Luca Guadagnino Talks Suspiria in New Interview
Here's what the director had to say about his new film.
By Jay Gervais
Luca Guadagnino, the director of the new Suspiria, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter (THR) about his new film and went on to discuss the fine details of the movie along with how much of a personal project it was to him. Below we analyze some of the more notable quotes from the interview with Guadagnino.
THR: What was your reaction like to the original Suspiria?
I was so terrified, but as always with something that terrifies you, I was completely pulled in. I think the process of how that movie influenced my psyche probably has yet to stop, which is something that happens often when you bump into a serious work of art like Suspiria. I think the movie I made, in a way, [represents] some of the layers of [my] upbringing, watching the movie for the first time and thinking of it and being obsessed by it. So it is the result of many, many strata of fantasies, fascinations and reflections. I like to think that it’s my most personal movie, because of the way that everything started with it. With Suspiria, I really made my first horror movie, which is basically probably also my first feature, my debut.
We can see here that Guadagnino holds Dario Argento’s original 1977 film of the same name in high regard, so much that he was profoundly affected by the work and it would go on to influence him in all sorts of creative ways. He mentioned Suspiria being his debut feature, which is referring to some of his first imaginative visual storytelling he undoubtedly created in his mind which inspired him to become a filmmaker, so he could finally bring his vision of this film to life. It’s clear Guadagnino is thoroughly passionate and knowledgeable about Argento’s Suspiria.
You may recall an IndieWire interview with Argento, where the director expressed his concerns about the film and how he was not consulted about anything at that time, and also felt perhaps it should not be remade in fear of being a copy of or too drastically different from the original. Well, we now learn that both Argento and Guadagnino have been acquainted for a long time, with the former giving his approval to the new film.
I am friends with Dario [now 77] and I have had the privilege of knowing him for a long time. We had a dinner in which he said to me, “You don’t need any blessing. You need to just go and do your movie.” He was very generous. He has seen the movie, but it’s not for me to relay his reaction. I can only say to you that after he saw it he called me, and it was a great call.
It's certainly welcome to know that Argento was indeed consulted and entrusted his friend to do the film he wanted to make. Argento must have felt how close and deep-rooted his film was to Guadagnino and understood his friend’s passion to unleash his vision of Suspiria to the world.
While some things remain similar to the original, many have noticed how the new film visually looks different, which Guadagnino explains his reasoning for in the segment below.
THR: How did you choose the visual look of the film, which is so different from the original film?
I don’t think we tried to make something opposite to that. I think Suspiria by me is extremely rich in colors, except that we went for a different take. Dario Argento and let’s face it, Luciano Tovoli, his wonderful D.P., they decided to go for an extremely expressionistic way of decoding horror, which started from the work of Mario Bava. The way in which they made those colors — not just simple gels in front of lights, they were using velvet and they were really sculpting the light — [that] has influenced filmmakers for so long. I think everything that could have been said through that style has been said.
We learn here that Guadagnino chose a new look because everything that needed to be said in the original style, which began with Mario Bavo, has been extensively exhausted and there was nothing unique left to tell. Also possibly playing a factor was the issue of making the new film too close to the original, which as Argento mentioned with IndieWire would render the need for a remake pointless, an argument which definitely holds validity.
Guadagnino continued on about his visual style for Suspiria.
THR: What kind of research did your team do to determine the visual look?
For me, I always think of the setting of the story before I decide anything about the light and the color of my films. And this is a movie about Berlin, 1977, a country that is almost on the verge of civil war, where there is a great generational divide, where the horrors of the past are confronted by the urgency and the violence of the present, a period that was called the German Autumn. We started to see the pictures of the time, and in particular the wonderful lesson of [cinematographer] Michael Ballhaus in the films of Rainer Fassbinder. And we started to think of how a great painter like Balthus created such uncanny eeriness and fear in his amazing paintings. And that led me, my production designer Inbal Weinberg, my costume designer Giulia Piersanti and the director of photography Sayombhu Mukdeeprom to go for browns and blacks and blues and greens, all muted and juxtaposed, so that we could in a way encompass this idea of a German Autumn. That’s why the colors are not primary. They do not pop at you. I hope that they infiltrate you and they go deep into you.
We can easily confirm this style by looking at the footage we’ve seen of the film, which you can view in the teaser trailer as well as latest theatrical trailer here on Dead Entertainment. We already know that the movie is set in Berlin in 1977, but the detail about it taking place during the German Autumn is new, which occurred in the latter part of that year. Therefore, the choice of fall colors is appropriate given this context and when combined with Guadagnino's reasoning for the new visual style, makes the decision self-explanatory.
Finally, Guadagnino talks about the rumors circulating online about Lutz Ebersdorf, who plays a grieving psychologist in this film named Dr. Jozef Klemperer, and how some have speculated Tilda Swinton pulling double-duty playing this role in disguise, since we know she already plays Madame Blanc.
THR: Is there actually an [unknown] 82-year-old German man playing one of the leads?
I always like to cast people that are not necessarily actors. If you think of Call Me by Your Name, I asked this lady that I saw bicycling in the countryside, Vanda Capriolo, to play Mafalda, and now she plays a role in Suspiria. I like to think out of the box.
THR: There might be a surprise announcement still yet to come around this character?
No, no. It’s Lutz Ebersdorf. There was all this talk about Tilda playing the role and it came out of nowhere and I don’t know why.
Guadagnino deflects this rumor by mentioning how he likes to cast random people he encounters into film roles, which seems to be the case with Ebersdor and would explain him being unknown to the general public. It’s at least still plausible that Guadagnino doesn’t want to spoil any story revelations and is choosing to keep this secret to himself. While it’s an interesting theory and would make for quite a surprise should it be true, we’ll have to wait for the film to release for the veil to be lifted on this matter.
For the full interview with Luca Guadagnino, visit The Hollywood Reporter.
In Suspiria, evil lurks deep within a world-renowned dance company in Germany. Susie Bannion, an ambitious young dancer, travels there to perfect her ballet skills but soon learns something is amiss following her arrival. The dance troupe’s artistic director, Madame Blanc, is an enigmatic woman committed fully to the art of dance and becomes fixated on Bannion for her own mysterious reasons.
After fellow students begin disappearing, Bannion attempts to unravel the mysteries that whisper beneath the surface with the help of her new friend Sara and grieving psychologist Jozef Klemperer. However, what they find unleashes a relentless nightmare that may have been better left stowed away in secrecy.
Suspiria stars Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades series) as Susie Bannion, Chloë Grace Moretz (Carrie, Let Me In) as Patricia Hingle, Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange) as Madame Blanc, Mia Goth as Sara, Angela Winkler as Miss Tanner, Renée Soutendijk as Miss Huller, and Lutz Ebersdorf as Dr. Jozef Klemperer. Also included in the cast is the star from the original 1977 film, Jessica Harper, who will make an appearance as a character named Anke.
For those fortunate to attend the Venice Film Festival, Suspiria will make its debut at the festival with a few showings. Based on the programming lineup, the film will first appear on September 1st with two press showings at 8:30 AM and 11:00 AM, along with an encore the next day at 9:55 AM for all pass holders. For the rest of us, Suspiria will engulf cinemas in darkness later this year on November 2nd.