Suspiria ★★★★½

FILM ANALYSIS PART TWO: Suspiria Directed Luca Guadagnino

For the second part of my film analysis series, I will be focusing on Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria. Luca Guadagnino’s vision for Suspiria is technically a remake but at heart it’s a reworking of Dario Argento’s cult classic. In my opinion, this was the best possible outcome for a remake. Guadagnino only borrows the barebones from the original while taking leaps and bounds compared to the originals grounded state of horror. At the end of the day, I believe both films are both masterpieces of cinema in their own regards. 2018’s Suspira happens to be rich with analysis. The film is broken up into six acts and an epilogue so I will be breaking down the film section by section. Enjoy! Also, major spoilers throughout.

Act 1: 1977

Off the bat, it is clear that Guadagnino’s remake is a complete 180 compared to the 1977 version. The 1977 version contains a wide ranged bright neon color palette. Guadagnino establishes Berlin in a more realistic and drowned out state. Berlin is ominous, gloomy, depressing, and both physically and mentally draining. One cannot help but notice dread in the air as tension is at an all-time high. Berlin is suffering from the post-war effects and everyone there can fell it, especially our main characters. Who can trust who? Paranoia takes a front seat within the opening minutes.
Back in Ohio, an equally gloomy place especially with death in the air. Susie’s mother awaits her last days in her death bed. Through clear cut imagery it is clear that Susie’s family has a strong faith in religion and their lord but at this point, it seems hope is diminishing. After her mother’s death, Susie ventures to Berlin to follow her ambitions in dancing. The academy she arrives at is overpowering from an architectural standpoint. From the jagged designs to the shifting patterns, this is nothing like Ohio. We are treated to Susie’s first dance. It is both entrancing and deranged. This catches Madame Blanc’s eye. Both her and Susie realize there is obvious energy gravitating towards each other. This is the start of something sinister.

Act 2: Palaces of Tears

Traveling through Berlin is a hassle. Precautions are put in place making it very close-knit. After many stops, Doctor Klemperer arrives at his country house. The house serves as a constant reminder of his wife. On the corner of the house as you walk towards the front door is a heart containing the initials A&J. The time spent here is purposeful for Klemperer as it is a beacon of their former love.

At the academy, Patricia’s disappearance is weighing heavy on everyone, her replacement Olga most of all. Suspicion is running through everyone’s mind, but Olga suspects the most outlandish outcome. Olga walks out leaving the lead spot in the dance open. Susie volunteers and Madame Blanc is surprised yet encouraged that her hopes were coming to fruition. Destiny is playing out before our eyes.

Susie has a rusty start and Blanc is keen to help. Blanc transmits her energy into Susie thus giving her perfection in her dancing while a ritual ensues for Olga. Olga suddenly perspires with a vast number of tears. Olga is then trapped. The next couple of excruciating minutes show off Blanc’s otherworldly gifts. Susie continues the dance in a whole different state than she started in. Her movements then begin to slightly mimic Olga’s violent torture. Olga is thrown violently across the room leaving her in a horrific state of grotesque body horror.

Later that night Susie is treated to her first of many dreams from the academy’s matrons. The dream contains mystifying imagery ranging from dark tunnels to shattered glass. There are haunting images of a black creature and Madame Blanc foreshadowing what is to come. Most important of all we learn key details about Susie’s troubled childhood. Susie had always been fascinated with Berlin and her mother detracted her from it. To make the flashbacks even more troubling, Susie’s mother was violently abusive to her.

Act 3: Borrowing

Police officers searching for Patricia pay the academy a visit. The officers are escorted into the office not knowing what they are about to get into. While this is happening Susie and Sara sneak into the same office to retrieve personal info on either Olga or Patricia. While Sara is looking and not finding any luck, Susie ventures into the back room to find an uncomfortable discovery. The officers have been placed into a hypnotic state while the matrons have left the officers in a state of embarrassment and exposure. Masculinity in Suspiria is played with a very unsavory way. The officer’s genitals are toyed with in a way where the matrons find amusement. Even the main male character is played by a female. The male figure is not put in a great light here.

