Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloe Grace Moretz,
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Written by: David Kajganich
Music by: Thom Yorke
Based off Suspiria (1977) by Dario Argento & Daria Nicolodi
Review by Insha Fitzpatrick
“When you dance the dance of another, you make yourself the image of its creator.”
Let me get this out now. I don’t hate remakes in the slightest. I’ve come to appreciate remakes for their way of thinking, as long as they don’t harken back to the original they bore their ideas from. I think of them, not as remakes, but more of a revision of what came before. Some people try to remake the same film shot for shot, but that vision is done. I love when we see remakes as something more. A director coming into their vision of what THEY thought made the original so perfect. With Suspiria, Luca Gudagnino takes what made the original movie so spellbinding and takes some of those ideas to fit his directorial vision and holy fuck, it is EXTREMELY my shit.
Suspiria (2018) bases its story from the 1977 film of the same name. Suspiria tells the story of Susie (Dakota Johnson), a young girl growing up in a harsh, controlling upbringing that we only see glimpses of. After her mother dies, Susie finds herself boarding a train to the Markos Dance Academy in West Berlin where she hopes to become a student and learn under Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). Meanwhile, the Markos Dance Academy is still grieving over one of their students Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz), who has left the academy, gone missing and (to them) presumed dead. The last person to see her was a kind old psychotherapist, Josef Klemperer. He saw Patricia’s mutters as nothing but mere delusions but develops a nagging need to find out where his patient has gone and the mystery behind the infamous Academy she spoke so much about.
Being a fan of the 1977 film, I was highly skeptical of this remake. However, I came out of this film with more thoughts than anything. Good thoughts, in fact. This film felt like a rebirth, or more a revision of the film I love. One that I could watch with an appreciated fondness for the old and new, but separate them as two very different artistic masterpieces.
Luca Guadagnino does a criminally brilliant job. He develops this story around the setting of West Berlin in 1977. It leads to this ominous feeling within this dark and dreary plane. It departs from that beautiful Giallo technicolor of the original and moves it into a tragedy and war-torn time that you feel throughout. The entire film is built on dance, and Guadagnino also develops a sort-of dance within the dance. The witches are dancing around the information being told. The dancers dance around trying to get ready for the play. Madame Blanc dances around letting Susie be a new vessel. Susie dances around the part where she knows more than she does. It feels like everyone dances around each other, while the main crux of the story still stays the same.
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s (Call Me By Your Name) camera work displays this as well. It feels like you’re apart of whatever’s happening on the screen, dancing with everyone so that you understand what’s doing on. Guadagnino and Mukdeeprom only give you so much information though. You feel like you’re gliding from one act to the other. You’re trying to keep breathing as you’re searching for when this story will let you rest. However, it’s good that it doesn’t, because some of the genuine parts of the story keep you in constant motion.
Something that completely took me by surprise was David Kajganich’s script. It’s drop-dead gorgeous. He brings more of the original screenplay out but seizes it with Guadagnino’s vision that brings everything together in a very strange way that you wouldn’t expect. One thing about the Kajganich’s script that was something to marvel was the way he played with everything to do with the witches. In the original, you knew that witches were around, you knew they were there, but it was somewhat subtle. Now, it’s no fucking secrets to be had. It slowly builds and when it does it hits you something fierce.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I want to compare this script to Darren Aronofsky’s mother! Before you yell at me, let me explain a little bit. I’m still not sure how to feel about mother!, but there is a build-up in that film that can be very much compared to what Aronofsky did in that script to what Kajganich excellently executes with his script.
They are two very different movies that very much garner a build-up of information, characters and more to play out in front of your eyes. On one side, mother! does this build-up, but towards the epic climax of the film, it doesn’t let you come off the plateau that’s built up throughout. It carries you to the end with no real resolve or chance. Just that feeling of “oh boy, it’s happening again.”
Meanwhile, Kajganich’s script lets you breathe at certain points. It gives you a lot of information scattered throughout to piece together. You’re able to carry on, lean forward, and get invested. In the end, he’s allowed to go full batshit. He spills that information you knew was perhaps coming, all while letting you come down with the epilogue.
I can go on about this analysis of the script, but comparing it to mother! is probably the best thing to compare it to. Its out of this world, riddled with new ideas that very much come together in the epilogue. This remake departs from Argento and Nicolodi and gives it something that only Kajganich could write with Guadagnino at the helm.
In the acting department, I can’t praise everyone enough for what they do throughout this film. Every single person was incredible from start to finish that you can’t find a flaw in them even if you tried. When the genuinely bonkers shit happens, everyone completely nails it until the very end.
Dakota Johnson as Susie conquers the small-town girl finally realizing not only her sensuality within dance but also her sexuality. Johnson’s take on Susie is one that takes a liberated step towards giving yourself over to dance completely. It’s also a take on becoming your true self in the process. One thing about Johnson is that she conveys the sexuality part so easily for reason (ex: Fifty Shades of Grey), but with this, you FEEL it.
One thing that makes me uncomfortable, but reeled me in is her heavy breathing as she dances. It’s exhaustion when she does it. That’s the kind of sounds you expect from someone giving it their all. It becomes a stable of the film and every time Susie dances, you fucking FEEL it. It’s inside of you, and you start breathing heavy as well. It’s a strange type of feeling, but every time she danced with the girls and that heavy breathing came about, I got chills. I know you’re reading this thinking, what the fuck, but trust, I don’t know either.
Tilda Swinton is a goddamn dream in this film. I rarely ever think Tilda Swinton is sexy. In Suspiria, I legit wanted to be apart of the mothers so that I can get close to her. As Madame Blanc, she’s such an observant, soft and ethereal type of woman that can ring up a philosophy of dance so beautifully.
At times in the films, it feels like Blanc floats. She carries such a softness to her that is unbelievable warm to the girls in her academy. At other times, she feels cold and malicious, especially when a girl doesn’t listen or one of the mothers tries to question her about her actions. Swinton is someone who can do whatever the fuck she wants and give so much of herself that it’s disgustingly beautiful to watch. I’m not going to talk about the surprises of what other roles she plays in the film. I think you need to experience it without my giving that away.
There’s one person in this cast that we’ve been sleeping on since her debut, and that person is Mia Goth. She’s one of those actresses that can do whatever she wants to do, and it’s incredible to watch her.
In Suspiria, not only is Mia picture-perfect perfection in this film as Sara Simms, but she completely charms you and captures you right when she gets on the screen. She’s quite the opposite of Susie which is almost refreshing by a particular part of the film. Sara feels like our normal. Susie is our lead, but something about Goth as Sara feels like we’re more or less HER in this scenario. We can comfortably identify with her rather than Susie. Which, again is a breath of fresh air by a certain point. Mia is one of the brightest stand-out stars of this entire movie and going to be a top contender for films to come.
Verdict: WATCH IT.
Suspiria might not be everyone’s jam and THAT’S OKAY. But, if you are a fan of the original film, you will only find concepts of that film in this version. If you are looking for technicolor-neon vibed storytelling, rethink everything that you know for this new dark, snowy depressing vision of West Berlin. Its a dancing witches dream movie. Suspiria is a story that’s worth your time and attention even if things are changed.