Suspiria remake

The Colors of a Nightmare

Suspiria‘s dreamy landscape is defined by its colors, which are unnatural and garish and almost always unmotivated. For a horror film, there are surprisingly few shadows on display in this film and few scenes where darkness represents the enemy. Instead, bright blues and deep reds and sickly yellows invade the frame, creeping in from around corners, shining through curtains, and bouncing off walls from light sources that simply cannot exist.

Is the film color coded in a specific way? If Argento intended for each color to represent a certain feeling, it’s not entirely clear. But what is clear is that these colors are wrong. They don’t feel right. Moonlight isn’t this blue. Entire rooms can’t possibly be lit by reds this strong. At one point, the yellow lights of a window offer refuge for a character being pursued through a blue hellscape, but once through the window, this unfortunate soul finds instant pain and suffering, because the room beyond is entirely drenched in blue.

The colors of Suspiria are beautiful, but they’re deadly. They’re sirens, luring you toward certain doom, and warnings, announcing when it is time to flee. But knowing which is which is impossible. These colors are an unnatural assault on logic, a constant reminder that you are inhabiting a dream. That no one takes notice of their unnatural world only heightens the unease. No one knows how unsafe they truly are.

Dream Logic

There’s an air of artificiality to Suspiria that only heightens its power. No room feels like an actual place built by human begins, but rather the construct of a deranged, monstrous imagine. Performances are heightened, often theatrical, with characters showing all of their cards in telling glances and evil smirks. The world of Suspiria is so obviously evil that it can be overwhelming. This is very much a fantasy film, set in a dimension that occasionally looks like our world but betrays our rules, our reality, at every possible opportunity.

The common horror movie cliche of characters making dumb choices, of venturing deeper into the abyss rather than turning and fleeing, is on full display. But unlike so many lazy films that simply position its characters to advance a plot no matter what, Argento is aware that we are at our most curious when we are asleep. When we slumber, we’ll open that weird door. As we dream, we’ll choose to stay at a ballet school where things are so obviously and horribly wrong. Suzy isn’t an idiot. She’s no dummy. She’s a victim of world run by dream logic, where grisly murders are nuisance and otherworldly imagery is a reason to be a little concerned, not a reason to hightail it back to the States.

Suspiria could be criticized for its lack of story, for how it emphasizes atmosphere over plotting, lavishing attention on individual scenes while letting the overall structure feel a little shaggy. But in the moment, this approach is majestic, powerful, and utterly terrifying. Argento doesn’t rush things. He gently pulls you from scene to scene, from set piece to set piece, slowly and deliberately presenting you with puzzle pieces at every juncture without ever letting you see the picture on the box. Suzy never completes the puzzle. You never complete the puzzle. But those pieces sure are compelling.

Continue Reading /Film Movie Club: Suspiria >>

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