Berlin, 1977. A shitty place to be. A young, disturbed girl named Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz) is on the run and seeking the doctor/prof/psychiatrist Klemperer. She’s in a state of psychosis and mumbles incoherent lines while she waves with her arms and then says in German “I was right. They are witches”. She then talks about the ballerina school she attended where she was a victim of abuse, and end the therapy session by saying (in German) “they will slaughter me and eat my cunt from the plate”. Yikes… We then get introduced to Susie (Dakota Fanning), a young, shy and naive American lady, who traveled to Berlin to attend this ballerina academy where she meets the strict dance instructor Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). She settles in and has no idea what rabbithole she has gotten herself into. In the meantime Dr. Klemperer starts an investigation to take a closer look at what shady business is really going on in this academy.
This remake of Dario Argentos “Suspiria”, which was the first of the The Three Mother-trilogy, takes also elements from its two sequels, “Inferno” (1980) and “Mother of Tears” (2007), but goes in its own direction. Which is a good thing. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, who made mainly drama, romances and some documentaries, does a fantastic job here and shows that he has a great eye for horror and the aesthetic. The 70s-style is spot on and while the original had more of a colorful nightmarish fever-look in a baroque environment, this one is the straight opposite. It’s bleak and cold, and the ballerina school being surrounded by tall, wounded buildings gives a more realistic, melancholy look and a sense of dread and urban isolation.
The casting is great, but the one who sticks out is Tilda Swinton who plays the ice-cold Madame Blanc and Dr. Klemperer, hidden by the most believable old-makeup I’ve ever seen. Chloë Grace Moretz wanted the role as Patricia so bad that she learned to speak German even though she’s got only six minutes of screen-time. And as a homage to the original, Jessica Harper shows up in a brief moment. The film isn’t without its fair share of death scenes, one who probably stands out the most features one of the dancing students who gets her whole body twisted and broken during a dancing ritual. It’s one of the most terrifying scenes in the movie in terms of violence, but I can assure you that you’ll get a juicy payoff at the end. But the one who got most terrified of Suspiria was the star herself, Dakota Fanning, who got so messed up mentally during the shooting that she had to go to therapy. She also did ballet-training for two years in preparation for the role.
Overall, “Suspiria” 2018 is your typical love/hate movie that messes with your head and possibly also with your patience. With its run-time on 2 hours and 30 minutes, it can be a lot to digest. There’s a lot of weird shit going on here that leaves far more questions than answers, opening up to be analyzed to death and beyond. I liked it for what it was and really enjoyed the whole atmosphere, the cold eeriness, the characters and overall the look and style of the film. It grabbed my attention, but you definitely have to be in the right mood and expect the unexpected.
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Country & year: Italy | USA, 2018
Actors: Chloë Grace Moretz, Tilda Swinton, Doris Hick, Malgorzata Bela, Dakota Johnson, Angela Winkler, Vanda Capriolo, Alek Wek, Jessica Batut, Elena Fokina, Mia Goth