If you would like to read my review of the original Suspiria, click here.
Synopsis: A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up. (Amazon Studios)
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, and Mia Goth
Writer: David Kajganich
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Rating: 18A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 152mins
In an age of remakes, here comes a film based on a 1977 film of the same name but this new film is not a remake but rather a reimagining of the classic. While both films obviously share some similarities, this new film takes the story from the original and goes even further. How does it do so? This new film is almost twice as long as the original with a running time of 150+ minutes compared the original’s 90+ minutes. The big risk here was that the original was simple yet effective while this film takes some liberties with the original story and adding even more to it.
The problem with playing with what was already a simple story is that it could potentially lose viewers. Unfortunately, that very well may be the case here. As mentioned, instead of going with the story from the original, this film gives the events of the original more of a historical significance by setting it in 1977’s Cold War era Berlin. Told in 6 acts and an epilogue, the story was still about a dancer named Susie Bannion (Johnson) who joins a world-renowned German dance company near the remnants of the Berlin wall that wasn’t exactly what it seemed. As opposed to the original, this film doesn’t try to hide who (and sometimes what) was really behind what was happening.
Another difference between both films is that there were more characters to follow this time around. Bannion was only a small part of the whole story. This time, she was an unproven dancer who wanted to fit in and impress her idol and the dance company’s artistic director, Madame Blanc (Swinton). Bannion impressed Blanc and quickly moved up the ranks but unbeknownst to her, she would be pawn in a bigger game behind the scenes amongst the many crazy matrons behind the company’s power structure. They were divided, however, Bannion wasn’t the first dancer they had previously targeted another dancer named Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz).
Another big character was a psychotherapist named Dr. Josef Klemperer (also Swinton) who just happened to be treating Patricia. Patricia was definitely disturbed and suffered from delusions about the dance company, believing that she was in danger, for which we knew were true but what Klemperer dismissed as simply delusions. Despite this, Patricia still gave him a book about the story behind her delusions. He never took her overly seriously until she went missing and was presumed dead. He perhaps had another motive in helping Patricia as he did not want to lose another young woman like he had lost his wife during WWII.
Over the course of the film, Blanc and Bannion became closer with Blanc arguably seeing herself in Bannion. Bannion also befriended Patricia’s friend Sara (Goth), later becoming neighbors at the company. Sara’s concern about her friend would get herself in trouble as would anyone else that tried to expose the matrons. Without giving anything away, Bannion, Klemperer, and all the others would find themselves part of a sequence that will divide and confound viewers but it is one that they will remember and will surely be talking about for a long time to come (whether they want to or not). It is a sequence that is difficult to describe other than beautiful, bloody, and very violent chaos.
The film had been slowly building up to that moment, making it stand out even more by giving us a steady diet of greys and browns set pieces and costumes with the only color being Bannion’s braid of red hair for the longest time. Just like the original, this new film’s intention is to get under your skin more than scare you and for that it succeeds. The unsettling score and camerawork, especially in that end sequence, help create a gloomy atmosphere and palpable sense of tension and dread throughout thanks to some grainy cinematography, stylish editing, immersive sound design, and an engaging score. Even the choreography was worth mentioning, bringing the ballet scenes to life.
The performances were great across the board as well. Reuniting with Guadagnino, Johnson as Bannion continues her great run as of late, continuing to be compelling to watch while transforming on screen. Along those lines, she had excellent chemistry with Swinton, another frequent Guadagnino contributor, as Madame Blanc, forming a real bond. Klemperer may have been an unnecessary character but the impressive work to bring him to life should not be overlooked because of this. Either way, Swinton, in her own right breathes plenty of life into the character enough so that it’s easy to forget that he was played by a woman. Without giving anything away, she should also be commended for playing a third role. Goth was great as Sara in the limited time she had.
Overall, this was an excellent horror film that will surely divide viewers but it will also be one that will be hard to forget. It may be a heavier story compared to the original by giving it a more historical backdrop, however, it doesn’t always work and you don’t have to watch the original to understand this film. Despite this, it is still engaging and beautiful to watch as it effectively creates tension and atmosphere that keeps you on edge gets under your skin until its bloody climax. The performances were great, including a rare triple turn from Tilda Swinton. While it may be slightly too long for some the passion from Guadagnino is evident throughout. Ultimately, this was a film that paid homage to the original while making it its own.
*Suspiria is currently in theatres in NY and LA and will expands in more U.S. theatres and opens in select Canadian theatres on November 2nd*
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