For some a film like Suspiria should never be remade. It is, after all, a cult-classic. Argento at his very Arengto-ish. So it is with some trepidation that one embarks upon Call Me By Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino’s remake.
The Guadagnino’s incarnation of Suspira follows a similar basic plot but embellishes and delves much deeper into the mysteries surrounding the dance company at the film’s centre. Arriving in Cold War Berlin Susie (Dakota Johnson) is determined to prove her worth to the head of the company Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). But at the heart of this company is a darkness, one that will engulf all those who come into contact with it.
Argento’s Suspiria is a kaleidoscopic hallucinogen of a film. Swirling with deep red it was a film designed to blind and shock. Guadagnino’s incantation is more stilted, his colour pallet subdued and cold, as if distancing himself from the source material he is seeking to evoke. In fact, as the opening unfolds you become increasingly convinced that Suspiria is a film ripe for remake, because the original is like a distant nightmare that has faded.
The remake is a reminder of that nightmare but one intended to unfold gradually. At nearly an hour longer than the original, Guadagnino’s Suspiria can drag. Plot lines seemingly meadre along like a very slow dance piece, often there to lull you into a sense of tranquility rather than further the core narrative. But in doing this we are partly seduced, partly dragged, flinching at the ideas alluded to into its world.
It is a film that slow-dances at times before dazzling with its stunning visuals and powerful editing. Everything about Guadagnino’s film seems intentionally the opposite of the original, the performances – even Swinton’s multi-character performances – are delicate, subtle and understated. It is only at its climax that Guadagnino pulls back the curtain to reveal the blood-spattered nightmare you always knew, always suspected, always dreaded was back there.
The devil is in the detail and Guadagnino’s film leaves no stone unturned in fleshing out, before ripping off, the meat of Argento’s original bone. Visually stunning, indulgently long, nightmarishly compelling and an ending that will have your brain shouting WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? In a good way, kind of.