Photo: ‘Suspiria’/Amazon Studios
SPOILER ALERT – This article spills the hidden greatness within ‘Suspiria,’ watch the film or spoil all of the good stuff by continuing to read.
TRIGGER WARNING – ‘Suspiria’ contains short clips of self-harm and similar acts that some might find triggering. Watch at your own risk.
Check out this article on Hollywood Insider for an analysis of Dario Argento’s 1977 ‘Suspiria.’
The Remake – ‘Suspiria’
Set in Germany in 1977 (the same year the first ‘Suspiria’ was released), the 2018 remake of ‘Suspiria’ contains six acts and an epilogue that dictates the Helena Markos Dance Company. The film follows Susie (Dakota Johnson), a wide-eyed American, who arrives at the dance company hoping to earn herself a slot in the highly respected team. This remake has a sinister underlying meaning that will leave you revisiting the images after the film ends.
This ‘Suspiria’ provides a graphic depiction of the old nightmare; think of the internal horror you feel when someone rips a hang-nail and now times that horror by one hundred. Luca Guadagnino’s wicked re-telling challenges an audience’s strength to digest the storyline while caressing them with the balance of beauty within the choreography and soundtrack.
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In a way, I feel the need to make the point that witches are not an aesthetic, fictional character, or the Halloween costume you bought at a garage sale and added your dusty old kitchen broom. Witches are just as respectable, authentic, and genuine as the belief systems most of you all follow. They are women, men, children, and people who find themselves in lives with magic, beauty, grace, and understanding of the world far beyond what we know. They’re kind to those who are kind but can bring vengeance against those who hate. In no way am I categorizing ‘Suspiria’ as the perfect portrayal of witches but with the topic in mind, it’s good to point out. They do not have pointy noses or large moles. They do not fly on brooms and cackle into the cold air. They are people just as you are and as I am.
Art. Progression. Beauty. Originality. Power. Female.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino, ‘Suspiria’ is the richest sense of what art can become and what or who it is capable of impacting. Whether you are an avid fan of the first rendition of ‘Suspiria’ or are a newcomer into the world of female horror, I think I can speak for most when I say that ‘Suspiria’ is one of those films you need to see in your lifetime. The impeccable and born talent of knowing when a scene can speak for itself is what drives this film into perfection. The zero need for dialogue but just the power of cinematography, acting, set design, everything that makes a film; film.
At the beginning of ‘Suspiria,’ we are introduced to an erratic, spaz, and emotional Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz) seeking assistance from Dr. Klemperer (Tilda Swinton). This scene, in particular, is setting up the audience to interpret the film considering the details Patricia reveals through her dialogue. “I was right. They are witches,” Patricia frighteningly says. “They’ll hollow me out and eat my cunt on a plate,” she adds. As she stumbles across the room, turning away all of the pictures revealing eyes, a weary Dr. Klemperer stands in disbelief. He even writes this in his journal, “She feels her constructed mythology is confirmed.” While it is more common than it should be for a therapist and more specifically for a man to subsidize a woman’s troubles, I can see a bit of hesitation if a woman emotionally spoke about the existence of witches.
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Dr. Klemperer asks, “And you think they can hear you now?” Patricia responds with a fragile head nod of a “yes.” She even goes so far as to reveal that they offered her perfect balance and sleep by being a part of the coven. Still, at the same time, they took away her hair, samples of urine, and her vision (Vision being metaphorical as she can physically see, but they are aware of her every move).
With the beginning of Patricia confessing the word “witches,” you are consistently matching puzzle pieces trying to relate her trauma to the dance studio. Although, the dance company does a brilliant job at hiding their inner secrets as most of the beginning in the studio offers no suspicion. Susie (Dakota Johnson) is this new dancer who is curious, calm, and quiet with an inner and born talent to dance. Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) is a structured dance teacher who holds herself with authority, composure, and grace. The rest of the dancers are rather kind and appear as normal girls like those you’d find in a typical dance studio. Honestly, not much suspicion until one of the dancers, Olga (Elena Fokina), loses her resistance and bursts out against Madame Blanc and the studio.
