Suspiria ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

This remains one of the most layered and thematically rich horror films I’ve ever seen. Each time I watch it I come away with some new understanding. In the past, I’ve seen it as a story of internal turmoil expressed externally (this reading marries perfectly with its central juxtaposition of dance and violence), a story about motherhood, the parallels between witchcraft and lesbianism, and many many other things! But what I took away after this watch was… a critique of arts education??

I had a conversation with my incredible clarinet professor shortly before graduating where we discussed the different ways in which classical performers approach pedagogy. For those not in the classical world, it is a very hierarchical environment in which many of the most prominent performers in the field (and even just in their respective institutions) believe themselves to be gods. They are not. Many of these incredible performers (almost exclusively men, btw - orchestra demographics are absolutely ridiculous in how homogenous they still are) make for awful teachers because they cannot set aside their ego. Their goal is to preserve their legacy by turning their students into clones of them rather than help them become their own musician.

“When you dance the dance of another, you make yourself in the image of its creator. You empty yourself so her work can live within you.”

This sentiment is taken to its literal extreme in Suspiria - Markos is a legend, a god within the dance company. But her refusal to remove her claws from the company and let it continue without her perverts her legacy. She is grotesque, a heap of rotted skin and viscera. Markos is not a god. Mother Suspiriorum comes to her in the form of Susie Bannion - she is young, innocent. Her artistic power is stunning. And because of this, Markos’ only thought is to hollow her out and turn her into only a vessel. At what point does legacy end and ego begin? At what point is the artistic promise of a young student effectively destroyed in the attempt for the teacher to remain relevant?

Only in setting aside the ego and helping the pupil to become what they are capable can one truly fill the role of the teacher. 

“This isn’t vanity. This is art.”

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