Suspiria

There are two things dance cannot be anymore— ”cheerful” and “beautiful.” We must break the nose of every beautiful thing.

Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria is the type of movie that is bound—or perhaps "doomed" is a more suitable word—to inspire a kind of hyperbolic discourse that does little else than obscure what the movie really is.

It's not that the movie is innocent, of course; it's clear Suspiria is intentionally crafted to provoke an extreme response from its viewers. After all, Guadagnino said himself the film is, "a homage to the incredible, powerful emotion I felt when I saw it." The issue is that this kind of uncompromising cruelty doesn't typically yield particularly thoughtful takes - from either the movies proponents or detractors.

Regardless of what will be said, there's no denying how utterly twisted, grotesque, and horrific the new Suspiria really is. But that's not all it is. Suspiria is a slow burn, focused on developing a distinct setting, atmosphere, and even an ideology while using moments of extreme violence to punctuate what is otherwise an unexpectedly resonant meditation on femininity, motherhood, the brutality of man, the lasting effects of generational guilt, and our willingness or even eagerness to forget the atrocities of the past.

What intrigues me is to see a movie, especially one of this variety, engage with both the personal and political in such a clear and distinct way. It's not just by coincidence that Guadagnino set the film in Berlin in 1977. It's not by some random choice that the dance academy is positioned mere feet from the Berlin Wall. These choices inform the text of the movie, enhancing the narrative in a surprisingly heady fashion.

This is not to say the movie is faultless - far from it, in fact. There are more than a couple stylistic flourishes and narrative bends that I don't necessarily jive with, but they ultimately mattered very little when it came to my enjoyment of the movie. I won't get bogged down in those details here. I like the idea of a movie rejecting what the audience wants it to be and Suspiria does that time and time again. This is a movie that could not care less what I wanted, but it gave me more than I needed.

Somewhere along the way, we started to pigeonhole the horror genre as as one that's at its best when it's low-budget and "smart." The word "ingenious" gets thrown around a lot as if to say, "Wow! They made it scary on such a low budget." Booooo. What makes Suspiria so refreshing is that it feels extravagant in the way reminiscent of The Shining. It's ambitious, leaving nothing on the table and nothing untouched.

There's...just so much to unpack in this movie and I'm looking forward to doing it. For now, I'll revel in the fact that Guadagnino delivered a wholly original movie that commits itself to being what is undoubtedly an art house horror movie. It embraces the genre, making no attempt to elevate itself to the status of some prestige awards picture by sidestepping the horror label. In Luca Guadagnino's confident and capable hands, Suspiria delivers an amalgam of nightmares that will satisfy those willing to meaningfully engage with it.

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