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The visceral violence and harmony of Guadagnino’s “Suspiria”

I’m going to try to keep the comparisons between this version and the past one to a minimum but they will of course come up so FORGIVE ME. I think first of all it’s important to go into this not thinking of it as an exact remake and more so thinking of if it the way Luca Guadagnino described it—as the impression the movie left on him watching it as a teenager.

This new Suspiria is a violent and forceful film and it’s also good. It does, however, have its faults and I’m going to start by going through them. The over contextualization of the film was an issue for me. I understand, to some level, that there is supposed to be both contrast and parallelism brought on by the idea of a divided Berlin post WWII. There is violence and chaos in the streets. Inside the school there seems to be relative calm and quiet which is masking violence and (sort of) evil, or at least witchcraft.

This movie is in many ways the opposite of Dario Argento’s. The original spends no time setting up or contextualizing the situation—you simply dive right into the vivid and colorful world of witches and intrigue. This one goes to lengths, painful lengths, to help you make sense of where the film takes place. But the constant echoes of terrorism are unnecessary. And although I understand Jozef Klemperers role in the film (a stand in for the patriarchy and really all men I suppose) but what was the purpose of Anke other than to show that too he had some sort of emotional investment? He could have existed as a character without needing some sort of trauma to propel him forwards. It’s also a plot point that makes for the weakest part of the movie—the ending. The movie should have ended with act six, the last scene should have been in that red blood soaked room full of carnage and rebirth. Instead what we get is a pan to a seemingly juvenile carving of their initials on their old home. It feels like some sort of last minute effort at bringing traditional closure to the movie.

And yes not everything needs to move the plot forward but you could remove all of the scenes relating to Anke and the country house and the movie would not be missing anything, if anything it might be stronger. These moments feel bizarre and spliced into a movie that is otherwise strong and principled in its unwillingness to comfort you.

Now to go on to the rest of the movie and the parts that didn’t upset me (in the aforementioned milquetoast way). Much is going to be (and has been) said of the meaning and interpretation of gender, what it means to be female and the rest of it so I am not going to do it. Partially because I think it could be done better by almost anyone but also because it’s honestly at this point in 2018, it’s a tiring task.

The dance in Suspiria 2.0 plays a much more visceral and communicative role than it did in the original (was there really any dancing in Argento’s?). The dance is violent, primitive and instinctual. What propels the dance forward is not music so much as it is breathe (or sigh) and intuition. And to get to the infamous dancing scene that when shown at festivals had audiences leaving—it’s grotesque, but it’s not unwatchable or for the sake of glorifying irrelevant violence. It’s a scene that showcases Guadagnino’s strong points in this movie.

The world of Guadagnino’s Suspiria is about balance and equilibrium. There is not a single dance move that is executed without recourse or without a balancing act. Susie juts her arms and bones out, she flings her arms and dances using her body (unknowingly) as a weapon. Every moment has a price, every act of beauty has a consequence. The first time Susie dances the payoff is Olga whose body is contorted and maimed in response to Susie’s movement. Later when Susie learns to jump, it’s at the expense of Diane, when she begins to do the final Volk dance it’s Sarah who physically feels the ramifications. Meanwhile Germany is going through similar growing pains as the country tries to reconcile with itself in the wake of World War II. Berlin itself is both physically and psychologically divided—the East and the West functioning as improper weights on a seesaw.

It doesn’t make sense to identify the 5 differences between the two pictures but the thing that stood out to me the most was the reinterpretation of Susie and Sara. Sara in this vision is bold and composed, not at all frantic. She also has all of Susie’s good qualities from the original film—she searches for her friends and tries to bring an end to the nebulous suffering brought on by the coven. Susie meanwhile is set up as the protagonist though this is a role that quickly gets muddied as you’re left to figure out what exactly her level of complicity is in the whole situation. Susie in this movie is not a girl without questions, or a woman who doesn’t want to embolden herself and realize her true power. Instead of running away from the witches and the promises of power hidden within the walls of the dance school, she actively seeks them out.

What it really comes down to is that this Suspiria is not really a horror film—it’s an anxiety film. Where Guadagnino really excels is in unifying all of these separate entities into one overwhelming feeling of dread. There is really no respite or safe place in the movie. Everything is marred by an ere of death and destruction, of repentance and chaos. By carefully combining deliberate violence (dance), a soundtrack by Thom Yorke, and a well rounded cast Guadagnino has created an anxious dance movie that will imprint itself on the lining of your stomach.

Suspiria will begin rolling out nation wide on October 26th.

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