“Do you know anything about witches?” This Halloween, the Berlin Film Society is resurrecting Italian director Dario Argento’s 1977 cult horror classic, Suspiria – arguably the most famous of all Italian horror films – over 40 years since the film’s original release and just before the release of Luca Guadagnino’s remake with Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson.
“It was a dark and stormy night…” is the best way to start any horror story – and so starts Dario Argento’s classic Suspiria. The original tagline of this movie was “The Only Thing More Terrifying Than The Last 12 Minutes of This Film Are The First 92.” Terrifying is relative in this day and age – with so much technology and understanding of creating suspense, this movie feels well dated. The post-synchronized sound adds to the awkwardness. The actors speak in their native tongues for the film and different versions were dubbed. But these stylistic qualities belong to the Italian slasher/pulp/erotic genre “giallo” (named for yellow cover of 50’s slasher/pulp fiction) which Argento was aspiring to create. Fairy tales are evoked through dark foreboding forests, witches and threatening stock characters like Miss Tanner, the harsh German-accented dance master. The character harks back to classical horror movies – and even Frau Bluecher (cue: horses neigh) from Young Frankenstein (1974). Other stock characters who fill the story are the ugly butler, the clarifying psychotherapist/academic, evil doctor, the frightened friend, and so on.
What makes it a classic must see? The saturated red colors of cinematographer Luciano Tovoli’s (Antonioni’s The Passenger ) who made this movie using zero post-production alteration of the images. It is celebrated as one of the last Italian films to be filmed in three-color dye transfer Technicolor. Quirky unusual framing of objects in the foreground surprise the viewer over and over. The film has mesmerizing music by Goblin – whose prog-rock electronic music was pre-recorded and a rough version was cut, pasted and played while they filmed. Supposedly set in Berlin, despite the Schuhplattler and the Airport scenes which were filmed in Munich, the rest of the set was built for the film on a stage set – richly stylized with pseudo-Jugendstil framed windows and doors, painted glass pretending to be stained, and lighting that is filtered to some other color so that you are jolted when the light is occasionally naturalistic.
The acting is a pot-pourri of European stars such as Fritz Lang favourite Joan Bennett, and Alida Valli who may better known for Hitchcock’s The Paradine Case. Jessica Harper, who plays Suzy, (a big-eyed 70’s incarnation of Ellen Page), went on to be in Pennies From Heaven and Rocky Horror Picture Show sequel Shock Treatment – and she has a small role in the new 2018 remake staring Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson – opening November 11 in Germany. Suzy doesn’t get murdered, but some other people do, and the gory details include a heart piercing, a mauling, and being skewered by broken glass. This horror film is quaintly uncomfortable and laughable at the same time packaged in a stunning aesthetic making it timeless. The blood flows red like geraniums, making it all the sweeter to watch and all the less terrifying. Sit back and enjoy the visceral visuals, spine tingling tinkle of the music, and the witchery as a Halloween treat!
Suspiria will be screened this Halloween on October 31st and November 1st at Staatliche Ballettschule und Schule für Artistik. Doors open at 19:30, and the film will be introduced at 21:00 with a special live ballet performance choreographed by Brazilian ballerina Cristina Perera. Join us for a dazzling, bewitching night of fancy-dress – witches and ballerinas from cinema – and enjoy our complimentary snacks and drinks from Martini, SPRIZZERÒ, Wildcorn and Erben Wein. We will also be giving out a very limited number of exclusive film posters illustrated by Cat Finnie (pictured above).
Our October 31st screening is now SOLD OUT. Tickets for November 1st are still available online. We advise booking your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment!