About The Production
The first thing you would notice is the blood.
It poured from the dancer's severed head, dripping down her torso like a
sinister necklace, then collected in a crimson pool near two feet, still arched
Above the dancer, the poster read: "UN FILM DE DARIO ARGENTO."
And beneath her, just one evocative word: "SUSPIRIA."
Needless to say, 10-year-old Luca Guadagnino was captivated.
He first spied the poster for Suspiria at a movie theater in northern Italy,
where Guadagnino had been sent to summer camp. "It was a trying time for me," he
confesses. "I was not the popular one; I was the shy one. I had already nurtured
a passion for things the average kid wasn't fond of, like cinema, and an
attraction for the morbid."
Every day, the children crossed through the deserted village of Cesenatico, and
it was there that the future Oscar nominee saw the stark one-sheet for Argento's
classic 1977 horror film hung in front of a shuttered theater. It left an
"I didn't know what it was about," he recalls. "I didn't know the title was
Latin. But the image was so powerful that I started to nurture it and nurture
it. We walked through the village daily, but the only moment I really cared
about was walking past the cinema so I could admire the poster again. That's how
I discovered Dario Argento and Suspiria, and it forged one of my primary
identities, both as a filmmaker and as a man."
For years Guadagnino knew little else about Suspiria beyond that startling image
and the name of its director. But at age 13, he stumbled upon a broadcast of
Suspiria on Italian public television just as his family was about to sit down
"I said, 'I don't want to eat,' and went and locked myself into a room all alone
to watch it," he says. The film was all that he imagined and much more. "I was
terrified and exhilarated by its crazy boldness, its formal dare, the music, the
evocative power of the concept of witches. This movie made such a humongous
impression on me that I started thinking, 'I want to watch it again. I want to
read more about it.' I even went to the public library to find newspapers from
the time it came out."
It wasn't long before Guadagnino began fantasizing about remaking the movie. "I
had notebooks in which I would write, 'Suspiria by Luca Guadagnino.' Influenced
by Dario's film, I started to think of a Suspiria that could be mine."
Now, as a follow-up to the most acclaimed film of his career, Best Picture Oscar
nominee Call Me by Your Name, Guadagnino has finally brought his oldest
cinematic dream to vivid life, a deeply personal homage to the film that awed
and inspired him from an early age.
Tilda Swinton, one of the film's stars and a longtime collaborator of Guadagnino,
calls the new Suspiria a "cover version" rather than a remake. "As we know in
music, covers often sound very different from the original song," says the
actress. "The impulse to make this film comes out of a deep affection for
Argento's incomparable classic. We all have these particular booster jets, seed
beds that fire us up. I'm so happy for Luca that he has finally made what he
started visualizing so many years ago."
THE PATH TO SUSPIRIA
Italian producer Marco Morabito worked alongside Guadagnino for more than 10
years to help him realize his long-held vision. "Suspiria and I Am Love were the
first projects we decided to develop as we started working together a long time
ago," he says. "It took more than a year just to get the remake rights. It was
Luca's obsession that pushed us not to give up."
The film is also produced by Brad Fischer, whose credits include such
auteur-driven genre films as Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, David Fincher's
Zodiac and Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. "It is a wonderful twist of fate that
we were able to make a film like this in Hollywood today," Fischer says, "and
the credit for that belongs both to Luca as well as the team at Amazon - Ted
Hope and Scott Foundas in particular - whose support for visionary filmmakers is
really what made it possible."
To pen the script, Guadagnino hired American writer David Kajganich, who also
wrote the director's 2015 drama A Bigger Splash, a reimagining of the 1969
French film La piscine (The Swimming Pool) starring Swinton and Dakota Johnson.
Kajganich remembers the jolt of seeing Argento's Suspiria for the first time.
"It's like being dragged into a lava lamp by a lunatic and stabbed to death," he
laughs. "It's upsetting. It's perplexing. I remember being struck by how the
film's absence of story logic - its opposition to logic, really - didn't detract
from many people's experience of watching it. It hits people like a fever dream.
