This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Harry Wasser’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
This movie is absolutely incredible, definitely one of my favorites of the year.
That being said, I can see why it’s considered such a polarizing film, and why it isn’t some people’s cup of tea, but in my opinion there’s just so much here that’s done right. Not only done right, but done so in such a bold, new, and creative way, so much so that even the few missteps it has don’t bother me as I commend the effort.
First things first. As a “remake” this is a very different film from the original, which I love about it. Now I have two incredible films to watch. In fact, the closest link between the two is the fact that both were incredibly bizarre and unique horror films for their time, and it’s that innovation that kept me entranced with both films.
The score is a thing of beauty. Thom Yorke straight up sat down Johnny Greenwood and showed him how to score a film. I’ve listened to the main theme, Suspirium, about six times already since seeing the film.
The performances in this film are in my opinion all superb. Dakota Johnson was better than I have ever seen her, and I really hope this is indicative of her future career. Mia Goth and Chloë Grace Moretz turn in admirable supporting performances, as do the host of older actresses playing the coven. The real ringleader however is of course Tilda, who is gunning for that gold (look out Gaga! She ate a chicken wing!!), delivering not just one but two nuanced and provocative performances! I know that at times it seemed a little bizarre to have Tilda play the old dude instead of just getting an old dude but come on! Tilda just flexed on all of us!
The camerawork, pacing, and structure of this film, basically all of the aesthetic components, are breathtaking. My hat is off and I am giving the deepest bow to Guadagnino. I did not really like CMBYN; he is fully redeemed now in my eyes. You have to see this all for yourself, but the quick push-ins, crazy angles, and masterful editing create such a unique and bizarre feel to this film, one that had me euphoric at moments and left my stomachs roiling at others.
But aside from my intense enjoyment in all of these aspects of the film, I loved what it had to say, how it said it, and how it used the environment of the characters.
Throwing aside Dario’s original classic final girl ending, we get an inversion of this horror trope with the revelation that Susie has been the films biggest “evil” the whole time, and that the course of the film is not building her revelation that those around her are witches, but that she is one and has been. I put evil in quotes here because to me, it’s not about good and bad with these witches. This is a film about female empowerment, about women being able to find strength that they already possess, not being given it by others. So much of the imagery and dialogue conjures thoughts of the history of witchcraft as a means of discrediting the voices and actions of outgoing women through history. Susie’s admonishment of Josef at the films conclusion comes across as pity over anger. He is just a foolish man who, as she puts it, put aside the real concerns of the women who came to him, writing them off as delusion. The climax of the film shows Susie reaching this full power that she’s always possessed. She doesn’t take the magical strength of Mother Markos or Madame Blanc, or go to Josef to save her. Mother Suspiriorum: “I am she”
I loved the political backdrop of 1977 Berlin. The use of the fracture between East and West Berlin, as well as the conflict with the RAF, all played very well with the fracturing within the coven between the Blancites and the Markites. The Argento film focused solely on the goings on at the academy, which leads to an isolated tale about witches and fantasy. Guadagnino makes a world within our own. Like the soundtrack crafter meticulously by Yorke, everything is building. Change is coming, and it will bring blood for some, and power to others.