Suspiria ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I have been anxiously following the production of the SUSPIRIA remake for the past ten years, at times worrying that the film would never come to fruition due to numerous false starts, scrapped screenplays, and scrapped casts. When Luca Guadagnino's remake was officially green-lit three years ago, I had no idea what to expect, apart from looking forward to seeing Tilda Swinton in the role of Madame Blanc. Now, I'm so fucking happy that this film too *this* long to make, because *this* is the only version I can ever imagine being made. It serves as a beautiful homage to the original film, while surpassing it.

I've seen the original 1977 film at least a dozen times since I was in high school, and Luca Guadagnino and David Kajganich manage to reimagine the source material in such a way that subverts nearly every expectation you might have from viewing Dario Argento's original film. Yes, there is a dance academy—well, a dance troupe in this iteration— that is run by a coven of witches. And yes, there are Three Mothers, who are the most powerful witches of them all. But the comparisons end there.

After the trailer was initially released, I was surprised that Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, having previously worked on CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, was the film's cinematographer. Unlike his previous work with Guadagnino and especially unlike the visually arresting 1977 film, the film's color palette is muted, devoid of primary colors, and dark/ominous. The political climate of 1977 Berlin seeps into nearly every frame of the film, heightening our anticipation of what is to come next.

And precisely because this 2018 "remake" subverts most expectations we have from the original film, we have no idea what's to come next. Unlike the 1977 film which relied on flat protagonists without much depth and antagonists who were simply condemned as evil witches in spite of having wholly unknown motivations, the film employs morally ambivalent characters, particularly Madame Blanc, to explore the film's most complex themes. While the coven's intentions unravel before our eyes, we slowly begin to see that Helena Markos' coven is just as divided as Berlin itself. In the film's finale, Helena Markos is revealed to be a false idol masquerading as Mother Suspiriorum before she and her followers are disposed of by Susie, who reveals herself to be the coven's true mother.

Of course, motherhood is the central theme; having escaped a physically and emotionally abusive mother upon her flight to Berlin, Susie searches for a lost maternal presence that is transmitted to her by Madame Blanc through dance, before uncovering her own capacity to mother her daughters once she absorbs the powers of the coven and assumes the role of Mother Suspiriorum. As Dr. Klemperer suggests to Sara at some point of the film, the act of mothering results in love, exploitation/abuse, or a combination of the two. And the film aptly explores both possibilities. Helena Markos seems to abuse/exploit her daughter's bodies, and Susie intends to perform the emotional labor of love and affection that her mother could not perform for her to revitalize those in her care, while the loving and affectionate Madame Blanc (perhaps unwittingly) participates in acts of violence against certain women in the troupe. And as the film's epilogue seems to suggest, should matriarchal order be inscribed, motherhood has transformative powers against violence itself.

The film somehow operates at a grander scale than the original in terms of choreography, storyline, and character development, but is somehow much smaller and more intimate too. I wasn't expecting the film to have so many emotionally affective scenes that were simply about human interaction and mothering/friendship.

This was everything I had hoped for, and more. I only wish that there was an intermission halfway through, because I was oversaturated with images and ideas, and wanted some time to process and decompress. And, I'm still not sure how I feel about the red tinting and blurriness of the ritual in Part 6. I found it to be a little distracting. This may very well be my favorite film of the year, and I look forward to seeing it again soon. Dear Amazon Studios, please green light SUSPIRIA: PART II.

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