I have friends for whom Argento's Suspiria trumps all other horror films. And
given the complexity and depth in that canon, I think that's quite an
Early on in their discussions, writer and director agreed the new film would be
set in 1977, the year Argento's film was released. "It was a way we could bring
social context into the story," says Kajganich. "As hermetically sealed as
Argento's film is inside its own aesthetic interests, we wanted the opposite for
The script starts with the same premise as the original: a young American dancer
named Susie finds herself drawn to a dance company that secretly houses a coven
of witches. But while the original takes place in the small southwestern German
city of Freiburg, Guadagnino's version is set in a divided Cold War Berlin at a
time when terror attacks from the far-left Baader-Meinhof Group have reached a
fever pitch. So the young dancers' dawning awareness about the true nature of
the Markos Company is mirrored by their growing understanding of the compromised
world they are entering.
"Moving the bulk of our story to Berlin during the tense final weeks of the
Baader-Meinhof era meant we could situate the dance company right in the middle
of a recent example of society's battle with its addiction to fascism," says
Kajganich. "At the time, there was an anger rising up in Germany's youth about
what their parents and grandparents had perpetrated on Europe with the war,
which the older generations had not yet fully understood - let alone taken
Guadagnino calls the story "a fable of a very specific time and place, where the
past was so dark that it goes hand in hand with digging into the darkness of the
self." He adds that the film reflects the feminism that swept Europe in the
1970s "in the way we describe the archetypical figure of the witch and the way
the movie showcases a variety of female characters and empowers and
de-victimizes the women."
THE WOMEN OF SUSPIRIA
To play the lead character of Susie, the young woman who joins the Helena Markos
Dance Company as an untrained novice, Guadagnino cast Dakota Johnson. Best known
for her role as Anastasia Steele in the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, Johnson also
co-starred in Guadagnino's 2015 film A Bigger Splash, and it was during that
production that the director first broached the idea of Suspiria to her.
"He said he had a plan to do a reimagining of it and asked if I would want to
work with him again," says the actress. "We had fallen so deeply in love with
each other by then that I would have done anything he was directing."
Though Johnson had not yet seen the original Suspiria, she was immediately
intrigued by the subject matter. "I love dance movies, I love movies about women
and the push and pull between them, and I love films about witchcraft," she
says. "It's always been a very enticing subject for me."
When she finally watched Argento's horror classic, Johnson immediately
understood the sway it held over Guadagnino and so many other cineastes. "It was
such a visually delectable masterpiece," she says. "I can see how it influenced
the horror genre for decades. It's definitely of a different time period, but I
wouldn't describe it as dated. You're still enraptured."
The actress spent the year before production began developing her character -
formulating her past, her future, and her relationship with dance. When we first
meet Susie she has turned her back on everything she knows in America and come
to Berlin as though called by something deep within her.
"Susie comes from a Mennonite family and was born feeling as though her soul did
not match up with the religion, the people, the rules," says Johnson. "She wants
to explore the world and sexuality and movement. And she has this innate power
within her that I'm not sure she's even aware of."
Though Susie comes from a sheltered background, she proves to be a fast learner,
and her ascent within the company surprises her and everyone around her. "She's
like a little lamb that's in awe of the world, and she's shocked by everything,
but she's not timid," says Johnson. "She wants it. She wants to drink it all in.
It's an aggressive, unnerving way for a woman to behave in Berlin at that time,
and you fear for her naivete."
Kajganich notes that it's difficult to talk about Susie's character without
revealing important twists of the plot. "I will say, however, that Dakota has
mentioned she did some therapy after the shoot and I'm not surprised. For our
film to work, Susie had to be the subject of one harrowing storyline, as well as
the object of another even darker one. It was not an easy role."
The emotional demands aside, Johnson says the experience of filming Suspiria was
remarkable, in part because of the film's predominantly female cast and its lack
of a conventional romantic storyline. "It was the most nurturing, loving
environment," she says. "You go in thinking, 'Okay, I'm going to film this
psychotic story in an abandoned hotel with a cast of 40 women. It's going to be
mayhem!' And yeah, everyone was on the same menstrual cycle - the whole thing
was so witchy - but there was such a foundation of support and love and true,
deep connections with one another. It was so liberating, and it made me feel
proud to show this way of filmmaking to the world: There doesn't have to be a
leading man, or a male-female story to get the point of love across."
