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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

Suspiria

A Timeless Horror Classic


Suspiria is like a giant pill you have to dry swallow. It's a lot to take in. The film is about so many different things and dives headfirst into the abuse of power, corruption, political rage, violence, feminism, identity, motherhood and love. In 1977’s Berlin, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) is an aspiring dancer fresh off the plane from Ohio to audition at a world renowned dance company run by Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). Despite having no formal training, the audition is a success and Susie is welcomed into the company with open arms. Things are not as warm as they appear to be however as the company is run by a coven of witches whose growing corruption will be their own undoing as well as anyone unfortunate enough to land in their grasp.


Dakota Johnson is mesmerizing as most characters like Susie find themselves drowning in Xenization but for her, it's as though she's finally found her way back home. Susie comes from a very difficult past and through flashbacks, you'll start to see why the darkness that is her new home is not so dark for her. Johnson is also a spectacular dancer. She's one of those performative dancers because she slowly but literally loses herself in her craft. It's easy to see why the witches value her talent.


Tilda Swinton’s Madame Blanc is a witch on the verge of losing all control. She's always lived life by her own certainties and the strong bond she develops with Susie has her questioning whether or not she should follow through with the fate she and the other witches have in store for her. She comes to see Susie as a daughter, more so than her other dancers. Mothers aren't supposed to have favorites but deep inside, they often do and Susie is Madame Blanc’s favorite the second she got off the plane.


With Makeup, (That should have won the Oscar) Swinton also portrays Dr. Klemperer, the therapist of a dancer, Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz) who goes missing shortly after the film begins. Klemperer is a traumatized and grieving holocaust survivor who in his attempt to find Patricia contacts Sara, (Mia Goth) a fellow dancer at the company and Patricia’s best friend who is grieving her disappearance. The two find access to Patricia's journal which documents everything resulting in massive danger for the both of them. Swintons ability to carry out multiple characters that are so different for one film is absolutely astounding to me. She's completely transformative and unbelievably perfect.


The company is an all female company and everyone sees one another as family. Families as many of us know don't always treat one another as kindly as others think. The problem isn't that the dance instructors are witches, it's that they're witches who abuse their powers like brutal dictators, especially when challenged.


One of the dancers Olga, (Elena Fokina) figures everything out way early on and her heartbreaking rage towards Madame Blanc will be her death sentence. The most unbearable and heartbreaking scene in Suspiria is when Olga attempts to leave the company. She finds herself trapped in a door less, windowless room with only mirrors while upstairs, Madame Blanc touches Susie very slowly as if to cast a spell on her.


Every time Susie dances, Olga’s body moves as well but not within her own control. As Susie dances like the pro she is, Olga is violently thrown around like a rag doll that ends with her on the floor, her body shattered in anatomical ruins. She's literally paralyzed in a ball, gurgling and surrounded by her own saliva, urine and broken bones. As violent as this horrific scene is, it's the emotional part of it that will eat you alive. Olga loved these women, she trusted them, she saw them as her family, her insides. She gave them her trust, her love, her body as a dancer and this is what she gets in return.


Suspiria is an extremely long movie. The film has a runtime of two hours and thirty minutes. Suspiria was brilliant because it had all the time in the world to be nothing less. Suspiria also has perfect music, cinematography, production designs, sound designs and Makeup. Every tiny detail is a puzzle piece that makes Suspiria the timeless classic it is. The film really missed out at countless Oscar nominations. In my book, they won them all.


What makes Suspiria such a disturbing horror film is that it's not about the brutal violence women can suffer but the brutal violence they can suffer at the hands of each other. Women are tamed way too often in films and Suspiria is very refreshing in that it shows anyone is capable of anything. If you don't watch cinema to be entertained, you watch cinema to hold your interest and Suspiria will hold your interest from the second it begins. Suspiria really reminds me of our current political climate. Witches don't exist but evil does. By the time Suspiria ends, justice is served but the damage is done. I can only hope our world will be more lucky.




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