Semler at the Cinema features Brandon Semler’s thoughts on the world of film, including reviews, think pieces, previews and more.
By Brandon Semler
“Suspiria” (2018) is exceptionally dark and decidedly brazen, seeking meaning in many directions with some of the most effective moments and sequences of any film this year.
The thematic juggling act does not form an entirely focused portrait in the end, but provides a truly memorable spectacle. The film nearly necessitates multiple viewings. One — for me — will simply not cut it.
“Suspiria” is Luca Guadagnino’s re-imagining of the 1977 film of the same name, centered around a young dancer joining a studio with some dark secrets in Berlin, Germany. I should mention that I have not seen the original “Suspiria,” which will admittedly create some blind spots.
The 2018 film flows like a slow and torturous song. Thom York’s spacey score accompanies trippy and horrific dream sequences, brutal deaths and stunning dance; it is easy to get lost in Guadagnino’s vision. The “Call Me By Your Name” director’s immersive tone is both coaxing and revolting, but it is obvious that a craftsman is at work in nearly every scene.
Dakota Johnson stars as the new dancer Susie Bannion. Johnson has a secret buried in her eyes in nearly every close-up, which the film ultimately vindicates. Tilda Swinton plays three roles (a choice worthy of a discussion on its own) and Chloë Grace Moretz and Mia Goth both shine in smaller parts.
The decision to widen the scope beyond the studio, and include Dr. Josef Klemperer (a Swinton role) as a central figure, seemed odd during the film’s run-time. However, the character serviced a contemporary and relevant theme that added yet another dimension, but also another pin in the juggling act.
In the midst of the deeper and more psychological focus, plot clarity is sometimes sacrificed. Most developments are easy enough to follow, but some of the less-emphasized moments, such as the power struggle within the coven, are vague at best.
While the ending is far from predictable, there seemed to be no build up to it from a character standpoint (perhaps this is something that a re-watch will bring new light to). The chaotic and exuberant ending contradicted the more quiet, brutal insanity that the rest of the film portrayed so well.
The film is one of the most interesting and well-directed endeavors of the year, though it is not entirely cohesive. I’m quite intrigued to see how my feelings will change after a re-watch.
Status: Recommend for Fans (of Arthouse films, horror, Luca Guadagnino)
Brandon Semler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BrandonSemler.