Mother of Sighs, Indeed
I know the movie has been out for a long time, but this was the first chance I got to watch it, and since it’s a remake of one of my favorite films of all time, I’m gonna do a review. So here it is.
The original Suspiria is a frightening, hysterical, throbbing raw nerve of violence, phantasma, murder, and nightmarish logic. The remake is a meandering, drifting, dreamy, arty and pretentious reimagining that has some really good moments but could never possibly match the ferocity and originality of the first film.
Susy is a strange American girl with a strange past now in Berlin during the late 70’s who wants to join the famous Tanz Academy for dance. She shows up to audition, a thing sort of unheard of, and wins a spot. Around her, the world is going to hell. You have a bunch of real-life terrorist drama going on, and strange things are happening at her school. One girl has disappeared and another rebellious dancer is broken into bits during a dance act that Susy performs. It turns out the women running the Tanz are all witches, and they’re up to something…
Let me get the good stuff out of the way first. I really enjoyed a lot of the visuals, and there are moments of operatic horror here that rival the original film. Director Luca Guadagnino throws in a cool Mario Bava tribute towards the beginning, but overall his style reminds me of Roman Polanski and indeed, there appears to be a lot of love for Rosemary’s Baby, as far as the pacing and “seriousness” of this piece. The actors all do a good job and there are some terrific moments. It’s a decent film that’s saddled with too many problems to make it a great film. What are those problems?
Too long. Cut an hour out and you’ve got something going on here. It would mean trimming a lot of fat and while some may find that fat tasty, it really doesn’t matter to the story. The entire subplot with the old German man looking for his missing wife could go and nothing would change. Dropping the background noise of the terrorist plot and general societal unease would get rid of some distracting, no-need-for-it material, as well. For a movie that’s two and a half hours long, there’s a lot of expository dialogue going on. If you’re going to take so long to tell a simple story, maybe figure out how to do it without having voice-overs explaining everything. Guadagnino shows he can do this with Susy’s backstory, which is shown in flashes and fits and starts, and illuminates her character without ever once having to break it down nice and slow. Tilda Swinton is a great actor but does she need to play every single character in the film? I kid, but it’s distracting. This movie also has a fetish for showing extremely skinny women smoking cigarettes at every chance it can get, to the point where it fetishizes it. People can talk about Tarantino’s love for women’s feet in his cinema, but it pales in comparison to this. We get it; it’s the 70’s and Germany and people smoked all the time, but good Christ it becomes distracting. I didn’t care for the pretentiousness of the whole thing but your mileage on this will vary depending on your attitude towards such things. It wasn’t horrible, but man, I sighed more than a few times and yes, there were a couple of eye rolls. Again, that’s just me; most people seem to love pretentiousness in horror films (Yeah, I’m bitching about Hereditary again).
There we go. The Suspiria remake is a decent film that could have been pretty great if they’d cut down on the running time and stopped taking themselves so damned seriously. Also, dropping the name and calling it something else would have helped. It’s difficult not to compare movies no matter how hard you try to avoid doing so. This was different enough from the original that it easily could have stood on its own with a few name changes.
I give it Two and a Half Stars out of Four for its Two and a Half Hour running time.
Suspiria is streaming on Amazon.