By Adam Ray Palmer
And here it is, my most anticipated film of Venezia75 from Luca Guadagnino titled Suspiria, a remake of sorts from the 1977 production.
The marketing and build up over the past few months for this movie has been nail-bitingly good, and today my nails disappeared.
In this adaptation of Suspiria, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) travels to Markos Dance Academy in Berlin, after which the artistic director, Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), becomes fascinated with her dancing skills. However, things are not as they seem. After a series of mysterious disappearances among the students, Susie, her new friend Sara (Mia Goth), and the elderly psychologist Jozef Klemperer (Lutz Ebersdorf) find out the school may harbor dark secrets that could kill them all.
We begin by meeting Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz), a ‘delusional’ dancer at the Academy, who visits Dr Klemperer because she hears ‘witches’ voices in her head. She states Madame Blanc is one of them along with two other ‘mothers’. We quickly skip a few days to meet Susie, a plucky and innocent girl with a penchant for dancing. She quickly takes Madame Blanc’s eye after an impressive audition; earning the lead role in the production, but also being the ‘chosen one’.
What follows over the next 90 minutes are six acts, each breaking up the narrative like a play. Some themes include ‘borrowing, death and re-birth’ to name a few. All acts have their own meaning and play out eerily to haunt your thoughts as the run time continues. And then it hits you, the final act is like an attack on the senses that will make you struggle to sleep for days. It’s vibrant, gory, loud and just a bit evil. Human morals are non-existent here, and it makes it so difficult to watch. Well, some critics didn’t even make it to act four before walking out so that says something.
Luca Guadagnino is no stranger to explicit filmmaking. He likes to wow his audiences, in one way or another, and he certainly does here. This will be the most divisive film of the festival, and I think of his back catalogue too. It’s 2018’s Mother! as so many people have stated, but I think that does Luca a huge disservice. As does calling Suspiria a remake… it is so much more than that. It’s original filmmaking with an adaption so complex that it might as well be its own standalone flick.
In the acting department, like The Favourite a couple of days ago, there’s another trifecta of female performances. Johnson, Swinton and Goth are all superb. With Tilda, you always know what you are getting. She’s steely, cold and expressionless – all the more haunting. Goth is pocket rocket here, she delivers a career-best and stands toe-to-toe with the leads. However, Dakota will take the headlines and rightly so. Her performance is measured, assured and Oscar worthy – at least a nomination. Her character development throughout as her confidence grows in insatiable to watch on screen – you can’t take your eyes off her.
Thom Yorke’s score, and opening/closing songs especially, is spectacular also. The soundtrack is poignant and lingering, long after the credits roll. The sharpness in tone when hysteria occurs is like a classic horror picture – goose bumps galore. I cannot praise Luca as the director without the cinematographer, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom. The framing is everything. The marriage between Mukdeeprom’s misc en scène and Guadagnino’s directing is blissful. The successful pairing worked a treat in the editing suite.
I keep reading back this review to see whether I have sold Suspiria enough, but I simply can’t quite wrap my head around it still. I need to watch it a few more times to grasp just how beautiful this filmmaking is. It’s a film that needs you to take your time, to savour the unrivalled splendour of Suspiria and let it rattle around your head. Let’s face it, that’s what is going to happen anyway…
Cineroom’s Rating: 5 stars
Suspiria is set to be released in the UK on 16th November 2018 – certificate 18