Swinton, the Oscar-winning actress with whom Guadagnino has collaborated on
multiple prior films, says the director first began pitching her ideas for the
movie more than 25 years ago. "As long as I can remember we've been discussing
and planning Suspiria. All those years of mastication, of marination, lend a
deep ease to a project. I've experienced this long gestation scenario before
with other filmmakers and I love it. It means the work evolves so incrementally
and with such detail that shooting is an easy business."
Her character, Madame Blanc, is a renowned choreographer and the leader of the
Helena Markos Dance Company. "Blanc is the artist," says Swinton. "She is a
dancer and choreographer of genius, a charismatic and powerful teacher who
inspires real love and devotion in her dancers. But her conflict is a keen one:
She has done a deal with the supernatural for the sake of the preservation of
her company and must live with the consequences.
"Ambivalence and a sort of twilight loneliness is her lot," adds the actress.
"She feels herself deeply compromised by the witchcraft she employs. The
turbulent context of the Berlin she has survived and is living through is still
an alienating one. Beautiful and cheerful are out: 'We must break the nose of
every beautiful thing.'"
Unfamiliar with the world of modern dance, Kajganich conducted extensive
research in order to write the character convincingly. "I studied Martha Graham,
Mary Wigman, Pina Bausch, Sasha Waltz - all the luminaries," says the
screenwriter. "I spent time in Berlin following Sasha around, interviewing her
at length and attending rehearsals with her and her dancers to see how someone
like Blanc might talk about movement, how she might mentor dancers and direct a
"That taught me the right words," he continues, "but when it came to creating a
voice for Blanc, a nervous system, I went to one of the great wells of
inspiration for this film: the work of Rainer Fassbinder. Some of the most
potent women on film came out the crucible of his collaborations with his
actresses - including the great Ingrid Caven who plays Vendegast in our film -
and I did my best to construct Blanc's way of using words and occupying scenes
in a Fassbinderian way."
Though Blanc has earned the devotion of her dancers, she is on less steady
footing within her witch cohort. "Blanc leads the dance company in our story,
but not the coven, and that puts her in a complicated situation," says Kajganich.
"It was important that the audience be able to connect with her, that she never
feels divorced from our world. There is something surprisingly sincere in Blanc,
even nurturing, though her corners can be very sharp."
Guadagnino had complete confidence in his two lead actresses' ability to
navigate the film's steep emotional terrain. "They are both incredibly talented
performers," says the filmmaker. "I think the movie needed to be an extreme
journey. But to do it in a way that is not just sensationalist but emotionally
extreme, you have to have someone who can go places with you and can have an
absolute trust in an uncompromising depiction of the way we can be extreme as
people. Both Dakota and Tilda have that capacity on their own, and the three of
us have a lot of fun going for extremes together."
Morabito, who also produced A Bigger Splash, says the two women's performances
exceeded even his sky-high expectations. "Working with Tilda is pure pleasure.
She makes everything so easy and always delivers the best performance. She
always left me speechless. Dakota's interpretation is truly remarkable. She had
to face her dark side constantly, and that raised her performance to a very high
level. She delivered every single scene with a rare power. I've never seen
Dakota like this before. I hope to have the chance to work with her again."
Not long after arriving at the Helena Markos Dance Company, Susie befriends
Sara, a fellow dancer played by rising star Mia Goth. The actress, who says she
was excited just to be able to audition for Guadagnino, first spoke with him via
Skype. "I've always been a huge fan of his," she says, "so to even have that
meeting in and of itself was a huge deal for me."
Goth was intrigued by the way her character turns from a fierce defender of the
company into a probing skeptic whose investigations could destroy everything she
knows. "She comes from a place of privilege and hasn't had to struggle much
until the point we meet her," says the actress. "Luca would say that it was her
curiosity, her obsession, that got her into the trouble she found herself in.
