Suspiria ★★★★★

A mother is a woman who can take the place of all others, but whose place no one else can take.

It feels strange that I’ve only seen this film three times. The first time I saw it was in theaters during its limited run, and the second was only a couple of months later for its home release. But in the four years since my last watch, it is safe to say that I have thought about this film constantly, almost daily. It has a perverse beauty to it that I have never seen done before or replicated since, and I count it among my all-time favorite films.

This film is filled with sighs, from the death rattle of Mrs. Bannion, to Susie’s deep breaths before her audition, to the rhythmic exhalation of the dancers during the black sabbath. It’s a theme that Dario Argento flirted with in his original film, but here it is the glue that holds the film together. Mother Suspiriorum is the mother of sighs, or more specifically, the mother of death, and I think that this version’s depiction of Mother Suspiriorum is much more realized than the original film ever managed to do. Małgorzata Bella, the actress who plays Susie’s mother, also plays the incarnate Death in the climax of the film. And while we never see a physical representation of Mother Suspiriorum except in the final minutes of the film, you can feel her presence from the very beginning. She’s calling for Susie, causing her to turn away from her mother’s deathbed to look to Berlin.

The dancing scenes are incredible. Once again, this is an element of the original that is toyed with but only more fully realized in this version. I love that dancing seems to be the way that the coven practices their magic, there is such a ritualistic quality to it and every time there is a dance sequence on screen I cannot take my eyes off it. It’s such an integral part to the story and I love that Guadagnino puts it front and center here.

The performances are off-the-charts good, the standout obviously being Tilda Swinton. Madame Blanc is one of the most complex characters I’ve seen in a horror film and Swinton portrays her with an electric intensity, and you don’t understand the entirety of her motivations until the ritual scene at the end. Dakota Johnson is also fantastic, this is probably the best performance of her career. Shout out to Mia Goth, I don’t think I even knew who she was the first time I saw this film, but now that we live in a post-Pearl universe she is a very welcome addition.

The queerness of Suspiria’s characters is also undeniable, from the cutesy schoolgirl crush between Susie and Sara to the palpable tension between Susie and Blanc, this film is queer-coded through and through. But perhaps the biggest queer undertone of the film is the relationship between Susie and Mother Suspiriorum herself. There is a lot of discourse surrounding when in the film Susie realizes that she is Mother Suspiriorum, and I think that is the point. That part of Susie has always been with her, and the realization of who she really is takes time.

Suspiria is easily the film I have written the most about on this app, and every time I have written a review it takes a long time for me to collect my thoughts on everything I just watched. It’s one of my favorite films because there is simply so much to talk about. I always leave feeling like I missed talking about something. I haven’t even addressed the German Autumn of 1977 and the entire political subtext of this film. I will always recommend this film to anyone who wants more than cheap thrills in their horror movies, and I’m severely depressed that Guadagnino will probably never make a sequel. Here’s hoping.


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