LFF: “Suspiria” by Luca Guadagnino. A variation on a theme by Dario Argento.

An important premise: it’s pointless to compare the original Suspiria by Dario Argento with this version just released by Call Me By Your Name acclaimed director Luca Guadagnino as this one is more a variation on a theme created by Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi.

The original plot, which sees the young Suzy Bannion (Dakota Johnson) join the Markos Dance Academy directed by the ethereal Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton, regular partner in crime of the director) just to discover that the place is cursed and the teachers are all witches, is untouched but the development goes in a completely different directions. While Dario Argento experimented with light (with the amazing work by Director of Photography Luciano Tovoli) and bright colors telling a gothic fairy-tale, here the final result is much more closer to the paranoid dreams expressed by Roman Polanski (The Tenant) or Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now) and Salò by Pier Paolo Pasolini as even if the number of single murders is fairly inferior, the sense of mortification of human body and the satisfaction in humiliating by the old witches makes the comparison perfectly functional.

The final result is more a tribute to the German cinema and society of the 70s than to the classic Italian horror. The set is changed from Freiburg to Berlin, the infamous Wall stretches right outside the doors of the Academy while from the real world echoes from the Holocaust and episodes of contemporary terrorism reverberate across the halls and the mirrored rooms where the young students are training.  The witches have the faces of all the most important actresses of that time from Angela Winkler (whose Miss Tanner is both powerful and fascinating), to Ingrid Caven (once muse and wife of iconic director Rainer Werner Fassbinder), from Renée Soutendjik to the original Suzy Bannion, Jessica Harper, who returns for a heartfelt cameo. Above them all and the decaying body of the replusive Helena Markos stands Tilda Swinton as Madame Blanc. Not a gentle old lady but a monolithic sphinx, a fascinating dark priestess. I personally wanted to know a bit more about the witches of Suspiria and the 153 minutes of this version thankfully leave enough time to play with their demons and horrors.

Suspiria is released on November 5 in United Kingdom and early January in Italy. I won’t suggest it to anyone looking for a traditional gory horror as its strength, which is disturbing and repulsive, is in being a sort of Art-house demoniac play which fascinates the audience and wraps them all slowly, digging also across the rubs of History.

 

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