It’s a bold move when another auteur remakes another auteur’s movie.
Martin Scorsese did it with J. Lee Thompson’s 1962 Cape Fear in 1992. Jonathan Demme had a revisionist take on John Frankenheimer’s 1962 political-thriller classic The Manchurian Candidate, casting Denzel Washington in the Frank Sinatra role of Ben Marco in 2004. Gus Van Sant remade Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho shot-for-shot in 1998 with Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore and Viggo Mortensen.
Remaking Dario Argento’s 1977 giallo Suspiria has been a passion of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Luca Guadagnino since he was a teenager, and in 2007 he went after the rights when Miramax decided against a re-do.
When Gaudagnino sat down with Argento to get advice on a recreating Suspiria, the horror director gave his full blessing: “I have no advice, do your movie’ he told me,” says the Call Me By Your Name director.
Perceived as a fun campy pic back in its day by critics, Suspiria was the first in Argento’s thematic Three Mothers trilogy about ancient witches and their impact on global events. The trilogy kicks off with Suspiria and continues with 1980’s Inferno and 2007’s The Mother of Tears. Argento always teased about making a prequel as well.
The basic plot between the two movies are similar: A bright-eyed American dancer Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson in the new version, Jessica Harper in the original) comes to a prestigious Berlin dance company to learn from the greatest in her craft, Madame Blanc (one of Tilda Swinton’s three roles in the movie, and originally played by Joan Bennett). Susie soon discovers she’s in a convent of witches, however, each film differs in the way she handles her situation.
For Guadagnino, he sought to create a more mythological-political tale that wasn’t just a she vs. them type of horror movie, rather embedded the fierce rebellious attitudes that occurred in Germany and Italy during the late ’70s in response to the Cold War and the Fascism that plagued both countries during World War II, particularly seen through the eyes of women in a divided post-war Berlin. There’s plenty that rings true in Suspiria, especially as women rally against a U.S. president who they believe has shown chauvinistic tendencies.
“The concept of a witch has been very true to the evolution of Europe…it’s not just a fantasy tale,” says the director who helmed off David Kajganich’s screenplay, pointing to how the patriarchy was repulsed by the congregation of women, painting them as “agents of the devil”.
Last year Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name was nominated for four Oscars, including best picture, and winning for James Ivory’s best adapted screenplay. To date, Suspiria, an Amazon Studios release, counts a nomination for Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s DP work at the Independent Spirit Awards and wins at the Venice Film Festival for Franco Ragusa’s costume design and Thom Yorke’s song “A Suspirium”.