It's the curiosity that killed the cat."
The director is unreserved in his praise for Goth's performance. "I have to say,
she is magnificent in the movie," he enthuses.
Like her castmates, Goth was thrilled to be part of an ensemble that featured so
many talented actresses. "It was actually really empowering," she says. "You
don't get the opportunity to do something like that very often, and we really
supported each other. There should be more of that, because I think the end
product is really incredible."
Another young actress cast in a pivotal role is Chloe Grace Moretz, who kicks
off the movie with a nerve-jangling scene. "Luca and I had been trying to work
together for several years but it had never worked out, for one reason or
another," says Moretz. "He approached me about this film and it worked, thank
Moretz plays Patricia, a dancer who has fled the Markos troupe after getting too
close to the coven's deepest secrets. In a meeting with her psychotherapist,
Patricia's intense fear could be misconstrued as paranoia, and her eventual
disappearance causes others at the company to wonder what motivated her - and
what became of her.
"She was a normal girl - well-liked and grounded - who wanted to be a dancer,"
says the actress. "Without giving too much away, she finds herself the object of
some malicious attention and begins to spiral down."
Moretz says Guadagnino allowed her to approach the role in whatever way she
wanted - "Nothing was off limits." But one aspect of the part came as a
last-minute surprise: "I wasn't aware that I would need to speak German until
two or three weeks prior! I rushed to learn the language and then had to
integrate both English and German throughout the scene. It felt very frantic,
which worked beautifully for the vibe."
THE LOOK OF SUSPIRIA
To shoot the film, Guadagnino reunited with director of photography Sayombhu
Mukdeeprom, who won an Independent Spirit Award for his work on Call Me by Your
Name. The wintry look of Suspiria is a far cry from the sun-dappled warmth
Mukdeeprom captured in that film, but also differs from the super-saturated look
of Argento's Suspiria.
"Many people expect the film to be in vivid color like the original," says
Mukdeeprom. "But upon reading the first script I started to see the movie in my
own way, and I didn't feel an element of strong color."
Instead, the film's visual style flowed organically from its setting, according
to Guadagnino. "We wanted to tell a story set in Berlin, 1977, and we wanted to
make a film from that era as if we were there, which is the same attitude I
applied to portraying the '80s in Call Me by Your Name."
The director was specifically inspired by the work of Fassbinder, the prolific
German filmmaker whose vast oeuvre includes The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978),
Veronika Voss (1982) and the television epic "Berlin Alexanderplatz" (1980).
"Sayombhu and I discussed Michael Ballhaus and Xaver Schwarzenberger's work for
Fassbinder as well as the paintings of Balthus," says Guadagnino. "We wanted to
encompass something that was from the period and the place rather than mimic a
mood or find a random one. The palette includes a variety of grays and browns
and rust and pale blues and greens. We really wanted it to be a reflection of
the period and the German cinema of the period."
For production designer Inbal Weinberg that meant steering clear of the lurid
aesthetic of Argento's masterpiece. "The 1970s Suspiria is of course an iconic
horror film with a very stylized look and color scheme, but it's specific to its
time and too unique to re-create," she says. "Instead, Luca and I agreed that
our film should have a realistic quality to it, and we wanted to juxtapose that
realism with the supernatural elements that are slowly exposed in the film. We
felt the more authentic the environment, the scarier it would be when things
start going wrong."
To research the project, Weinberg flew to Berlin, where she visited museums and
remnants of the Berlin Wall in addition to devouring books and movies from the
Although many of the exterior scenes in Suspiria were shot on location in
Germany, most of the interiors, including those in the dance company building,
were filmed at an abandoned grand hotel in the mountains of northern Italy.
"After looking at various alternatives we decided to shoot there, despite its
dilapidated state," says Weinberg. Just to make the building inhabitable
required major renovations to the electrical and plumbing systems, and even
installing heating. "We had to remove debris and fix walls and ceilings that had
collapsed. And all of this before we even started designing our sets!"
The massive effort was well worth it in the end, says Guadagnino. "I loved the
place for its vastness and for the way its spaces were related to one another.
