Tuesday, 8 January 2019

SUSPIRIA (2018)




Having patiently awaited the arrival of this film for years, Luca's SUSPIRIA did not disappoint.

Fiercely, unapologetically artsy and experimental, Guadagnino's redux is every bit as stylised and unique as Dario Argento's original. However, beyond their shared premise and characters, the two films really couldn't be more different. As the Italian director of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME has remarked himself, aesthetically and thematically SUSPIRIA '18 is far more indebted to the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder than it is to Argento's body of work.




And what a thematically rich film it is! Dave Kajganich's screenplay is a tale of radical social upheaval and power struggle, and the terrible damage that societal change can inflict on the lives of those who are caught up in it. Mirroring the revolutionary atmosphere of its Berlin '77 backdrop (a city reeling at the chaos wrought by the Baader-Meinhof R.A.F.), Guadagnino's coven of witches is a far cry from the unified sisterhood of Argento's film. Rather, this is a secret society that is teetering on the brink of a major power shift, as its members throw their support behind one of two "mothers", Tilda Swinton's Madame Blanc and the ancient Helena Markos (also played by Swinton, under a mountain of prosthetics).

There are deeper strands at play in all this - the overshadowing horror of the Third Reich; Womankind's war against the Patriarchy. This new SUSPIRIA leaves you with a lot to chew on. It's a bold film, actually more of a total reimagining than a remake, so it's hardly surprising that its reception from fans and newcomers alike has been nothing short of completely polarised.




Is it a new Euro-horror masterpiece, or an overly-long pretentious mess? I certainly know which camp I fall into, but in spite of my love for it, I feel like this isn't a movie that I could ever really "recommend" to a friend. Luca Guadagnino's SUSPIRIA is a challenging work of art that people should come to on their own terms, hopefully leaving their preconceptions about its source material, and what a horror movie "should" be, at the door.




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