Sunday, November 04, 2018

Suspiria (2018 film)

Based on the 1977 film by Dario Argento that was written by Argento and Daria Nicolodi that partially based on Thomas de Quincey’s essay Suspiria de Profundis (Sighs from the Depths), Suspiria is the story of an American ballet student who travels 1977 West Berlin to enroll at a prestigious dance academy unaware that it’s run by a coven of witches. Directed by Luca Guadagnino and screenplay by David Kajganich, the film is a homage to Argento’s film while exploring the many mysteries a young woman encounters at this dance academy. Starring Dakota Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia Goth, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Craven, Sylvie Testud, Fabrizia Sacchi, Malgosia Bela, with special appearances from Jessica Harper, Lutz Ebersdorf, and Tilda Swinton. Suspiria is an enthralling and horrifying film from Luca Guadagnino.

Set in the fall of 1977 in Berlin during one of the city’s most tumultuous events relating to the German Autumn involving the kidnapping and murder of industrialist Hanns Martin Schyleyer as well as the Lufthansa Flight 181 hijacking. The film is about an American ballet student who is accepted at a prestigious dance school unaware that it’s run by a coven of witches as mysterious disappearances and events occur during the school. While the film is similar to its original film by Dario Argento in 1977, it’s told in a different take as it is set during a moment in time where a generation of young Germans cope with the sins of World War II and the guilt they have over the events of the past. Even as this coven believe they have something that can bring them back to prominence following a period of seclusion following World War II.

David Kajganich’s screenplay is told through six acts plus an epilogue as it explore the life of a dance studio in 1977 Berlin where it’s divided by the Berlin Wall as the studio is set in West Berlin just close to the wall. The main protagonist in Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) is a newcomer to the studio as she is revealed to come from a Mennonite community in Ohio where she is dealing with the her ailing mother (Malgosia Bela). Bannion’s arrival comes in at the right moment when a dancer in Patricia Hingle (Chloe Grace Moretz) had left the school mysteriously where lead choreographer Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) takes great notice of Bannion’s gift as a dancer believing she has something special to offer for a special dance piece she wants to direct. While Bannion would adjust to her new living situation and befriend fellow dancer Sara Simms (Mia Goth), she would notice that something is up as would Simms who becomes concerned with another disappearance of a dancer.

Hingle would play a key element to the plot early in the film as she drops off a diary and notes to psychotherapist Dr. Josef Klemperer (Lutz Ebersdorf) who is dismissive of her claims until he notices that she has disappeared where he believes something isn’t right as he would later turn to Simms for help. During the course of the film, there is a discussion among those who run the school about who should become the coven’s new leader as many prefer the mysterious Mother Markos (Tilda Swinton) instead of Madame Blanc who is concerned with this venture just as many in the coven believe that Bannion is the one to bring the coven back to prominence with Madame Blanc watching closely. Even as the eventual performance would play into everything Madame Blanc has been preparing for, it also has these elements that prove that it’s something much bigger in what is to come for Bannion to discover.

Luca Guadagnino’s direction is definitely riveting in terms of the setting, the time period, and the sense of intrigue that is happening in and out of the dance academy along with bits of scenes at Ohio which Bannion would think about from time to time. Shot on various locations in Varese, Italy and parts of Berlin, the film does play into this moment in time where it is chaotic with protests over what is happening in Germany in relation to the events of the times. Guadagnino’s direction would emphasize on stylistic shots that do bear elements of what Dario Argento did with the original film but it’s more restrained in the compositions with an emphasis on the physicality of the dancing. With the aid of choreographer Damien Jalet, the dancing and ballet has an intensity in the movements where it helps tell the story as well as play into something much bigger relating to the world of the witches as well as the mysteries that is happening inside the dance studio. Guadagnino would use wide and medium shots for some of the dancing to get a scope of the performances as well as some terrifying moments in Bannion’s performance in close-ups that would be inter-cut with something else happening that play into what the coven wants.

Guadagnino would also emphasize on atmosphere since the film is set during the autumn and winter of 1977 where there is a more realistic look rather than the more heightened usage of colors that Argento did in the original. Particularly as it help play into the sense of terror that is coming relating to this ceremony where Bannion is at the center of the ceremony unaware of what her role is. There is not just this idea of surrealism but also horror of the most extreme with revelations about a world that proves to be no different from what is happening in 1977 Germany with the political and social turmoil that is happening. Even as it emphasizes this element of guilt of past actions that a future generation has to cope with as well as the idea of motherhood in what one expects to teach a younger generation right from wrong. Overall, Guadagnino crafts an evocative yet visceral film about a young American woman being accepted at a prestigious dance academy run by a mysterious coven of witches in 1977 Berlin.

Cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key colors and lighting that help play into the eerie tone of the film without being overly stylized as well as using light for the interiors as well as the big dance number in the film. Editor Walter Fasano does amazing work with the editing as its usage of rhythmic and jump-cuts help play into the energy of the dance and suspense as well as in some of the film’s dramatic moments. Production designer Inbal Weinberg, with set decorators Christin Busse and Merissa Lombardo plus art directors Merlin Ortner and Monica Sallustio, does excellent work with the look of the dance studio as well as some of the rooms and secret places including the room of mirrors and the homes of Dr. Klemperer in both East and West Berlin. Costume designer Giulia Piersanti does fantastic work with the costumes from the stylish late 1970s dresses the women wore when they go out to the costume they wear for the dance scene.

