The vision Guadagnino creates is as beautiful as it is horrifying, and that intricate blend is magnificently portrayed in every scene
2018 is not always as modern as the masses would like to believe it is. Old fashioned viewpoints, rejecting change and persisting with incorrect stereotypes is a standard way of creating daily actions and conversations for a much larger percentage of the population than it should be. This relates, intricately well, to the matter of art, and that includes film, and film making; Specifically referring to certain genres, none more so, than horror. It is a uniquely frustrating characteristic of the general public to assume that horror is there to ‘scare them.’ As if each director sets out only to shock the viewer with a loud noise or a scary face from seemingly nowhere. Horror has been around for far longer than film and its primary purpose is certainly not to make unsuspecting teenagers metaphorically ‘jump’.
It is only because films that play host to a core aim of frightening consumers have become increasingly popular, is there a standard expectation of jump scares. It’s simple supply and demand; Which works wonderfully for the latest soft drink and the newest fashionable breed of dog, but it certainly doesn’t for film, nor does it art. Expectations are the downfall of every unsuccessful movie, and generalising a whole genre makes that fact even more telling.
So a film like Suspiria, which has no intent on scaring the audience into submission, may well be unfairly summarised and mis-judged with a simple throw away line detailing how: ‘It isn’t even scary.’ But instead, by taking a fresh angle, and looking at it as if it were a period drama or a cunning piece of sci-fi, of which it in fact incorporates parts of both, there is so much to love about the film, as well as much to be fearful of.
After the strange disappearance of a young performer from the Tanz dance troupe located in a divided 1970’s Berlin, a position opens up for a new member. American Susie … (Dakota Johnson) is quick to audition, and her engrossing routine is marvelled at by the school’s teachers. Quickly accepted into the academy, Susie is welcomed with open arms, becoming part of the team instantaneously. Yet, her acceptance shifts the nature of the group, and Susie soon learns the reality of what Tanz is truly about.
Suspiria is incredibly rich in layers, and this is portrayed none more visually than by the building chosen as Tanz’s filming location. Principal Photography was shot in the Grand Hotel Campo dei Fiori, Varese, Italy, a building that truly allowed for the thick mystery, history and Suspiria’s intimate feel to be expressed as closely as possible. There is almost no limits to the expansive offerings the Campo dei Fiori gives Suspiria, and Guadagnino uses that to both twist and display his re-telling of the story.
These layers, almost genuine visual levels at times, are key to expressing Suspiria’s most core of themes. At no point, until possibly the final scenes, is Suspiria’s actual reality lain out. Guadagnino is a director obsessed with show not tell, something he managed majestically in 2017’s Call Me By Your Name. However here, the film wants to train minds on how to portray the film; Choose which characters are valuable, which are hindrances, and how to perceive the group as a whole. It is this infatuation with continuously building each character’s personality that gives Suspiria such a long run time, but also an incredibly personal feel.
Guadagnino never shies from the drama, or tries to hide its horror, instead revelling in both as and when he sees fit. The vision he creates is as beautiful as it is horrifying, and that intricate blend is magnificently portrayed in every scene.
Suspiria certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, or the weak stomached with an often unassailable passion for blood, but by opening the mind, and accepting that this is a film about a dance troupe on the most basic of levels, Suspiria becomes truly brilliant and vibrantly haunting. Guadagnino has shown again how visual he can be, even when served with the most basic of subjects.
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