Suspiria ★★★★

Having sat with Luca Guadagnino's remake of Suspiria for a week, I am still left with a sense that the film's various thematics never quite cohere. The final image and scene pretty overtly suggest the erasure of human tragedy to time, but that feels only loosely related to other prominent ideas on display. Ultimately, that may be - if not intentional - a suitable reflection of another core theme from Suspiria: The simultaneous separation and integrity of the communal body.

Purposefully set within the divided Berlin of the late eighties, from the start Suspiria uses the bifurcated geography to suggest a body divided into parts that remain symbiotically related. Not only does the coven of witches operating out of the Markos Dance Academy reflect a similar idea (a seemingly unified group that nonetheless is motivated by individual interests), but one of the most horrifying scenes of the film relies on a literal representation of that concept. I am referring to the nightmarish imagery of Olga being folded, bent, and broken by the oblivious dancing of Dakota Johnson's Susie Bannion. In this scene, the women's bodies are located in entirely different rooms, yet Susie's motions have a direct and horrific effect on Olga. In a film that contends with ethnic genocides and revolutionary bombings, that sort of imagery implies Guadagnino is interested in the damage inflicted on a group by individual parties; or, in the inverse, damage that is allowed to happen because of apathy from individuals within the community.

While the overall clarity of that message may be muddled, Guadagnino's sense of production design and editing are not. To the former, he has found a way of muting the overall palette, yet retaining the vibrant colors of the original Argento film (mostly in title cards, subtitles, and articles of costuming). To the latter, much of the etherial, dream logic of the original film's cinematography has been translated into violently frenetic edits during the first half of the film, often to angles and compositions that de-emphasize the actor's bodies in favor of objects and architecture (possibly connoting how the impact of these bodies easily fade over time, but the cities and geography remain long after).

Whatever the cumulative effectiveness of the Suspiria remake, Guadagnino has left me eager to revisit the film, hopeful to find further connective tissue joining the seemingly disparate thematic limbs.

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