Prosthetic makeup designer Mark Coulier does incredible work with the makeup for some eerie sequences that include elements of the third act in the unveiling of Mother Markos as well as other things including a horrendous scene early in the film. Special effects supervisor Franco Ragusa and visual effects supervisor Luca Saviotti do superb work with the special effects that include some of the moments of horror as well as bits of set-dressing in some parts of the film. Sound designer Frank Kruse does marvelous work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the locations and dance numbers to showcase how sparse the sound of movements are as it is one of the film’s highlights. The film’s music by Thom Yorke is phenomenal for its mixture of low-key piano-based orchestral music, ambient, and Krautrock-inspired cuts as it help play into the suspense and drama while music supervisor Robin Urdang provides a soundtrack that features bits of classical music pieces and some of the music that was popular in Germany at the time.

The casting by Stella Savino is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Fred Keleman and Mikael Olsson as a couple of police investigators who try to investigate the academy following claims from Dr. Klemperer, Malgosia Bela as Bannion’s ailing mother, Alek Wek as one of the dance teachers in Miss Millius, Vanda Capriolo as a dancer in Alberta who shows Bannion how to jump high for the dance, Sylvie Testud as the big glasses-wearing yet mysterious Miss Griffith who never says anything, Renee Soutendijk as a teacher in Miss Huller, Ingrid Caven as another teacher who kind of runs the place in Miss Vendegast, and Jessica Harper in a brief yet terrific one-scene cameo as Dr. Klemperer’s wife Anke. Elena Fokina is superb as a Soviet dancer in Olga Ivanova who is despondent over Patricia’s disappearance as she suspects the school staff while Angela Winkler is wonderful as Miss Tanner as a teacher who is Madame Blanc’s most trusted confidant as she knows something doesn’t feel right. Chloe Grace Moretz is fantastic as Patricia Hingle as it’s a small yet crucial performance of a dancer who is on the run as she’s made some discoveries about the dance academy.

Mia Goth is excellent as Sara Simms as a dancer who befriends Bannion and becomes her closest confidant while being aware that something isn’t right as it relates to the disappearances where she would help out Dr. Klemperer. Dakota Johnson is brilliant as Susie Bannion as a young American dancer who travels to Berlin from a sheltered environment as she deals with her gifts as a dancer as well as her own sexual awakening through the dance and coping with the mysteries surrounding the academy. Lutz Ebersdorf is amazing as Dr. Josef Klemperer as a psychotherapist still pondering about the whereabouts of his wife as he deals with what Hingle has discovered believing that some form of evil is emerging. Finally, there’s Tilda Swinton in an incredible dual performance as Mother Marko and Madame Blanc as she only appears briefly as the former due to its look while provides a straightforward yet maternal approach in the latter as someone who is trying to run a school and do things for the coven while being aware that something is off just as she is becoming concerned for Bannion’s physical and mental state of mind.

Suspiria is a tremendous film from Luca Guadagnino. Featuring a phenomenal ensemble cast, eerie visuals, Thom Yorke’s intoxicating score, brooding sound design, and a provocative story that touches upon many themes of guilt, identity, and motherhood. It’s a film that is confrontational in its themes but also play into the idea of a world that a young woman is about to venture into that is just as terrifying as the real world that is happening around her. In the end, Suspiria is an outstanding film from Luca Guadagnino.

Related: Suspiria (1977 film) - (Goblin-Suspiria OST) - (Thom Yorke-Suspiria OST)

Luca Guadagnino Films: (The Protagonists) - (Tilda Swinton: The Love Factory) - (Mundo civilzado) - (Cuoco contadino) - (Melissa P.) - (The Love Factory No. 3 Pippo Delbono - Bisogna morire) - I Am Love - (Bertolucci on Bertolucci) – A Bigger Splash - Call Me by Your Name - The Staggering Girl - (Fiori, Fiori, Fiori) – (Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams) – (We Are Who We Are (2020 TV series)) – Bones & All – (Challengers (2023 film))

© thevoid99 2018


Brittani Burnham said...

I'm going to try to see this sometime this week. I'm interested in how it compares to the original even though it looks so different.

keith71_98 said...

Hearing some good things about this one. Still haven't seen it.

Jay said...

Oh man you're killing me with this, can't wait!

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-It's a completely different film from the original except in the fact that it shared the same story. There's a few visual homages to the original but that is pretty much it. I do hope you see it as I'm glad I saw it as my multiplex is pulling it after a one-week run. Typical.

@keith71_98-If you're expecting anything like the original, don't. It's an entirely different beast and it's fucking shocking.

@Jay-See it! It has to be seen on the big screen and it's totally out of this fucking world.

TheVern said...

Great review. I had no idea about the run time until the epilogue. Suspiria put me into a trance and I just watched the original the night before. Learning about Germany going through it's guilt after WWII in the late 70's and other characters going through thier forms of guilt. Makes me want to see this again to understand what I missed. Argento's version is still my favorite but I love going back to Guadagnino's adaptation to discover more about it.

Oh BTW You did know that's Tilda Swinton playing Josef. The psychiatrist who is helping Sara(Mia Goth) investigate the school?

thevoid99 said...

@TheVern-I'm not sure which version I prefer as I feel like they're totally different films as the only thing they share is the story. I knew it was long but it didn't feel like it for me. That's one of the film's strengths as all of that intrigue sucked me.

It took me a while to realize it's her but... shh... you're spoiling the film for those that haven't seen it.

Yet, you got to admit they did an impressive job on the makeup including Josef's penis.

Chris said...

Remember you said you love Radiohead so I guess the new soundtrack was what you wanted! To me, the 1977 film needed the music to cast its spell and would have been a weaker without the iconic score. Argento's screenplay is ripe for improvement, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it's been expanded.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-Well, it's not exactly a remake other than the basic story. It is an entirely different beast of a film. Don't expect anything that resembled anything Argento did other than a few shots. It's much more physical and much darker in tone. It's very confrontational and I can see why it has polarized audiences. Yet, I'm in that camp that fucking loves it.