To do a remake of the 1977 classic Suspiria, one would have to do a remake that is completely brazen and bold considering how crazed the original is. Director Luca Guadagnino manages to replicate Argento’s phantasmagoric masterpiece by doing just that without making his interpretation feel like a direct copy.
Suspiria still has the same premise and the same name of the protagonist, Suzy Banyon, but it manages to feel like its own creation. Although I still can’t quite figure out what to make of this version, I still admired its ambition even though it admittedly made me nauseous during its blood-drenched climax.
As previously mentioned, the story remains similar to the original. American ballet dancer Suzy Banyon (Dakota Johnson) moves to Berlin to join a famed dance company run by a coven of witches. Once Suzy lands the lead role in an upcoming piece and becomes tutored by Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), she becomes a part of a sinister plot. However, Suzy’s fellow dancer Sara (Mia Goth) ends up being the one uncovering that mystery behind that plot and the disappearance of a dancer who fled the company named Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz).
Despite Suzy being our main character, Sara ends up being the film’s moral compass and she is played expertly by Mia Goth who is the acting MVP. Goth portrays Sara with such naturalistic warmth and empathy that we’re just praying that the worst doesn’t happen to her. Tilda Swinton is terrific because, duh, she’s Tilda Swinton. She’s great in everything she does and we even get a triple dosage of Tilda since she plays three roles. Also, Dakota Johnson brilliantly plays the suspiciously detached Suzy. However, it’s Mia Goth who steals the show.
Of course, it’s hard to talk about a Luca Guadagnino film without talking about the way it’s shot. After capturing the utopian feel of the sunny, Italian setting of Call Me By Your Name, both he and cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom brilliantly capture a deceitful underworld that is both drained of color above the surface and drenched in shadow in the hidden places where the witches keep their dark secrets.
The witches hide their secrets from their dancers. However, the fact they’re witches isn’t hidden for the viewers allows the supernatural storyline to be pretty grounded in realism. When they’re discussing their plans for the coven, they do so in a nonchalant manner. Rather than engage in discussion while reading from a spellbook or using another form of cliche, the witches talk about their planned schemes while drinking coffee which is a simplistic technique makes them appear more normal than they are.
Along with the moody score by Thom Yorke, the acting, the cinematography, and the realistic depiction of the supernatural are the highlights of the movie. Everything else doesn’t exactly fall flat but still puts this film in the middle. For instance, this movie is way too long. It’s about 2 hours and 30 minutes long but probably should’ve been about 30 minutes shorter. Also, it is uncertain as to how the historical events which the film depicts tie into the storyline.
It’s easily one of those movies that requires more than one viewing to dig a little deeper into what the film is attempting to convey. Whether I will go back and rewatch it anytime soon remains to be seen because again, the length was a slight problem for me. But to anyone who watches it for the first time, just know that it is quite meditative and it does get gruesome at times. If those aren’t huge issues, then I’d recommend seeing it for yourself to try and see what you get out of the experience.