Suspiria ★★★½

I initially wanted to criticize Suspiria for being irresponsible in its handling of Berlin’s political climate in ’77, and the vagueness of its metaphorical implications. It’s easy to shrug the film off for its garish, willfully indulgent approach to the story and subject matter. Yes, the film’s narrative and allegorical threads never entirely mesh, but my hunch is that this irreconcilability has a lot to do with what Guadagnino’s getting at. It’s a film about the upheaval required for unification, the inevitable bloodshed, and the potential for synthesis.

I’ve read reviews claiming the film argues for the importance of guilt in remembering trauma, but that only seems like half the story. Remember, it’s the witches here who are acting fascistically, coded as analogs to Baader-Meinhof as they worship a false leader who feeds off younger dancers to subsist. But it’s also the witches who berate Dr. Klemper because of his inaction during the years leading up to the Holocaust. In effect, they become the “villains” by the end, but this sort of simple moralizing misses the point. Their cause is admirable and their radical politics have obviously come as a result of the trauma they‘ve experienced — “we must break the nose of every beautiful thing.”

I think it’s actually the film’s reluctance to give its characters a definitive moral end that has frustrated viewers. We don’t necessarily have anyone to root for, which is a notable departure from Argento’s original. We initially begin by following Suzy before the narrative slowly drifts away from her to follow Sara, and then Dr. Klemper. Every character we see is flawed, pained, and suffering in some way or another, and this film finds them trying to figure out how they want their future to take shape. In the end, it isn’t just about holding onto guilt, but also having the discipline not to let that guilt overtake you.

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