Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Udo Kier, Joan Bennett, Alida Valli
Language: Italian, Russian, English, German, Latin
Duration: 98 min.
A newcomer to a prestigious ballet academy gradually comes to realize that the staff of the school are actually a coven of witches bent on chaos and destruction.
Suspiria is a film directed by Dario Argento, co-written by Daria Nicolodi. It's the first part of a loose trilogy entitled The Three Mothers, followed by Inferno (1980) and concluded with The Mother of Tears (2007).
His first supernatural horror film and also the pinnacle of his oeuvre, it is an unparalleled exercise in sumptuous visual style and unsettling atmosphere. One that takes the audience on a hallucinatory journey into a nightmare fantasy world and batters them with a series of kaleidoscopic images and disorienting sonic compositions.
It's structured like a twisted fairy tale, and is the first of Argento's films to feature a female protagonist; a trend that would become a staple of almost all of his future ouput. In this case it's young ballerina Suzy Bannion (the fresh faced Jessica Harper) who arrives in Germany alone and in the middle of a torrential storm, bound for a famous dance academy where she has been accepted. However, any semblance Suspiria has to a logical story or reality ends as soon as she steps through the automatic doors at the airport.
From that moment on, the cinematic wind and rain, rich saturated colors, perspective distorted ultra-wide angle cinematography, and Goblin's sinister, music-box straight from hell score, take over and transport us into a plane of subconsciousness where we will remain for the next 95 minutes.
I have to admit though, as disturbing as they should be I've never really found the images or events presented here to be all that frightening. For me, maybe the most troubling aspect of all, is that this fascinating and hypnotic dreamscape is just so exquisitely crafted that even the violently gruesome murders can be admired as impressive acts of beauty.
As an artistic horror film, Suspiria is an influential landmark and an unequivocal masterpiece. A triumph in direction and an exhilarating sensual feast that has been emulated countless times since, but neither Argento nor anyone else has been able to outdo.
— Bonjour Tristesse