The dancers return to the studio to perform a new dance. The dance is called “Open Again”, the song plays with themes of rebirth. Susie is instructed to improvise to test her instincts. The song’s themes and her instructions to improvise based off instincts obviously play off each other. Susie dances and beholds Mother Markos is below her drawing a unique connection to Susie’s presence. Mother Markos is running out of time and needs this new girl quickly to save herself. Blanc is hesitant, it’s obvious that Susie is one of the most special specimens she has recruited into the academy. Blanc wants to spend her time with Susie before she is subject to Mother Markos’s plans. That night, Madame Blanc sends Susie another dream. This time the dream is full of blood lust. The bound energy they have created is dawning closer and closer on Susie.

Act 4: Taking

“These are professional performers, illusion is their craft”

The matrons now have a firm grasp on the officers. It is now believed Patricia is a terrorist suspect. From her “plans” in her notebook to the sudden emergence of flyers singling her out as a suspect, it is all a ploy set up from the matrons. The doctor meets the officers and as he voices his concerns an assistant dials away at her typewriter word for word. It’s safe to say this write up is for the coven to keep track of suspicious activity towards their academy.
Madame Blanc treats Susie to more practice to improve her jumps. Blanc delivers a speech about her possible role her at the academy in the dance of another creator. This is highly metaphorical for her role as Mother Markos’s vessel. That night Sara ventures into the depths of the academy to find expensive sculptures and ritual items. Most important is the painting of Mother Markos and Madame Blanc made out of human hair and skin.

Sara now realizes it’s time to repay the doctor a visit with her disturbing findings. The doctor reveals to Sara that there are three supernatural mothers predating Christian times. One of those mothers is most likely stationed at the academy. The doctor still has some speculations about this theory but witches or not, these are dangerous individuals. Leaving the doctors place, Sara sees one of the head ladies across the street but suddenly disappears behind some people. They know of her suspicions and they have their eye on her and Sara is wary of that now.

We get another flashback delving into Susie’s past. Susie’s mother thought of her as her “sin”. This explains all of the abuse and neglect.

Act 5: In the Mutterhaus (All the Floors are Darkness)

This night marks the big event. Beforehand, Sara again finds herself in the burrows of the academy. This time it happens to be in Mother Markos’s lair. A corridor with a webbed design is home to mutilated and decomposing bodies. Upstairs, the studio floor is being lined with tape in a sacrificial way. The dance begins, spotlights shine in small spots across the studio. Volk is a haunting and eerie performance. Dancer movements can best be described as shifting energy.

After moments of confusion, Sara finds herself back in the dance in another state of mind. Sara “breaks” her leg to disregard any suspicion from her injury that she got downstairs. Later on, Susie and Madame Blanc can now telepathically communicate with each other now.

“It’s all a big mess, isn’t it? The one in here, the one out there, the one that’s coming”

Madame Blanc is obviously blindsided by the comment but more thrown off because of how fast Susie is developing. You can tell she is intimidated by her possible power.

Act Six: Suspiriorum

“Tonight. It must happen tonight”

The impending astronomical event is upon them and even Susie is now embracing it. Madame Blanc gets more and more doubtful. On the other side of town, the doctor returns to his home to find his wife. Both had thought each other was lost to the hard facts of war but what transpired is lovers being profoundly reunited again. But it was all an illusion. His wife fell to the reality of war because he didn’t listen. For the doctor, this happens to be a reoccurring theme where women around him are lost because he doesn’t believe their “delusions”.

“Women tell you the truth and you tell them they have delusions”

With the doctor present, the final ritual is underway. Madame Blanc is hesitant to go ahead because something isn’t quite right. She was right. To go ahead with the ritual Mother Markos commands Susie to expel her false motherhoods. By doing that she expels her mother and surprisingly Mother Markos. Mother Markos was never Mother Suspiriorum, Susie is she. With the help of a demon, Susie expels anyone with false motherhood towards Mother Markos. The demon leads bloody havoc upon those. This finale is gruesome and sublime but it’s oddly beautiful and cathartic.

Epilogue: A Sliced-Up Pear

“We need shame and guilt, but not yours”

Mother Suspiriorum tells the doctor of his wife’s fate. More importantly the fate of the other women he caused damage to. For that reason, his memory is wiped. He now cannot learn from his mistakes. This world and especially Berlin do not need his guilt. Fast-forward to the end of the credits, Susie is now in full swing. She spreads blood on the Berlin wall outside the academy. Mother Suspiriorum is rightfully at large where she needed to be.

Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria goes the extra mile to emphasize how fear and paranoia affects us. Whether it was through a post-war Berlin still with an inner raging political war or an academy with sinister goals. Suspira is a masterpiece in its own rights.

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