With Inbal we totally remade it to look like a German modernist building."
More than just a shooting location, the repurposed hotel became a temporary
studio, according to Swinton. "It was a holding space to create all our interior
environments in peace and with all the freedom studio shooting can bestow," says
the actress, though she notes that the location was not without its drawbacks.
"With that freedom came the extreme cold of the winter months, the challenge of
working in a building with zero integrated heating, and telecom antennae
sprouting out of the roof giving everybody on the crew jangling headaches."
Even with all the improvements in place, Weinberg concurs, the work conditions
were difficult throughout the shoot, especially once winter set in. "It was
certainly a challenging location, but it somehow fit our project perfectly. I'm
sure that the darkness of the plot seeped into the walls, and vice versa."
For Guadagnino's longtime costume designer, Giulia Piersanti, Suspiria
represented a stark divergence from the half-buttoned shirts and short shorts of
Call Me by Your Name. But she was no less dedicated to creating wardrobes that
precisely matched each character's persona. "Determining the background of a
character from a personal, social, and cultural perspective, and how the period
and story affects them, is always my priority in designing costumes," she says.
"It's the first thing I discuss with Luca. And where there is freedom to
imagine, I attribute subcultures or interests to them to determine wardrobe
Guadagnino praises Piersanti's ability to add another layer of richness to the
characters through their clothing. "Giulia made all these pieces that felt like
they came from the closet of each person," he says. "We didn't want the look of
the movie to be flamboyant for the sake of it, so we went for a variety of
sportswear from the period that could in a way be interchangeable between
characters, but at the same time, each of them has a specific personality.
Giulia was magnificent at looking at every person in Dave's script and making
sure to convey something about their personality and the period."
While staying largely within the film's muted palette, Piersanti managed to
subtly foreshadow the film's explosive climax. "Color is very important to me,"
says the costume designer. "I often use my favorite colors: muddy browns, beiges
and army greens, which are also true to the visual research of the period and
place. I also wanted red accents to give a feel of what is to come."
For the dance company's signature piece, "Volk," Piersanti created ropey
costumes that are almost harness-like, evoking a BDSM influence. "It shows that
this company is built on pleasure and pain," says Guadagnino.
Piersanti explains that the idea came from a photo she had of a work by the
artist Christo portraying a woman wrapped in heavy ropes. "When I proposed the
idea to Luca and our choreographer, Damien Jalet, Damien told us he had worked
with ropes before, so we found common ground," she says. "We hand-knotted each
costume in red bondage rope in our shop, specifically looking at bondage
techniques and photographer Nobuyoshi Araki's work."
Further sartorial surprises arise as the film delves deeper into the coven.
"When the movie leans into the darker side of this world, there is a very
upsetting use of clothing, like the witches wearing dresses made out of hair,"
says Guadagnino. "This was an amazing idea of Giulia's that led us to a world of
really powerful, disturbing imagery."
Piersanti credits Guadagnino for inspiring her to do some of her most creative
and original work. "He is the smartest, wittiest, most multitalented and most
interesting person I know, and this shows in his work as a director," she says.
"Luca is a true master and Suspiria has a vision that I cannot compare to
THE TRANSFORMATIONS OF SUSPIRIA
The prosthetic effects created by Mark Coulier, creative director of Coulier
Creatures FX and his team are nothing less than astounding, both in number and
complexity. After his first meeting with Guadagnino, Coulier was eager to get
started on the film
"Most of us were fans of the original film and of Luca's work," Coulier
explains. "It was meaningful for us to work on a film where the horror aspect is
treated with respect. This is a reimagining of a seminal film of the 1970s, not
just a cheesy horror movie. This is a high-art, high-quality horror movie for
which we created effects that are different and unusual and serve to advance the
One of the biggest challenges Coulier faced was creating a realistic male alter
ego for Swinton, who not only plays Madame Blanc, but also Dr. Josef Klemperer,
the psychotherapist pulled into the mystery by his patient Patricia. The
two-time Oscar winning designer had previously worked with Swinton on Wes
Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel, transforming the glamorous star into the
mysterious octogenarian Madame D, so he already had a head cast of the actress.
