Like last year’s mother! by Darren Aronofsky, Suspiria has already divided audiences at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Whilst I clapped my palms off once the credits rolled an irate audience member beside me booed furiously (we exchanged disapproving glances). The Guardian reports “it fails to bewitch,” but I beg to differ.
Lucky for us the talented directer Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name, A Bigger Splash) and smart screenwriter David Kajganich have taken this spooky subject matter very seriously. The result is some prima orrore assoluta – particularly the shocking sequence where some ubiquitous evil forces choreograph an ill-fated dance student into a très grave finale.
You don’t need to have seen the original to enjoy this movie (although I’d highly recommend that you do). It’s much more of a reimagining of Argento’s dream-tale than a remake. Guadagnino intertwines German politics and terrorism – the film is set in Berlin, 1977 (the year the original was unleashed). Plus lead character Susie gets a much meatier backstory. And dancing, there’s a lot more dancing.
Deliberately avoiding all media about the movie so I could go in knowing little it was a pleasant surprise to see Jessica Harper make an appearance. Harper played the title role of Susie in Argento’s version and with Guadagnino being Argento’s biggest fan, and good pal, this cameo was a nice nod to the original and to the fans.
Dakota Johnson is enchanting as the elite ballet dancer; Tilda Swinton is captivating, of course, as the mysterious headmistress; yet it was rising star Mia Goth’s performance that did it for me. Chloë Grace Moretz along with the other fellow students are very good, as are the teachers (or coven of witches) at the Markos Dance Academy.
Speculation sparked controversy that the role of psychoanalyst Josef Klemperer, played by a German actor named Lutz Ebersdorf in his screen debut, was in fact Tilda Swinton in heavy makeup. During the Venice Film Festival press conference when asked what it was like playing the two roles, Swinton replied, “what two roles?” followed by a wink. She even read out a letter from Klemperer himself excusing his absence from the panel.
The soundtrack to the original Suspiria is legendary. Italian band Goblin composed it working closely with Argento throughout production. This time, Guadagnino called upon Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to bring the magic, and he doesn’t disappoint. The music is definitely more mellow than it’s predecessor but suits the autumnal tone of the film.
Suspiria premiered at the 75th annual Venice International Film Festival and is scheduled to be released in Ireland in November, 2018.