Suspiria ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Something colored my viewing of Suspiria that I had to struggle with for a bit. I didn't feel threatened. I didn't feel in danger. The film unsettled me, for sure, but it felt off. Was this my fault or the film's? All it really took was sinking in what they were doing with Susie Bannion this time.

Dakota Johnson was the perfect person to play this version of Susie Bannion. She's a canvas on which to project a clouded sense of ambiguity. She's not the curious ingenue of the original. She is a woman fiercely engaged in discovering who she is. Or who she always has been. Maybe at least from the moment she walks through those doors.

My initial hangups no longer applied. Sure, I wasn't scared, but why should I have been? She had no reason to be. She is no "final girl." She is THE girl. THE mother of sighs. The decision to change Susie in that way is key to what this film means. When she sees the witches playing with the officers in the side room, she's amused, not frightened. Maybe she doesn't know why yet, but she has nothing to fear, nor does she have any reason to find out what they are doing. That's not her story anymore.

By letting us in on the witches from the moment we enter the dance academy, the suspense is removed. Instead we are left with an invitation to grapple with their politics, which is what makes the allusions to the ongoing tensions in Germany in the midst of the Berlin Wall separation so necessary. Subtext is context. The witches are fascists. Markos represents the status quo. This is just the way things are. The girls are the vessels. They must  keep up the ritual for the sake of maintaining the illusion of order, for a false prophet. Like clockwork.

When Susie is in the know, she’s in control. She screams “I know who I am!” With Madame Blanc and her dancing, or perhaps even in spite of her, she finds an avenue to freedom. Liberation. What's a more liberating art form for the female body than dance?

It is heartening to report that not only does the film mean something so vital but it's also a maddeningly beautiful work of art; The dance sequences electrifying, the violence sharp and nerve-wracking, the cinematography intoxicating, the score unsettling and gorgeous in equal measures.

The initial hesitation many people had about the lack of color negatively distinguishing it from the original was missing the point. This isn't a remake. This is a recontextualization. What Luca Guadagnino has done is took a beautiful and vibrant piece of aesthetic horror and made it mean something. Something deeply liberating.

Shattered my expectations and left me reeling. Just may be the second year in a row that Luca Guadagnino crafted my favorite film experience.

(If all of my pontificating on the feminist leanings of the film seem far-fetched, is it at all coincidental that the only meaningful male character in the whole film is also played by a woman?)