Suspiria ★★★★½

“When you dance the dance of another, you make yourself in the image of its creator”

Trauma. Motherhood. Power. Abuse. Guilt. Terror. All of these things are woven into the threads of Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria. Divided into six acts and an epilogue, Suspiria lures the audience into its politically fractured world and builds terror with a slow burn, turning from glowing embers to a full blown forest fire near the very end. 

Taking place in a divided Berlin in 1977, Suspiria revolves around American dance student Susie Bannion, coming all the way to Germany to learn at a famous dance company. As time goes on, things don’t appear as they seem at this academy. Underneath the surface, a much more sinister truth resides at the academy, a supernatural explanation— witches. Suspiria does take inspiration from the original film obviously, but I wouldn’t say this is a remake, and it somehow feels wrong to even call it a reimagination. Suspiria takes the essence of the original, but still makes its own distinct footprint in cinema. Luca adds so much more on so many levels. The muted color scheme, the political background, a heavier plot, a feminist aura. Luca’s Suspiria feels more determined in a sense, and I’d say its determination definitely pays off.

Luca proves that he’s a masterclass director once again. Some scenes in this film are just so well done I don’t even know how to describe it. Scenes like Olga’s fall and the volk dance have been imprinted into my mind. The sound design of the whole film is astounding, but the sounds in those two scenes are truly haunting. Whether it be the whooshing of bodies dancing or the sound of bones cracking, what you hear is unsettling and definitely amplifies the experience while watching the film. Act Six is also quite masterfully done sequence as well. I’m not gonna lie. While watching it unfold, I couldn’t tell if i hated Act Six or loved it. It was so intense, so shocking, so red. This whole act definitely possesses some of the most intense horror imagery i’ve seen. It’s no wonder why opinions on it are so divided, but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s an example of exquisite filmmaking. The score and cinematography elevate this film to another level. They greatly help fuel the flames of tension in the film, and make the viewing experience more dreadful. Suspiria is just a technical marvel to say the least.

The performances here are quite great. The cast is practically all women, which adds especially to the themes of motherhood and power throughout the film. These actresses do a great job demonstrating the power women have, and they make you fear them while doing their job. Dakota Johnson showcases true talent and lets you know that she is an actress you ought to watch for in Hollywood. Her performance as Susie is excellent. She captures the purity of her character in the early part of the film so well. Everything from the look in her eyes to her physical movements are filled with an innocence, but also secrecy. Particularly in the sixth act, she steals the show and truly transforms into a star. It’s splendid. Tilda Swinton of course also does excellent, but that’s no surprise. Her role as Madame Blanc, one of the academy’s most beloved teachers, is mesmerizing. She possesses a motherly persona that seems so caring and loving but so distant and intriguing. She greatly adds to the mystique of the whole film. If I was an Academy member, I’d nominate her for best supporting actress. Her work in here is just magnificent as always.

Overall, Suspiria delivers avant garde horror and definitely makes its mark as one of my favorite films this year. Everything from the trance-inducing score by Thom Yorke to the bleak cinematography done by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom add up to make one of the most memorable horror films I’ve seen. Suspiria gives us a look inside a true nightmare, where corrupted magic confronts the enemies of modern life in a thrilling way, and creates a truly enthralling theater experience.

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