Run time: 152 MINS
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Lutz Ebersdorf , Chloe Grace Moretz, Jesse Harper
Synopsis: A darkness swirls at the centre 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.
Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino [Call Me by Your Name (2017); A Bigger Splash (2015); I Am Love (2009)] has made this homage to Dario Argento’s classic horror giallo with a haunting soundtrack from Thom Yorke (Radiohead) and a new screenplay by David Kajganich [A Bigger Splash (2015)] Set during the German Autumn of 1977, it explores themes of generational guilt in Germany during the Cold War. Additionally, it focuses on themes of motherhood, evil, and the dynamics of matriarchies.
Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), an American from a Mennonite family in Ohio, is admitted to the Markos Dance Academy in West Berlin. The Academy is reeling from the disappearance of a student, Patricia Hingle (Chloe Grace Moretz), who vanished after telling her psychotherapist Josef Klemperer that the Academy is controlled by a coven of witches. Journals left by Patricia in Klemperer’s office detail the Three Mothers, a trio of witches who predate Christianity – Mater Suspiriorum, Mater Tenebrarum, and Mater Lachrymarum. Klemperer, initially dismissive of Patricia’s claims, becomes suspicious of the Academy after her disappearance.
Susie befriends her classmate Sara (Mia Goth), and quickly climbs the ranks as protégée of lead choreographer Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton); in particular she is appointed as the lead in the Academy’s upcoming piece, Volk.
Guadagnino has conceived Suspiria as visually “winterish” and bleak, with a palette absent of primary colours. The film incorporates stylized dance sequences choreographed by Damien Jalet, which form part of its representation of witchcraft. Principal photography took place in late 2016 and early 2017 in Varese and Berlin. The score was composed by Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, who took inspiration from the ‘Krautrock’ popular around the time of the film’s setting. Cinematography is by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, who worked with Guadagnino on the acclaimed Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Jessica Harper, the star of the original film, has a cameo role as Anke.
Walking the line between Art Cinema and entertainment, Suspiria has supernatural horror, style, gore and sex. It is not for everyone and is an hour longer than Dario Argento’s original – but it is never uninteresting.
Images courtesy of MUBI