Call Me By Your Name was one of last year’s most adored and acclaimed films, so many will be pleased to hear that the films director, Luca Guadagnino, is already back with his next project. However, fans of that tender love story should be warned: this is a very different proposition.
Without wanting to say too much, Suspiria tells the story of a young American dancer (Dakota Johnson) who is thrown into a world beyond her own after joining a shadowy female dance academy, led by the mysterious Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). The film is a remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 film – a horror classic and, for those who’ve seen it, an unforgettable experience.
Guadagnino’s decision to remake one of the most distinctive films in horror cinema set off alarm bells for many, but this is a remarkably different Suspiria. Perhaps in response to the common criticism against Argento’s film (that it is purely style over substance), Guadagnino has stripped away nearly all of the stylistic flourishes of the original. Gone is the famed, garish Technicolor, replaced with a far colder colour palate. Gone too are the more unintentionally endearing hallmarks of the original – bad dubbing, hammy acting, questionable gore effects – all of which added some relief to the onslaught of terror.
There’s none of that here, but where the film really sets out on its own is through the introduction of historical context. While Argento’s original never specified a present day setting (nor did it have a story that required it to), the new film makes clear we are in 1977. Guadagnino has moved the action from the isolation of the Black Forest to the alienation of Berlin during the midst of the German Autumn, with this new political subtext taking up a chunk of the additional running time (the film runs almost an hour longer than Argento’s).
Johnson in particular shines in a transformative lead performance, while Swinton, Guadagnino’s regular collaborator, brings a depth to her role as the former dance sensation turned teacher – a performance the original film could only dream of. The other star player is Thom Yorke, who provides a wonderful score. The nightmarish soundscape of the original, by Italian prog-rockers Goblin, is replaced by a haunting collection of songs reminiscent of the most melancholy of Radiohead’s output.
For me, Suspiria is a rare remake. It has just as much appeal for art house regulars as it does for horror fan boys. Anyone who loves the original will of course be intrigued, but even those who don’t should give this a chance. The films bare little resemblance, with Guadagnino calling this more of an ‘homage’ to Argento’s work than a strait retelling, yet they do complement one another. But if you really want to get your head around Suspiria in its entirety, I guess you’ll have to come and see it for yourself.Find your cinema and book tickets