LUCA GUADAGNINO’S SUSPIRIA
An absolute aesthete, he’s come to be known for sensual sun- kissed films such as Call Me By Your
Name or A Bigger Splash. But this autumn Italian director Luca Guadagnino is back with a magisterial remake of a horror masterpiece – a contemporary adaptation of Dario Argento’s celebrated Suspiria. Starring Dakota Johnson in the main role, with Tilda Swinton as the director of a Berlin dance company, the movie – which was exclusively presented at this September’s Venice Film Festival – gives dance, under the guidance of choreographer Damien Jalet, a major role, using it as an occult language that becomes the instrument via which we enter the supernatural. Numéro caught up with Guadagnino and Jalet to take the pulse of this ambitious movie. A remake of Suspiria, Dar io Argento’s 1977 horror-film classic?
What an idea! It certainly requires the calibre of Sicilian director Luca Guadagnino ( Call Me by Your Name, A Bigger Splash) to at tempt the exercise. His remake more or less follows the original story, featuring a young Amer ican ingénue called Susie Bannion who joins a rather sinister dance company, where she soon discover s the evi l being wreaked by occult forces that progressively become ever more insistent. The original film, cadenced by a screaming soundtrack from Italian prog- rock band Goblin, cut to the quick by stylizing the violence to the extreme and by playing with the phobias that young women have about their bodies with respect to non- consensual intrusions. An unforgettable and disturbing sensorial experience, it was all red and pink, knives and bites, images that seemed as though slashed, and was clearly in the tradition of the Italian giallo horror- film genre begun by Mario Bava et al.
For Guadagnino, Argento’s
Suspiria was like a blow to the head
when he first saw the film as a teenager, and he has never forgotten it. He approached his remake without fear or reproach, stretching out the main narrative, giving greater space to secondary characters – notably a psychiatrist who now has a central role – and free rein to his personal obsession for bodies and their limits. But that doesn’t mean you’ll find the conquering sun- kissed sensuality of Call Me by Your Name in this new Suspiria; rather bodies are constrained, wrung out, pierced all over, but also express their power and majestic potential. While Argento simply used it as a backdrop to take his narrative elsewhere, dance occupies a central role in this new film, with choreography by the FrancoBelgian Damien Jalet. It’s dance that structures our relation with the main character, played by a flamboyant Dakota Johnson, but also with the part played by Tilda Swinton, who is perfect in her portrayal of a dance director whose outwardly glacial demeanour conceals a simmering interior. An extraordinary sequence that links dance to the physical experience of death and the destruction of the body haunts the memory long after the film is over.
With a running time of two and a half hours – an hour more than the
original – this new Suspiria sometimes gets carried away with its own ambition, flirting with the over- thetop. But the over- the- top is also its subject matter, and Guadagnino is a past master at falling on his feet, owning his penchant for the baroque and showing that he can go all the way with his fantasies – right up to a glorious blood- soaked apotheosis set to the music of Thom Yorke, who reprises his noise- music tendencies f o r the f i lm. But , above al l , Guadagnino seizes the opportunity to film an almost entirely female world in which violence comes from the abysses of history and where a fascination for womb- like symbols is aggressively in evidence. It’ll take some time to digest this film and
Interview by Delphine Roche, portrait by Paolo Zerbini