This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Chris’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
My last review of this film was a bigger brain dump than the Star Wars prequels, so I'm going to try to be a little more articulate this time around.
I've always said that my favorite films are the ones that get me to elicit a strong emotion response. Shawshank gives me hope. Zodiac makes me obsessed. Blade Runner reminds me to respect the people and things I don't understand.
With Suspiria 2018, I was repulsed, and yet seduced.
This film reminds me of the vampiress scene in the early chapters of Dracula, with all of the temptation and carnality of those pages stretched into a two and a half hour epic ("They gave me things; perfect balance, perfect sleep..."). Only instead of running from it and fighting it like Jonathan Harker, Susanna Bannion embraces the nightmare. But it's more than that, she is the nightmare. "The smear upon the world."
While Dakota Johnson delivers the performance of her career, she is completely eclipsed by Tilda Swinton. She is the catalyst (the force that first awakens Mother Suspiriorum inside Susie), the "antagonist" (the doctor who is determined to expose the coven), and the literal monster in the basement (Mother Markos). Sure, Guadagnino could have found three different people to play the roles, but the fact that he gave it all over to Swinton and she knocks it out of the park and into next Tuesday just goes to show what a masterclass she is. Without her, I don't even know if I'd care about this movie. She is the movie.
The cinematography, while being controversial to some people, had a delirious effect on me and really added a lot. The camera moves in the way that Guadagnino wants you to feel, from the Tarentino-esque snap zooms to the low frame rates in the climactic ritual scene. Another point of controversy for some was Thom Yorke's score and songs. While some might say that Guadagnino likes to overuse his indie rock/electronica artists (like Sufjan Stevens in Call Me By Your Name), I like to think of it as his way of telling the audience "What you're about to see is...pretty unsettling. Here's some Thom Yorke to soothe you and keep you sane."
The last aspect of the film I'd like to touch upon is the general atmosphere. Aside from Tilda Swinton's performance(s), this is my favorite part of the film. I love the muted color scheme as opposed to Argento's neon extravaganza, and using the backdrop of the Cold War and a torn Berlin to compare to the real cold war going on between members in the coven. It worked so well for me and really helped me enjoy the "normal" scenes in Acts III-V.
Very few films work for me in every conceivable way. Even many of the films I give five stars still contain a nitpick or two that I'm willing to overlook. I wasn't planning to adore this film when I first saw it in the theater back in November, and I was terrified it wouldn't hold up on a second viewing. But what can I say? Suspiria '18, for me, is a perfect film. A nightmare and a dance that I can't wait to experience again.