- Katherine McLaughlin
- 16 October 2018
LFF 2018: Luca Guadagnino draws from a wide pool of inspiration for his reimaging of Dario Argento's horror classic
Luca Guadagnino's remake of Dario Argento's horror landmark Suspiria continually acknowledges its predecessor (original star Jessica Harper appears), yet looks to the cinema of Rainer Werner Fassbinder for aesthetic and political inspiration. The Tanz Dance Academy has moved from Freiburg to a divided Berlin in 1977, where power struggles between the generations form the basis for a brutal waltz through a history of organised violence and guilt that explicitly references Nazism and the Red Army Faction.
The hugely ambitious Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) has made her way to the school from Ohio to audition for Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), who immediately sees her potential. Yet, just like in the original, there is significant discord inside the oppressive walls of this establishment. A rebellious student, Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz), has fled in fear of what she believes are a coven of witches.
Susie differs greatly from the first film, with a poised Johnson displaying the prowess and confidence of the character in her new setting. Susie is a Mennonite who isn't scared by the way these women hold themselves, instead she is titillated by it and drawn to their power, smiling as women prod at a penis with a sharp instrument. She also isn't afraid to challenge tradition, as she boldly questions how a dance choreographed in the 1940s can match her vision and beliefs.
Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name, I Am Love) and writer David Kajganich play with the mythology of The Three Mothers, using feminist imagery, expressive dance and real historical events to present a richly provocative piece of modern art. Thom Yorke's score is melancholic and pared back compared to Goblin's lurid prog rock, yet it retains the sighs and screams to complement the bone-crunching, explosive intensity of the visual carnage that occasionally punctures the grubby, beige backdrop. Some of the horrific scenes superbly recall Andrzej Zulawski's work, but others don't quite match that menace, instead evoking Rob Zombie's brand of hellish design.
Screening on Tue 16, Wed 17 and Fri 19 Oct as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2018. General release from Fri 16 Nov.