Dario Argento’s dazzling 1977 chiller Suspiria first opened in the UK in a censoriously truncated version, having suffered significant cuts to blunt its extremities. Horror fans were appalled and sought out more complete versions of the film, videotapes of which were promptly confiscated during the “video nasties” hysteria of the early 80s. How things have changed! Today, Luca Guadagnino’s grandiose Suspiria remake can sail into British cinemas with all its bone-cracking, skin-slicing, blood-letting intact – a cause for rejoicing, no doubt. Yet watching this sporadically sparkling yet weirdly saggy “cover version” of Argento’s biggest international hit, I couldn’t help wishing that someone had been there with the scissors to trim the film of its indulgences – not the violence, but the verbosity.
Set in “divided Berlin” and comprising “six acts and an epilogue”, Guadagnino’s film takes the premise of Argento and Daria Nicolodi’s original script, which itself drew inspiration from sources as diverse as Thomas De Quincey and Snow White. Dakota Johnson is Susie, the American who joins the prestigious Helena Markos Dance Company, within whose enclaves she uncovers witchy secrets. “There’s more in that building than what you can see,” says Chloë Grace Moretz’s rattled student Patricia, unburdening her soul to her ageing psychotherapist who thinks she’s suffering from paranoid delusions.
Patricia - Choreographer - Madame - Blanc - Tilda
When Patricia goes missing, chain-smoking choreographer Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) suggests she has left the company because of her own political beliefs and agendas. Meanwhile, murmurings of earthly power struggles mingle with whispers about a triumvirate of mythical mothers (Sighs, Darkness and Tears) whose shadows haunt the academy. As the Mennonite-raised Susie impresses Blanc with her unique blend of innocence and strength, so she rises to the top of the troupe, playing the protagonist in the provocative “Volk” dance, which has become their sinister signature piece.
While Argento’s dreamy fantasia possessed...
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