That meant he was able to jump right into sculpting the prosthetic using a
wax-based material with a skin-like texture.
Disguising Swinton's unique bone structure was Coulier's first concern. "Tilda
has remarkably feminine features," he notes. "She is striking with those high
cheekbones and that narrow jaw. Most men have a wider jaw, so the idea was to
keep her cheekbones as narrow as possible while building up the jawline for a
more masculine look. We looked at photos from the era and tried to reference
other German characters for inspiration. The materials we have now are so much
more sophisticated than they have been in the past. You can fabricate something
translucent and paint in the veins beneath the surface."
The facial prosthetics were broken down into several sections, including
forehead, cheeks and jaw, nose and ears. "Tilda has quite delicate ears, so we
covered them with rubber and created big floppy ear lobes. We covered her whole
head with a wig that seems to allow the scalp to show through and gave her
dentures that pushed lips out for a heavier jaw and mouth as well as contact
lenses to age her eyes."
After adding aged hand prosthetics, a padded section that creates a rounded back
and a small paunch, it took Coulier and his associates Josh Weston and Steven
Murphy four-and-a-half to five hours daily to transform Swinton into Klemperer.
But Swinton plays not two but three characters in the film, eventually appearing
as a hideously misshapen crone that even the most sharp-eyed viewer is unlikely
to recognize. "Luca had a crazy character in mind, an ancient Germanic woman
wearing nothing but small round sunglasses," Coulier says. "He is a fan of David
Cronenberg and the idea of body horror, so this woman has more than two breasts,
she has children's body parts and tumors growing out of her body, she has a
mouth like a frog. He gave us all these descriptions and we created an entire
full-body suit for Tilda. She is a witch, but not a normal witch - one with a
truly shocking nature."
The team was pushed to the limits during the brief nine-week prep period,
creating chilling effects that ranged from open wounds to the personification of
Death, an image inspired by the work of Austrian Expressionist Alfred Kubin,
whose illustrations have graced the pages of Edgar Allen Poe's work. "Death is a
skull-like, bony, black character with wickedly long and sharp fingernails," he
says. "Luca wanted something identifiably female, elegant, terrifying and
original that unmistakably evoked death. It's all part of a hardcore, intense,
visceral, violent world."
As complex and demanding as the process was, Coulier declares uhesitatingly that
working on Suspiria was the best job he has ever had from a design point of
view. "It was very complicated, but Luca is the kind of director who is always
there when you need an answer. He was supportive and enthusiastic all along the
way and has a true artist's eye. His imagination and collaborative nature made
it an exciting and fulfilling experience."
THE RHYTHM OF SUSPIRIA
The dance sequences in Suspiria are crucial: They must cast a spell on the
audience to such a degree that we believe the dancers' movements are imbued with
a primal, powerful force. For Guadagnino, finding the right choreographer and
aesthetic was paramount.
"I wanted to step away from the idea that this is a movie about ballet," says
Guadagnino. "For me, the radicalism of contemporary dance was the most important
thing. The dance in the movie is deeply rooted in the flesh and blood of the
characters, and I didn't want it to be an occasion for a brief moment of beauty
in movement. I wanted dance to be part of who these people are and how they
The project led Guadagnino to Damien Jalet, the 41-year-old French and Belgian
choreographer behind the Olivier-winning show "Babel(words)." "We wanted someone
who had a primal sense of radicalism and community," says the director. "It
turned out Damien was also a big fan of Dario's film."
The choreographer acknowledges he was initially somewhat skeptical about the
idea of redoing Suspiria. "But Luca very quickly convinced me that he had a true
vision behind it and also a very personal and deep connection to Argento's
version," says Jalet. "And when he told me he wanted to make dance the true
expression of the power of the witches, their secret language somehow, it was an
incredibly inspiring starting point. What I really love in his way of working is
that once he has very carefully chosen his collaborators, he gives them an
incredible amount of trust, which is very empowering."