“You can’t even be bothered to respect your lies,” Olga shouts. Madame Blanc remains calm as she tries to reason with Olga’s outburst as she screams about Patricia, who had gone missing. Right then, we learn the connection that Patricia was a dancer, and the other dancers are left believing she had run away, gone missing, or something far worse. Madame Blanc supports this claim saying she had lost the potential to keep up with dancing but, I think we can sense that is not entirely true. “Get the fuck out from this box of rabies,” Olga screams. As Madame Blanc still contains her composure, Olga exits the studio but not without a final remark sneering, “Witches!” Ok, now dots are being connected, and if Patricia called them witches and now we have a second girl calling them witches, I think we can guess something is occurring.
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With Olga packing her stuff, Susie dares to say that she can dance, a specific dance that takes a girl ten months of rigorous training before performing. Susie reveals that she has seen the film numerous times in a documentary and once in person, and with some more conviction, Madame Blanc agrees. As Susie prepares for the dance of a lifetime, the audience is not ready for what they are about to see.
Madame Blanc touches pressure points on Susie that create a reaction of light dictating a change in power and energy within her. The audience is made to believe what happens next is caused by the dance movements Susie performs. This scene, in particular, is probably the most recalled when speaking about ‘Suspiria’ because of the torture event of contortion horror Olga undergoes. Firstly, Olga is blinded by her tears as she tries to exit the studio but begins to hear hums of voices around her, cascading her into a panic state.
She enters the room surrounded by mirrors, trapped from escaping what is about to occur to her. With every movement Susie performs, Olga is thrown across the mirrors as her bones rip from her skin, dictating the pain and agony she is undergoing. It’s a long sequence of pain, suffering, and regret matched with the beauty from Susie’s dancing. Olga even urinates herself in agony as her body is twisted into horrific ways, and yet, she is not dead. The dance teachers pierce Olga with a curved knife like a slab of meat as they carry her contortion, broken, battered, and just disgustingly horrible body off to who knows where at this point.
On the other hand, the entire studio sees that Susie is a pure natural, just as Patricia had been before she “ran away.” As Susie asks Sara (Mia Goth), “Did you feel something there? Someone or something?” Sara cannot help but smark about how “That’s the sort of thing Patricia would say.”
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Do Not Mess With Witches – You’ll Suffer and “Disappear”
After the disappearance of Patricia, Dr. Klemperer had many suspicions of the studio and ordered a police search of the premises. This only resulted in the police being brainwashed into remembering nothing and having the dance teachers laugh about their exposed genitalia, which earned a humorous laugh from myself and a refreshing take on the consistent shame of women’s bodies in films focusing on the male gaze and directed by men. It makes you chuckle when one of the officers says, “We didn’t see anything worth remembering,” when you know that they were exposed to women mocking their manhood not too long ago.
Until this point, the characters are suspiciously speaking about a “Mother” but more specifically, a Mother Markos; however, no direct context or connection is made. The audience is left to infer that Madame Blanc and the other teachers are requested to prepare a single girl for this Mother Markos. Why? We do not know just yet.
Susie has repeated quick dream sequences depicting a woman whom we can infer was her mother who died. The sequences are haunting, dark, and might be troubling to some viewers with depictions of self-harm. Simultaneously, these images are so incredibly artistic, beautiful, impactful, and a portrayal of a deeper meaning that gives the audience a chance to evaluate what is occurring within the studio.
There is a constant shift of what is occurring within the studio to Dr. Klemperer, who is still trying to figure out what happened to Patricia and his suspicions of the studio. When he is asked if he believes in witches, he says, “No, but I believe that people can organize themselves to perpetrate crimes and call it magic. That I can believe.” Still, all while researching, he remains skeptical of otherworldly methods. Sara begins to get into trouble when Dr. Klemperer starts to raise her suspicions of what happened to Patricia and requests to meet with her for lunch.
