Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Suspiria - Film Review

The 1977 film Suspiria, directed by Dario Argento ,is a movie flooded with piercing lights, towering aesthetics and brutishly armed with a techno induced gladiatorial score. The tale follows that of Suzy Bannion (Jessia Harper) as she moves from America to Germany to join a highly renowned dance. Very soon after arrival Suzy begins to realise the school may not just be the dance academy that it once seemed, and as strange events being to occur and she begins to make friends with fellow dance student Sara (Stefania Casini),  the realisation that the school may hold much darker secrets soon sinks in. Suzy soon seeks help as she becomes aware of the fact that the school she is attending may be involved in an ancient witches legend, which would surely explain the supernatural occurrences causing stirs amongst the students. As the film continues the set seems to amplify the theatrical events with bold lighting and 'Calugari' inspired designs, really vamping up a slightly weak plot line. Towards the closing scenes of the movie, as shots of lightning fuelled hysteria reach their peak, the plot steers towards what most of the audience would assume at this point due to unsubtle hints, witches. It seems to Suzy that the rumours of witches guilds and medieval nightmares might just carry some truth, all building to climatic scenes of the unfortunate ballet hopeful discovering the root of the evil and facing off against the legendary witch that founded the haunting dance academy.

Fig 1: Supsiria, Poster

From the very off set of Suspiria one thing becomes very clear, the arrogantly bold lightning that illuminates each scene is certainly here to stay. From borderline fluorescent lightning strikes to glowing red highlights that seem to emit from no where, Suspiria really does carry a vast colour spectrum. Now that is not to say that these illuminous additions don't add anything to film itself, these bold lightning choices from Argento really add a sense of drama to some otherwise lacking scenes of the movie. The lighting observed within Suspiria has been fully recognised by many over the years, all owing to "Aregnto's masterful use of deep primary colours" (Smith, 2000)   . The lighting certainly seems to peak at climatic moments of the movie, such as when we see Sara attempting to escape her doom and Suzy herself trying to escape the Witch engulfed issues she falls into during the closing scenes. It seems that Argento really was aiming to give the viewer something to remember when designing the lighting for his shots, as many viewers must walk away with bold streaks of red em blazed across their very thoughts of this production.

Fig 2: Suspiria, Screenshot

Argento really doesn't let the sheer plot of Suspiria do all the work in telling this story, as along with the piercing lights throughout, a monumental score accompanies all of the most memorable scenes. Each gripping shot comes fit with its own haunting piece of music, really engulfing the viewer and sucking them deeper into this haunting world that Suzy has become a part of. The score written by Goblin has been highly regarded since the release of Suspiria, being described as something that "went far beyond traditional background scoring, to become an integral part of the film" (Biodrowski, 2008). The sense that this slightly electro reminiscent score is looming over any scene really reminds the audience that Argento is fully in control of every aspect of what they are viewing, and possibly suggesting that this plot that Suzy is trapped within is much bigger than she is, and towering over her every move.

Due to these aspects of the film really taking centre stage in Suspiria, the actual plot itself seems almost buried at times, too complex to be understood due to the techno riffs and haunting glows being too prominent and filling every silence. This seems to be the only downfall of the magnificent lighting style and engulfing sounds, as the viewer is at times possibly too drawn towards these aspects of the production and less to the story line. That being said, the plot is at times dramatically captivating, when Suzy begins to seek the help of Dr. Frank Mendell (Udo Kier) and pieces of the puzzle begin to settle into place, the audience really is left grasping for more information. The closing scenes of the film that see Suzy fighting the ancient spirit that founded the school really do leave a mark on the audience and begin to become extremely enticing as the world that she is living in really becomes interesting and hopefully vast, leaving the impression that if susperia were made at a later date, it may well of spawned sequels that further explained this haunting backstory.

Fig 3: Suspiria, Screenshot

No viewer could argue that Suspiria failed to leave a huge impression on them, as the malicious glows of reds and blues haunt the every day lives of the audience, along with the unforgettable sequence of tension building notes that accompany the more captivating scenes. There is no doubt that Argento knew what he was doing when he crafted this masterpiece consisting of a"menacing Grand Guignol atmosphere, dazzling colours, gory violence, lush décor and pounding soundtrack" (Jones, 2013), aspects that have gone on to inspire countless numbers of horror films and fantasy epics. Suspiria may not focus too much on drawing the viewer into an advanced or readable plot line, but what it certainly achieves is a welcomed stain of piercing reds and dominant sounds that will leave many modern day scores and scenes to pale in comparisson.


Smith, Adam, 2000, Suspiria Review, http://www.empireonline.com/movies/suspiria/review/ Accessed on 1/12/15

Biodrowski, Steve, 2008, Suspiria by Goblin -Soundtrack Review, http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/2008/06/the-score-suspiria-by-goblin/ Accessed on 1/12/15

Jones, Alan, 2013, Suspiria, http://www.radiotimes.com/film/j7p26/URL Accessed on 1/12/15

Illustration List

Fig 1: Poster, Suspiria, http://www.screamhorrormag.com/director-revealed-for-the-remake-of-suspiria/ Accessed on: 1/12/15

Fig 2: Screenshot, Suspiria, http://www.myreviewer.com/Blu-ray/124762/Suspiria/124775/JPEG Accessed on:1/12/15

Fig 3: Screenshot, Suspiria, http://whiggles.landofwhimsy.com/archives/2009/03/suspiria_bd_initial_impression.html Accessed on 1/12/15


1 comment:

  1. Interesting review Lewis :)
    Just be careful that you are consistently using capital letters and italics for the film name... a couple have slipped through the net here.