- Review by Alison Traynor
Acutely aware of its polarising reviews and the reality of the difficulties faced by any director attempting to follow a film as successful and beautiful as Call Me By Your Name, it was with a sense of trepidation that I entered the screening of Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake. However, while this film will certainly not be to everyone’s taste, all of my concerns evaporated within its first few captivating minutes. Striking an artful, delicate balance between decadent aestheticism and an exploration of deeper themes, this film proved itself to be something quite special, and a must-see for any horror fan.
The sense of hedonism that the film evoked was thoroughly enjoyable, presenting a work of pure, unadulterated decadence. It does not quite reach the level of art for art’s sake, but it certainly does not shy away from gratuity and grandeur. While this can often be a misstep, placed alongside Guadagnino’s sustained development of a plot far removed from the original, and the film’s tackling of serious subject matter, it works well.
Deeply unsettling and extremely graphic, the film shocks and intrigues in equal measure. Saturated with the sickening crunching of contorting anatomies, imagery of internal organs being pulled from live bodies, severed arteries, intensive convulsions and the constant flow of bodily fluids, it is not for the faint hearted. What is nearly even more disturbing than the explicit gore are the mesmerising, aggressive dance sequences, choreographed by the talented Damien Jalet, which will haunt you long after you have left the cinema. The same can be said for Thom Yorke’s atmospheric soundtrack which impressively enhances every scene it coincides with.
One of the weakest aspects of the film is its inappropriate casting. Although Tilda Swinton shines as the illusive coven member Madame Blanc and interestingly, also as the hideous coven leader Mother Helena Markos and Dr. Joseph Klemperer, various other casting choices are not as successful. Both Dakota Johnson, who played the protagonist Susie Bannion, and Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays Patricia, an escapee from the school, are disappointing in their roles. Johnson’s acting style is unconvincing and not engaging enough, while Moretz’s quality of acting was simply low. It is a frustrating display of style over substance which could easily have been amended with more suitable actors being chosen for the roles.
At 152 minutes, it is a lengthy film, especially considering that Dario Argento’s 1977 original was but 98 minutes long. Yet, I found myself fully immersed in Supiria’s bizarre world of German dance school covens and mysterious preternatural rituals for the entire duration. The extra screen time allowed for more thematic exploration and an extension of suspense which added to the overall product. Indeed, Guadagnino created a piece of work far removed from the original, stretching it out and rooting it strongly within a historical context. The horrors of the outside world, a Germany still dealing with the aftermath of war and experiencing widespread political violence, fascinatingly reflected the hidden horrors found within the dance school. The question of national culpability and guilt are ever present, casting the story in a fresh light.