At this lunch, Dr. Klemperer reveals the meaning we have all been looking for. “Three mothers lost in time, predating all Christian inventions, pre-god, pre-devil. Mother Tenebrarum. Mother Lachrymarum and Mother Suspiriorum. Darkness, Tears, and Sighs — Markos claims to be one of the three. She [Patricia] wrote about ‘Markosites’ and ‘Blancites’ In-internal division.” This is the beginning of the end for dear Sara.
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Although Sara does not stop there as she ventures into a hidden space within the room of mirrors only to find horrors. She finds a picture of a young Madame Blanc alongside Mother Markos surrounded by hair and old flesh. She also finds the curved knife used to scrape Olga off the floor but most frighteningly, she pears through a hidden door to reveal screams. We do not see what Sara is seeing, but we know it wasn’t good because of her scared reaction.
Susie’s beautiful long hair gets cut just as Patricia claimed about hers in the beginning. In another one of Susie’s nightmares, we get an interesting line spoken by her dying mother as she says, “My daughter. My last one. She’s my sin. She’s what I smeared on the world.” Up until this point and still, Susie has appeared as this graceful girl who shows kindness and compassion for dancing but, this line hints at something more profound.
Sara confronts Susie as she says, “You’re making some kind of deal with them.” Truly, Sara is a compassionate girl who is lost in a world much too dark for her at this point in time. Susie replies, “Nothing’s wrong.” With everything that has happened, we can all agree that something is very wrong.
The Beginning of The End
And now we are at one of the most important moments in the film, the dance performance Susie and the girls have been working so hard for. Madame Blanc even says, “This is the last time we are performing it.” This single line can infer that Susie’s talent that has been admired throughout the film has led the studio or, more specifically, the coven to this very moment.
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As Susie, along with the others, prepares for the dance of a lifetime, Sara finds herself in trouble. Madame Blanc makes a remark about dancing after Susie claims it to be beautiful, “There is one thing that dance won’t be ever again. Beautiful or cheerful.” Susie goes on to add, “I want to be this company’s hands.” While Susie is building herself up to that very moment, Sara, on the other hand, is going through much worse as she finds near-death-like bodies of Patricia, Olga, and other girls.
While terrified of the presence of her old friends, Sara breaks her leg bone, and it pierces through her skin as she screams in agony. This is another mixture of beauty/art versus horror/pain, as the scene contains the agonizing pain Sara is undergoing. All while, Susie performs with the other dancers in a hypnotic performance that will leave you breathless.
With Sara in agony, a dance teacher approaches her and cures her injury, and wipes her emotions, causing a haze effect within her eyes. She becomes zombie-like with no feelings after having been incredibly emotional, and yet she appears on the dance floor performing alongside Susie. There is obvious tension between the two as Sara is most definitely undergoing something until during the dance she falls and her “magic healing” fades, and her leg punctures once again. While not being able to form words, she screams in agony and stares in help at Dr. Klemperer, who was in the audience. But to no dismay, Sara is carried off, and Dr. Klemperer is left with no answers.
After the dance and if not even before, Madame Blanc appears to be incredibly enthralled with Susie’s dancing and her potential addition into the coven. If the idea of witches was not clear before, Madame Blanc and Susie speak telepathically as Madame ensures that Susie will not be having any more nightmares. “No more dreams tonight. I’ll make sure of it.” Madame Blanc and Susie sit at opposite ends of the table at dinner, dictating a new representation of equal power within the coven. At this point, we can only tell that Madame Blanc has gotten a liking to Susie to create an inner bond with her.
This is the beginning of the end.
Dr. Klemperer is faked into seeing his wife, who had died during the war, and is brought to the studio only to be kidnapped by the women. They even yell at Dr. Klemperer, saying, “When women tell you the truth, you don’t pity them. You tell them they have delusions!”
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We are now in a dungeon-like area where we can infer was the place Sarah had seen when she found herself wandering into hidden spaces. Susie arrives at the head of all of the women, who are beautifully arranged in naked forms, moving to the sound of their breaths. Dr. Klemperer lays naked on the floor, afraid to make any movements. Madame Blanc stands to one side, and a frightening, disgusting, horrific, and near-death Mother Markos (Tilda Swinton) sits on the other. During this ritual-like sequence, Sara stands zombie-like as her internal organs are ripped from her flesh. With no reaction, Sarah does not question any of this but instead says, “I am ready, Madame.”
