Excavated cult-horror film Suspiria is an ambitious failureby James Robins
It sees naive and doe-eyed American Susie (Dakota Johnson) audition to join a contemporary dance company in drizzly Berlin, overseen by Madame Blanc, a gaunt but graceful matriarch played by Tilda Swinton (one of her three roles in the film). The company is also home to a coven of witches. They were figures of terror in the original, though here they are more seductive and complex, as witches ought to be.
The score is written by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and his mournful piano arpeggios provide an air of melancholy rather than dread. This is because, save for one grotesque and nearly unendurable bit of choreography, Suspiria is less an outright horror film than an examination of German history: there are mentions of the Nazi-era Theresienstadt concentration camp and the Baader-Meinhof gang.
Yet these are mere clues. Guadagnino’s Suspiria has barely any internal coherence. It seems rammed with potent meanings, but there is no key to unlock its secrets. It remains defiantly enigmatic, inexplicable, even. An ambitious and frustrating failure.
Video: Amazon Studios
IN CINEMAS NOW
This article was first published in the November 17, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
Mike White heads up the Cromwell-Tarras road to merino and wine country.Read more
Idris Elba, Ruth Wilson, Hermione Norris, Wunmi Mosaku and Michael Smiley answer questions about the future of the dark and disturbing crime drama.Read more
Some families of Pike River mine victims suspect a piece of vital evidence may have been spirited away by the mining company and lost.Read more
Making Auckland a liveable city is an unenviable task, writes Bill Ralston, but it's clear the mayor needs more power.Read more
Northland kaumātua, master carver, navigator and bridge builder Hec Busby was hoping for “no fuss” when he accepted a knighthood.Read more
The story of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a heroine of French literature, focuses on her early struggles.Read more
Complacently relying on algorithms can lead us over a cliff – literally, in the case of car navigation systems.Read more