“Sus­piria needs to be po­lar­is­ing”

We grill di­rec­tor Luca Guadagnino on 2018’s most di­vi­sive hor­ror


WHEN SUS­PIRIA — a bold, un­pre­dictable re­make of the 1977 hor­ror clas­sic about a coven of danc­ing witches — pre­miered last month at Venice Film Fes­ti­val, it earned an eight-minute stand­ing ova­tion. Yet, in a press screen­ing ear­lier that morn­ing, there were walk­outs and boos from some jour­nal­ists. One critic called it “bland, grisly, bor­ing and silly”, while an­other de­clared it bet­ter than the orig­i­nal. This is a film, it seems, that peo­ple could well be ar­gu­ing about for years. Here, Ital­ian film­maker Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) ex­plains his in­ten­tions in re­mak­ing a Dario Ar­gento mas­ter­piece.

The re­ac­tions to Sus­piria have been ex­treme, both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive. Were you ex­pect­ing that?

Well, I love ex­treme cin­ema. I’m wise enough to know that if you ven­ture into these ter­ri­to­ries, you are not go­ing to get a gen­eral con­sen­sus. Per­haps I didn’t ex­pect it in this way, but it was al­ways in the back of my mind. I like the idea that the movie is po­lar­is­ing. Be­cause it shows that this is a movie that can­not leave you in­dif­fer­ent. That’s the worst. It’s a provoca­tive film. It needs to be po­lar­is­ing. But I would say that peo­ple should go and see for them­selves — to see how much they are po­larised by it.

Your last film, Call Me By Your Name, won univer­sal praise. Was it a con­scious move to make some­thing more provoca­tive?

Call Me By Your Name was a tiny movie. I had al­ready been prep­ping Sus­piria for

a year, when, two months be­fore shoot­ing it, I said to my­self, ‘Let’s go and do this tiny movie in my home­town.’ And we did it. It was quite dif­fi­cult to put to­gether the bud­get for Call Me be­cause — and this is the in­ter­est­ing thing — fi­nanciers couldn’t un­der­stand how you could make a movie where there were no bad­dies, where ev­ery­body was in­fused with love. I ac­tu­ally thought that Call Me was go­ing to be more po­lar­is­ing than Sus­piria!

As well as the su­per­nat­u­ral, your ver­sion of Sus­piria also deals with ter­ror­ism and post-war guilt. Is hor­ror the right genre to ex­plore dif­fi­cult themes?

Hor­ror has al­ways been at the cen­tre of the anx­i­ety of a so­ci­ety. The Cabi­net Of Dr. Cali­gari fore­saw the ris­ing of Nazism. Movies like The Ex­or­cist or Rose­mary’s Baby en­com­passed the up­heaval of the post-’68 so­ci­ety. I don’t want to sound pompous, but [to an­swer the ques­tion], ab­so­lutely. I be­lieve that pure cin­e­matic genre — be it hor­ror, Western, mu­si­cal — has the ca­pac­ity to dig down into the vein of the so­ci­ety in which they’re made, and in the best cases, to res­onate into the fu­ture.

How long have you wanted to make this film?

Thirty-three years — since I first saw Dario Ar­gento’s movie in 1985. Lit­er­ally. It’s not a sen­sa­tional an­swer. It’s true. It’s been a long jour­ney. I was re­ally in­vested in this idea of a com­pan­ion piece to Dario Ar­gento’s orig­i­nal ver­sion.

Do you re­mem­ber the first time you saw the orig­i­nal?

I was all alone in my par­ents’ house. They were hav­ing din­ner. The TV was in the other room. I closed the room and made sure that no­body knew what I was do­ing. I saw this for­bid­den movie on Ital­ian TV and I was shocked. But also so ex­hil­a­rated. It was ri­otous ex­pe­ri­ence. It set the tone for me on how, as an au­di­ence mem­ber, I wanted to be con­fronted by movies.

I had the same shock years be­fore when I saw Psy­cho, aged nine. I saw Apoc­a­lypse Now when I was seven. My fa­ther was al­ways quite bold and, per­haps [by to­day’s stan­dards], quite ir­re­spon­si­ble, be­cause he was bring­ing me to see very ex­treme films. I was ex­posed to the kind of cin­ema you aren’t used to see­ing as a kid. I thank my fa­ther for that.

Would you want chil­dren to watch this ver­sion of Sus­piria?

The ir­re­spon­si­ble an­swer is: yes [laughs]. SUS­PIRIA IS IN CINEMAS FROM 16 NOVEM­BER

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