Suspiria ★★★

I went in with no expectations and having read nothing about the movie – I wanted to be pleasantly surprised – but I have to say this film, for me, wasn’t very successful. I will try to avoid plot details, but some degree of spoiling is inevitable.

First, to its credit, the new Suspiria more or less does its own thing. I was pleased to see that it wasn’t slavishly indebted to the original, nor did it try to copy the set pieces or look of the original. It carried a gritty, lived-in look that reminded me a little of ‘Possession’. The production design, costumes and dance (and there is a lot of dance in this movie) were all very impressive. There were also a number of excellent performances. Tilda Swinton, in particular is very impressive in this.

The key problem for me is that the performances, etc, were all in service of a deeply flawed whole. The movie seemed like it was trying to be 3 different movies at once, none of which were particularly well-thought out or fully conceived. The radical politics bubbling just below the surface (with the film relocated to Berlin from the Freiburg of the original) include the Baader-Meinhof/ RAF, which should have been fascinating, but the whole subplot, which eats up a good 30-40 minutes of running time just disappears altogether, without comment. Additionally, because the movie is set in Germany, the movie tries to shoe-horn in the Holocaust, which also plays to a big shrug.

That leaves the witch/ dance studio stuff (which is ostensibly what we are all here for), but even that runs into some issues. The final twist is an interesting departure, but plays as little more than a gore-fest that ends up making the whole thing feel more like ‘Mother of Tears’ than it does the original ‘Suspiria’. There is a lot hinted at here that could have been interesting, but none of it is really explored despite the 2 and a half hour run-time. Ostensibly, the movie is about guilt and perhaps collective guilt for Germany, which also feels like a theme that is shoe-horned in at the end rather than explored or built upon throughout the film. The lack of focus is a big problem and it feels like the filmmakers have no idea what to do with the bountiful table that they set.

The pieces, apart from a great script, are all here for a great movie. It just never quite congeals. The movie also has more unnecessary postscript endings than ‘The Return of the King’, none of which really feel necessary and seem like after-the-fact attempts to imbue the film with some kind of deeper meaning that isn’t entirely earned.

I would have liked either a film about the political drama, about witches or about the challenges both physical and mental that dancers have to put themselves through. There were ways to make any combination of these ideas work, but instead, this just ends up being a bit of a muddle. Too bad, because, like I said at the beginning, there was a lot that was commendable here and the studio obviously spent a lot of money to get the period details and aesthetics right.

I also didn’t love the soundtrack. It was weird to have Thom Yorke pop songs accompany major scenes in the movie (including one of the few scenes of true horror). It was never going to come close to the Goblin score for the original, but what they did do with it musically didn't really seem to fit.