Unlike what we have seen from her up until this point, Madame Blanc shows resistance, and words connect with our inner thoughts as Mother Markos says to Madame, “You look afraid.” With a simple but frightening cackle from Mother Markos, she even remarks about how Madame Blanc is afraid of Susie. With extreme hesitation. Madame Blanc profusely tries to end the ritual by explaining to Susie that she can have her memory erased and go home. But, Mother Markos does not like this, and with the whip of her hand, she nearly decapitates Madame leaving a spray of blood behind.
“I came here for this. You’ve all waited long enough.” Susie says. With everything up to this point, Susie has remained relatively silent about her knowledge of what was occurring within the studio; however, it is revealed that she knew more than she let on. “Who are you,” asks Mother Markos. “For whom were you anointed? Which of the Three Mothers?” Susie replies. “Mother Suspiriorum,” Mother Markos frighteningly states. “I am she,” Susie says.
And with that knowledge, Mother Markos is killed along with anyone who had done wrong-doings. “Death to any other mother,” Susie says. In the most stunning scene, I have witnessed, Susie rips her chest open, revealing women’s lives bursting within her. “I am the Mother,” Susie says.
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Susie then finds herself amongst the girls who had suffered as she asks them what they wish. To Patricia, Susie asks, “What do you ask?” Patricia replies by saying, “To die.” With grace, Susie puts Patricia to rest after suffering. She then approaches Sara and asks, “Sweet girl. What do you ask?” With a saddened voice, Patricia replies with, “Die.” And with that, Susie puts her to rest.
After having been told by Madame Blanc that dancing is not beautiful, Susie beautifully says, “Yes. Dance. Dance. Keep dancing. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful.” The girls left are expressing their movements in erratic dancing that leaves the room feeling as if it has a levitating experience. With all of that, Dr. Klemperer was never injured and was allowed to go home. The girls woke up believing that they were drunk/hungover and were told that Madame Blanc had decided to leave the company.
Dr. Klemperer is bed-stricken with extreme trauma, unable to function correctly after sitting through that entire event. That is until Susie visits him and reveals the truth of what happened to his wife along with her graceful apology. “I regret what my daughters did to you. I wasn’t in a position to prevent it. I believe you deserve to know the truth. Your wife did try to make it south to Teplice. She was apprehended by border guards in the woods just outside Galshuütte. She was then taken to the Theresienstadt camp. She lived there for 20 days.
On the 11th of November, 1943, the commandant of the camp, a man named Burger, ordered all 40,000 detained there to stand outside in the cold for a census. Hours and hours passed. Some hundreds died of exposure. Your wife had two women with her as she died. The women she had befriended made her feel that she was not alone. Her final thoughts were of a birthday when you took her to a concert as a surprise. Chopin and Brahms. It was the first time you held her hand. She was cold when she died. But she wasn’t afraid. She was thinking only of you.”
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And with that information, she takes away his memories. “We need guilt, Doctor. And shame. But not yours.” In the film’s final frame, we see a carved A+J in a heart on a tree for the one Dr. Klemperer loved the most and had lost. ‘Suspiria’ is an art piece that allows us, women, to connect with their inner-selves to realize the power we are capable of. The message of the acts against those who rebelled was only showing what happens when the wrong people are in authority. When Susie falls into her full power as Mother, she is kind, generous, and forgiving. She is everything that a woman is, grace, beauty, power, and an absolute honor to be given a lifetime as a woman.
The Impeccable Art and Casting Choices
Most recognizable, ‘Suspiria,’ whether old or new, include incredibly artistic camera movements and editing choices that can disorient a viewer at times. Such as dramatic snap-zooms, split-focus shots, and fades between scenes. A highlight of the film is within the dancing and choreography that is truly incredible in every way, from the gasps that reveal a deeper meaning and include a spiritual, inner presence to the realistic movement that leaves goosebumps all the way down to your ankles.
