Film Review: Suspiria

Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria is a sway which builds to a cacophony. It is quite the cinematic experience.

American student Susie Bannion travels to Berlin to audition at a famous dance company. But not everything is quite what it seems, with Susie taking the room of a girl who was seeing a psychotherapist about her delusions…

After the success of Call Me By Your Name, director Luca Guadagnino’s latest project is an interesting one. A remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 Giallo classic Suspiria, it certainly piques the interest. This is heightened by the choice of cast and the addition of music by Thom Yorke.

The film itself projects itself as a fever dream. And in a sense it is. Guadagnino creates a picture with a mesmeric quality. Suspiria feels restrained at times, which makes the more frenzied sequences even more startling. The narrative is divided into six acts, with the descent into delirium increasing as the film progresses. 

The introduction of Patricia talking to the psychiatrist works well. It sets the scene nicely, giving audience an insight into what is going on at the dance school as well as the socio-political climate of the time. A theme running along the duration is the Lufthansa hijacking crisis. It gives a sense of the upheaval at the time. The decision to set the film in 1977 (not just as a homage to the original) is smart. Witchcraft is perhaps an allegory then for liberation in a time of restriction.

The film relies on an understated fear rather than going for the jugular. The macabre is uneasy rather than horrifying here. There is gore to be had; Suspiria dishes this out in spades, but restricts it to a handful of sequences. Guadagnino’s film has the hallmarks of body horror. It differs in a number of ways from the original; these changes are welcome in distinguishing the film. The different kind of agency given to Susie, for example, is a nice touch.

Dakota Johnson delivers a good performance as Susie. Tilda Swinton is as bewitching as ever, and Mia Goth provides solid support. Art direction, special effects, and choreography are all superb. Yorke’s score works well overall. The addition of song in the climactic scene seems a bit jarring, but this is presumably what Guadagnino was aiming for.

Suspiria distinguishes itself enough from the original, whilst retaining the essence of the story. It is hard not to get caught up in the film’s turbulent rhythm.

Suspiria is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

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