Johnson began dance training while she was still filming Fifty Shades Freed in
Vancouver. After Jalet joined the project, she spent three weeks in Varese,
Italy, working eight hours a day with the other dancers. "I danced when I was
younger for about 10 years, so luckily I had a bit of a background and my body
has muscle memory," she says. "And I can understand choreography, so that was an
incredible plus for me."
To some extent, too, it was important that Susie feel different and less formal
than the other dancers. Since she grew up without professional training, Susie
has become a magpie for dance, pulling from any documentary or show she can get
her hands on.
"For the audition piece in the movie, Damien and I went through it and said,
'Which moves are things she's seen in 'The Nutcracker,' or a Mary Wigman movie,
or one of Madame Blanc's shows?'" recounts Johnson. "It's a little bit of
ballet, a little bit of lyrical and jazz, and then you have German expressionist
dance and her own expression, which is very sharp and fierce and linear."
"Susie is coming from a farming environment, and we somehow wanted her to have a
very grounded, very sharp, yet very sensual quality," says Jalet, who pointed
out that during her audition, Susie eschews traditional ballet shoes. "It was
not written in the script, but we felt the contact of the feet with the wood
would bring a more sensual, primal quality to her movements."
In creating Madame Blanc's work, Jalet paid homage to dance icons like Wigman
and Bausch. "I never wanted to literally copy or re-create their work," he says.
"The idea was more to connect to the source of inspirations that animated their
works, or the cultural references or physical principles they were inspired by."
Goth also spent months training alongside Johnson to learn the film's
complicated dances. "It was a long process, but really rewarding," she says. "I
hadn't really had much dance experience, and I didn't necessarily know what it
was going to entail, but my respect for dance has now gone through the roof.
They work so hard, 10 hours a day sometimes, and it's all-encompassing."
Johnson agrees. "The dancers are some of the most extraordinary people I've ever
met," she says. "There were two dancers assigned to me to help me move my body
and really find a way to learn the choreography, and for the things I couldn't
do, I had this incredible body double named Tonya who was so brilliant. The
dancers were so patient with me and so helpful and smart. It was incredible to
see how beautiful the connection is that dancers have with their bodies, and I
hope that's something that came through in my performance."
Johnson gave her all to the dance sequences, and she admits they took a toll: In
fact, one of the film's key dances sent her to the emergency room. "I threw my
back out really badly on the last take of that scene," says Johnson. "I felt
like I had tossed my torso from my legs. It's not delicate work ... you're being
really rough with yourself, and suddenly behaving like a professional dancer
when you're not."
The sequence that injured Johnson is already one of Suspiria's most notorious.
Accomplished by Guadagnino's longtime editor Walter Fasano, it is a master class
in cross-cutting: As Susie dances under Blanc's watchful eyes, a supernatural
link is formed between her and Olga (Elena Fokina), a member of the coven who
has dared to go against the witches only to find herself trapped in a nearby
mirrored room. For every move that Susie makes in her dance, Olga's limbs move
violently against her will, eventually tearing her body apart.
"That scene is exactly as we discussed it would be for years," observes Swinton.
"Walter is an extraordinary auteur of an editor: His musicality is always
apparent in his work, but, naturally, with Suspiria, the conductor in him is
fully let out to play. I think we are all extremely proud of that sequence and
his phenomenal skills which it celebrates so articulately. All of those
involved, not least the extraordinary dancers, ignite the film with this
sequence. And Damien Jalet's choreography - so distinctive, evocative and
powerful throughout - is a miracle here."
Fischer singles out Fokina for the gut-wrenching performance she delivers as the
dance's victim. "What people won't necessarily realize is that with every sharp
elbow, wrist and knee thrown by Dakota, Elena is actually, physically throwing
herself against the walls and floor of that studio. There is no stuntwoman in a
single one of those shots, and the only VFX are prosthetic appliances to
emphasize her injuries and the removal of equipment and crew reflections from
Coulier and his team were critical to the creation of the gruesome sequence.
