m not a big fan of the romance genre and I wasn’t familiar with the director’s previous work. Nevertheless it was nominated for best picture at the 2018 Academy Awards so I decided to give it a shot. From beginning to end, I was completely transfixed. From the snappy, intellectual dialogue to the beautiful moments of pure harmony and splendor, the film was a feast of astounding entertainment. So when director Luca Guadagnino’s newest film called Suspiria was announced, I knew that I had to see it.
Breaking into the horror genre, Suspiria is a remake of the 1977 Dario Argento film of the same name. It takes place in that same year and focuses on Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), an American who’s traveled to West Berlin in pursuit of her dream of being a professional dancer. While chasing her goal, she’s accepted into a prestigious dance company that demands the utmost perfection from its dancers. At the same time, a curious psychotherapist named Dr. Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton) has an unexpected encounter with one of the former members of the dance company. This encounter leaves the doctor with information that the dance company may actually have nefarious intentions.
Even thought I watched the trailer before seeing the film, I still didn’t really know what I was getting into. I knew it was going to be dark and weird but I truly didn’t expect what I actually saw. Not only does Suspiria feature an insane amount of unnerving imagery, but it also has one of the grossest and most disturbing scenes that I have ever witnessed in a film. If that kind of description intrigues you then by all means see the film for that aspect alone, if not, just run the other direction and don’t look back.
From beginning to end, the film is a triumph of creative expression. Whether it’s the astonishingly well-choreographed dance numbers or the morose and fanatical scenes of depravity, no one would ever label the film as merely “ordinary”. It definitely has a style and attitude that’s all its own and I really enjoyed that aspect. However on occasion that style significantly triumphed over the story and drastically hindered my understanding of what I was actually supposed to comprehend from a scene.
The performances from the entire cast were quite remarkable. I really enjoyed seeing a more playful and pessimistic side to Dakota Johnson and Mia Goth was significantly more whimsical and energetic than what I’m used to seeing from her characters. However, Tilda Swinton was the true standout in both good and bad ways. She plays several different roles within the film and her Madame Blanc dance teacher character was the perfect amount of daunting yet endearing that kept my attention at nearly every turn. On the other hand, she donned a significant amount of old man prosthetics to play the Dr. Josef Klemperer character and it was insanely jarring. She did a good job but her attempt at an old man voice coupled with noticeable prosthetic mouth inconsistencies completely took me out of the film. I have no idea why an elderly male actor wasn’t simply cast in the role instead.
When looking at the film as a whole, I can definitely say that it feels like style is drastically weighed over substance. It has plenty of moments that I thoroughly enjoyed but I can’t say that it’s a film that the average filmgoer would like whatsoever.
Synopsis: 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.
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Writer: David Kajganich
Stars: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloë Grace Moretz
Runtime: 2 Hours, 32 Minutes