Six acts and an epilogue set in divided Berlin is the title card for Luca Guadagnino's remake of Dario Argento's regal Art House film Suspiria. A wet disheveled feral female bursts into her psychologist's office. She is babbling about people trying to get inside of her. Her psychoanalyst Dr. Jozef Klemperer a doting old man with a strange look that's hard to place. He tries to listen to her disjointed tale about the dance company where she's a member the need for revolution but she storms out leaving her bag never to be seen again. Cut to Susie (Dakota Johnson) stumbling in the U-Bahn at Suspiria station, hiding her money from the counterculture youth while trying to get her bearings. She finds her destination a building literally right beside the Berlin Wall with TANZ written above the door. She enters the Helena Markos Dance Company doors being told immediately that they tried to call and cancel her audition. She gets to dance anyway impressing the directors and compelling the artistic director Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) to poke her head in the room to watch. Susie is forceful steps and razor-sharp movements as she commands the floor. She is precise, passionate and has that quality that Madame Blanc likes; moves that would break a nose if you got in her way.
Behind the scenes, the directors are struggling for control of the company split between the Blanc and Markos camps. The battle is not only over the direction of the club but also for the path of the witches coven that dwells below the surface. Susie makes the all-female troop rocketing up to lead for the upcoming performance of Volk with Madame Blanc firmly in her corner. Her complete commitment to her routines leads the directors to discuss the possibility of her being an asset in the activities at the lower level of the building seeing that Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz) last seen panicked in her psychologist office couldn't handle the responsibility.
Director Guadagnino could not have picked a more polar opposite project to follow last year's summer romance film Call Me By Your Name. There you had a research student and the Professors son hanging out in a lazy small Italian town. Here you have Berlin in the height of the Cold War with the spectre of the Baader-Meinhof Gang and the Lufthansa highjacking on every, T.V., radio and newspaper front page. The films 152 minute runtime is not an issue as it whips by for the first three acts. However, some will become increasingly uneasy in an extended 4th act ritual scene that goes full on mother! towards the end.
Suspiria has several elements that will remind the audience of other directors. Argento is obvious, the title card is von Trierish and the closing third dreamlike chaos. The viewer will have an opinion on this film. It will likely be strong whether positive or negative featuring a sharp scrip pointing out revelations such as Susie explaining that the Mennonites broke away from the Amish because the latter was too liberal or Madame Blanc remarking that if you want to be a dance you have to learn French. Tilda Swinton is steely focused as alway while Dakota Johnson turns in a very physical performance. It's violent, jarring, gruesome, sad yet funnier that one would expect and you definitely won't come out of the theatre yawning after the house lights go up.
***1/2 Out of 4
Suspiria | Luca Guadagnino | Italy / U.S.A. | 2018 | 152 Minutes.
Tags; Cold War, Berlin, Baader Meinhof Gang , Dance Company, Witches Coven, Meat Hook, Porcelain, Compound Fracture, Sacrifice, Ritual, Nazi Camp, Sliced Pear.