The casting of ‘Suspiria’ is one if not the best I have ever seen as the combination of personalities offers an array of emotions. Dakota Johnson is a woman’s woman. She is grace, beauty, talent, and truth with everything she does and puts out into the world. She takes the meaning of an actress and celebrity to the level of generosity, sensitivity, and originality to remain herself in the progress in front of millions. Those who see her and directly relate her to her ‘50 Shades of Grey’ era as the woman who got nude on camera give me such a boil in my blood. In that topic, nudity in film is simply art; heck, nudity, in general, is art.
A body is a body as it always has been and always will be. Now, where was I? Oh, yes, the remarkable Dakota Johnson. From her bitter truth on Ellen recalling a party invite to a dress mistake at an award show where she remarks that it’s nothing anyone hasn’t seen, she’s one of the best women and humans out there. In all honesty, I aspire to be as honest as she is to herself and as kind as she is to the world.
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Tilda Swinton is such an influential person that I cannot begin to describe her without doing an entirely separate article but you are in luck because Hollywood Insider has already done that for me. Her creativity and expression that pushes the boundaries of what we dream as normal is simply something that leaves me in awe every time. She plays three separate roles in this film, not something unlike her as she dares to push herself at any opportunity, no matter the gender or nature of the role.
You also have the addition of Mia Goth, who is also one of my favorite actresses with her intriguing talent that is different, beautiful, and awkwardly ethereal. In her role as Sara, she comes off as kind, gentle, with hints of being a spaz, but it makes you genuinely want to care for her in any way you can. One of my favorite lines comes from Sara as she says, “Shut off their minds and keep their uteruses open.” I think I can speak for most when I say that this quote alone speaks for the entire occurrence happening within our real world at this point in time. Just brilliant, and I want it printed on a T-Shirt and tattooed every inch of my skin.
This analysis would not be complete without recognizing the pure brilliant talent English musician Thom Yorke added to the soundtrack. With pieces such as ‘Suspirium,’ ‘Has Ended,’ and my personal favorite ‘Unmade,’ the harmony between visuals and sound is breathtaking. As Susie rips her chest and Thom Yorke’s voice echoes through the screen with “Come under my wings, little bird,” you cannot help but have chills down your spine and fall into a comforting hug of sound and emotions. If you do anything with all of this knowledge whether that be watching ‘Suspiria’ or joining a coven, you should take a moment to listen to the soundtrack.
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Where To Watch ‘Suspiria’
‘Suspiria’ is available to watch on numerous streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime, GooglePlay, VUDU, Apple TV, and YouTube.
Where To Find The Stars
In the process of filming, Luca Guadagnino’s next directorial piece is for ‘Bones & All’ starring Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell, and more. As said on IMDb about ‘Bones & All,’ “The story follows 16-year-old Maren Yearly on a cross-country as she searches through dark, unseen corners of America to find a father she’s never met in an attempt to understand why she has killed a series of friends.”
Expected in 2021, Dakota Johnson can next be seen in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s ‘The Lost Daughter’ alongside Olivia Coleman, Peter Sarsgaard, and more. As said on IMDb about ‘The Lost Daughter,’ “A woman’s beach vacation takes a dark turn when she begins to confront the troubles of her past.”
Expected in 2021, Tilda Swinton can next be seen in Wes Anderson’s ‘The French Dispatch’ alongside Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, and more. As said on IMDb about The French Dispatch,’ “A love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional twentieth-century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in ‘The French Dispatch Magazine.'”
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Isabella Brownlee is an experienced writer, video editor and filmmaker. She is currently a writer for Hollywood Insider, focusing on detailed and thought-provoking film reviews and articles discussing truth and impact in the film industry. Driven by self-awareness and unique perspectives, she takes utmost pride in providing others with emotionally impacted knowledge about the film industry. As a writer, her main goal is to connect with the audience and those who find themselves in the back of the bleachers unknown to anyone but beautifully aware of the world. In addition to her primary job functions, Isabella creates and edits videos/films personally and professionally. Aligning with Hollywood Insider’s mission of sharing impactful and influential content, Isabella hopes to enrich her readers with positivity and truth.