Suspiria (1977)

suspiria header

Directed byDario Argento

Written by Dario Argento & Daria Nicolodi

A film set in a German Ballet academy, directed by an Italian film maker and spoken in the English language is bound to have a mixture of influences, but what struck me about Suspiria is the cinematic influence it has had on many of my personal favourite films. Never has a film reminded me so much of so many others. The story, although long and a bit slow, is clearly a classic tale of good and evil, with an American student travelling halfway around the world to study her passion at a dance academy when some strange occurrences start happening . After a gruesome death reminiscent of the slasher genre, the story follows Suzy as she struggles to fit into the academy, whilst trying to ignore the signs of things not being quite right in her new residence. Inspired by such gothic stories as those of the Grimm Brothers, this film uses many horror conventions to send shivers down your spine.

Suspiria reminded me of some of its contemporary films such as Carrie (1976) with the significance of blood to the story as well as later films such as The Shining (1980) through the use of a red setting, like the blood red of The Shining’s Bathroom scene, and the red exterior of the academy in Suspiria, giving a bloody first impression of the place. This visual choice by Argento gives the ominous effect of the supernatural, making it seem as if the walls are dripping with blood, clinging to the setting as the centre of the haunting atmosphere. The cinematography and tinkling music in an interesting non dialogue scene where the blind piano player walks through the town is also reminiscent of the famous Tubular Bells walk near the start of The Exorcist (1973). The similarities extend to the foreboding elements that the two scenes suggest and the suspense, the waiting for something to happen, the tense atmosphere just waiting to be released through a scare or shock. This era of American cinema has to be one of my favourites, and this film fits so well into that category, amongst some of the best horror films of all time, it seems it’s only a matter of time until its remade by some Hollywood studio, as is happening to all truly great horror films, no doubt with Chloe Moretz playing a lead role.

To me it also seems to have influenced more modern films such as the quick editing style of Edgar Wright, the suspense caused by it, the almost waiting to be scared through contrasting this with long takes of the country side, again, waiting for something to happen. It also has such images as this …

… devil’s snare anyone?

Although not the most imaginative of narratives or endings (without giving too much away), the cinematography, editing and just composition of everything are amazing, I have never seen anything like it, never watched a film and been in complete awe of the visual aspects of it. The way everything is placed on the screen, how one shot suggestively slides into another, the narrative, which I always focus on, comes second in my eyes to this astounding artistic piece of cinema. There’s one particular shot in which a glass of wine is being drunk, the deep red matches the almost black background of the door, in deep focus, it’s like the wine is pouring into or away from it. There are so many shots like this; I’ll be amazed if you can’t find just one shot that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

There isn’t much focus on the dancing aspect of this film as it is a horror not a musical, but one of my favourite scenes is that of Suzy, dancing on point (dancing term for standing on the tips of your toes), feeling faint and staggering, still on point and then her falling from such a height. Seeing this from a high angle, the helplessness of her is presented. After which a close up on her face reveals pinky-red blood dripping from her nose. One of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing. The utter helplessness of our protagonist fighting against the music to dance, a stark contrast with how the other girls are dancing, shows the significance of her to the story, her inability to fit in, to keep up could possibly save her.

It’s so difficult to explain just how enchanting the composition of this film is without watching it. So that’s my advice to you. Watch this film, guaranteed you will be as lost for words as I was when I first saw it, which Is why I took so long to write this review. It’s difficult to put into words just how chilling and mesmerising and tense this film is. Not necessarily scary but you will get a few jumps out of this, but mainly the effect of the film is the fear of the jumps that you Argento takes his time setting up. You will not be disappointed.

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