Suspiria ★★★

2018 Ranked

Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria is a story of pain, repression, tyranny, and conflict. He takes the Berlin dance academy at the center of Dario Argento’s original and emphasizes its setting in a post-WWII Germany, still reeling from the social and political aftermath of The Third Reich. In Guadagnino’s interpretation of Argento’s film we see a rare thing, a director paying homage to the classic film he is adapting yet refusing to steal from it or minimize its legacy by creating an ill-conceived knockoff. I did not see eye to eye with Guadagnino’s vision for Suspiria, but it isn’t because of Guadagnino’s lack of effort or care demonstrated in adapting the original.

Four films I’ve seen from Guadagnino, and four films I’ve seen an impressive grasp of the mise-en-scene for each of his stories. The lovely, tranquil setting of Call Me By Your Name is enough to prompt audiences to rethink their next vacation destination, and the stern and prideful appearance of the Italian upper class in I Am Love is conveyed even in the family’s living arrangements. But in Suspiria, the effect of Guadagnino’s mise-en-scene is minimized by mismatched editing, music, and over-the-top CGI blood spurts that reverse an immersive quality that is otherwise attained. Furthermore, how much attention and screentime to dedicate within each locale of its dual setting (dance academy & post-fascist Germany) can also be at odds despite the film being laden with detail and symbolism. Suspiria’s blood red-infused final act and aftermath doesn’t quite seem to come to peace with or unify the film’s thematic overtones.

Still though, I can’t help but be impressed by what Guadagnino has done with Suspiria. I see undertones of the original, Eyes Wide Shut, and even Salo within Guadagnino’s adaptation, yet nothing that appears as cheap mimicry or over-simplification of the setting or themes contained within these stories. A tall order indeed given the minds behind these films: Argento, Kubrick, and Pasolini.

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