This is what it feels like watching Suspiria, that all the while during this movie you are part of the spell, captivated by the symbolism and violence of a coven that practice the dark arts and dwell in pure evil.
Keep in mind that this is not an easy movie; I went to see this in the IFI where you’d expect a more tolerant audience, but given the grotesque nature of the coven and their chilling malevolent actions people turned away from the screen and several people walked out. Most definitely not a date movie and not one to watch with the folks, unless you’re the Adam’s Family or super weird like Kevin Spacey.
I’ve mentioned symbolism, if you’re going to go see this movie keep an eye on all the various symbols on screen, because it’s very unlikely you’ll watch this movie twice due to the brutality of some of the scenes, so you might only have one chance to catch everything. One of the themes of this movie is the question of why do people willingly conduct acts of violence. It asks if people are born evil or do they turn that way. It also asks the question do people see the evil and violence around them, and importantly if they do how do people then live with their shame and guilt.
The film has a historical context, set in Berlin in 1977 there is more conspiracy going on here than in Bridge of Spies. There are kidnappings, hijackings and whispers of all kinds of violent terror heard on snippets of the news. The movie also has plenty of references to WW2 and Nazi Germany. In his rise to power Hitler promised to restore faith in the Volk which would bring wholeness to Germany while accusing other politicians of destroying German unity.
In Suspiria Madame Blanc teaches her dance “Volk” to an aspiring young dancer Susie Bannion;
“When you dance the dance of another you make yourself in the image of its creator” she tells her in one of the most bewitching scenes in the movie.
Joining the coven has it’ benefits, food, shelter, motherhood. The dancers speak about the love they feel in the academy but ultimately there are consequences for leaving and trying to tear the family apart.
Chloë Grace Moretz plays the distraught role of Patricia, a dancer who has escaped the academy. She sets the tone of the movie from the very beginning with a visit to psychologist Dr Josef Klemperer. There appears to be a background story here, as the doctor has a case file on Patricia, but this isn’t explored any further, which is a bit disappointing as Moretz really captures the screen with a haunting presence as she forewarns the audience for what’s to come;
“At the beginning she gave me things, perfect balance, perfect sleep. Now she wants to get inside of me”
That said the opening scene is full of omens and it introduces Dr Josef to the witches dance and ultimately his salvation, and possibly the salvation of mankind depending on how much you read into the film.
Symbolism and violence aside this movie is visually captivating, there are more costume delights than you’d find at a lady Gaga concert. There are hypnotic dream sequences that are nightmarish and subliminal while at the same time ending in orgasm. The witchcraft is captured in the dance sequences and the power the witches summon is not lost on the screen, some of the jumps and movements evoke the presence of demonic spirituality which sends shivers down the spine and leave you thinking about what you’ve just witnessed for days to come.
The final few acts in this movie are spoken about a lot in reviews; obviously it would be unfair to say too much but the finale features a strong theatrical dance performance, which is the soul of what this movie is about. After watching a horror movie that pushes the grotesque to new levels it’s quite hard to adapt to the sudden increase in tempo and it can be difficult to come to terms with what the film is offering.
However Suspiria proves to push beyond the horror genre it’s set in and creates a world with plenty to talk about, enough darkness to make you close your eyes, and enough intrigue to make you want to stay till the end. My advice would be to go see this movie while it’s showing in the cinema but whatever you do, don’t go alone.