"She goes from dancer to trashed and traumatized blob of flesh," he says. "Luca
provided us with sketches and drawings as references. Her arm goes first and
then her chest. We created a very realistic effect for a dislocated jaw and then
built a prosthetic leg that twisted completely back around her. Elena is an
extraordinarily talented dancer and was able to contort her body in a way that
helped us achieve exactly what Luca wanted."
According to Fasano, the scene was one of the most challenging and
time-consuming sequences in the movie to cut. "From the first dailies to the
very first draft of the sequence, I think it took almost six weeks to get the
edit of those three minutes," says the editor, who worked closely with Jalet to
analyze the women's dance moves and create a proper connection between Johnson
"I loved that scene from the beginning," says Jalet, "because in one room, the
dance celebrates the force of life, and in the other one, that of destruction.
It's an Eros-Thanatos pas de deux. I guess that's why the scene is profoundly
disturbing: It's repulsive and attractive at the same time."
In the decades since Guadagnino and Fasano first began mulling Suspiria, Fasano
has gone on to edit three of Argento's films. Still, he says that when it came
to editing this new take on Suspiria, he wasn't tempted to copy the original's
distinctive rhythms. "It was more of a driving force than anything specific,
because anything we had to learn from Argento was already in the blood and in
the body. The two movies are extremely different. The source of inspiration
while editing, for me, was the German cinema of the '70s - mostly Fassbinder,
but also Werner Herzog."
Suspiria presented vastly different challenges from his last acclaimed
collaboration with Guadagnino, says Fasano. "Call Me by Your Name is the sun,
and Suspiria is darkness," he says. "What I can tell you for sure is that Luca
never goes the easy way. He always tries to find new challenges, new thematic
takes. When he talks about a new project, for sure it is not something you would
THE SOUND OF SUSPIRIA
Guadagnino has mostly used pre-existing music to score his previous films, so he
was initially reluctant to work with a composer to create an original score. He
also knew that whoever did the score for Suspiria would be compared to Goblin,
the prog-rock band that provided the iconic soundtrack for Argento's movie.
But the director eventually became convinced that original music was just what
his film needed. "There was something about the energy of the movie I was
looking for - the fear, the evil, the humanity," he says. "So I started to
think, what about a soundtrack that encompasses a powerful modernity?"
For that, Guadagnino approached Thom Yorke, who has delivered some of the most
acclaimed albums of all time with his band Radiohead. Suspiria is Yorke's debut
as a feature-film composer, though his Radiohead bandmate Jonny Greenwood was
nominated for an Oscar this past year for composing the score to Paul Thomas
Anderson's Phantom Thread.
"Thom has a depth and commitment in his music and a relentless search that makes
him the musical voice of our generation," says Guadagnino. "At the same time, he
is someone who has never shied away from really relentless, disturbing music. I
knew he would be the most uncompromising author of music for my movie."
Yorke committed wholeheartedly to the project, sending the team music cues even
before Suspiria began shooting. "It was an extraordinary experience," says
Guadagnino. "It helped me, the cast, and the editor Walter to create and build
the way we wanted."
THE DREAM OF SUSPIRIA
Now, with his lifelong dream fully realized, Guadagnino hopes the film will have
the same effect on others that Argento's original had on him.
"I want people to see this movie and be impacted by it in a very unconscious
way," Guadagnino says. "I want them to think about who they are in relationship
to their upbringing. I want people to reflect on their relationship with their
mothers. And I want them to see the extreme power of women, who are so strong
and motivated. They are not victims. They are complex, fantastic, disturbing,
powerful, and sometimes evil."
Kajganich believes Guadagnino has succeeded in creating an homage to a revered
horror classic that also takes viewers on a thrilling journey into uncharted
cinematic territory. "Luca is a great humanist, and unafraid of exploring the
darkness in people, but he is always, always ready to play," says the writer.
"This film is completely insane. It's like a demented slumber party at Luca
Guadagnino's house. And you are all invited."
And if Guadagnino's version inspires new filmmakers to revisit the tale of this
occultist dance company decades from now, Swinton is all for it. "Wouldn't it be
cool if one day, somebody might be inspired to imagine a 'cover' of what we have
made?" she muses. "It is a lovely thought."
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