Remakes are a tricky thing to pull off. When trying to create a fresh, contemporary take on an existing piece of material, there’s a risk in alienating the audience from the first film and defeating the very purpose of remaking a movie: profiting from a known commodity.
One of the most creatively successful remakes of the last few years is Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 version of Suspiria. Where Dario Argento’s original film was a colorful, crowd-pleasing thriller, Guadagnino’s movie is contemplative, somber, gray, and commanded by three separate Tilda Swinton performances.
As always, this conversation has been edited to sound less weird.
Dave: Yeah. One of the things I really enjoy about the 2018 movie is that the Tanz Dance Academy coven of women, they just kind of sit around smoking cigarettes and reading the newspaper all day and then have these serious conversations about black magic. It’s very domestic.
Jonah: Even the cleanup at the end of the movie, the cleaning of the bodies and the blood. It’s just so matter of fact. It’s like, Hurry up, we got other shit we got to do.
Ruby Soho: Super nonchalant.
Dave: Yeah, yeah. There’s almost a collective kind of utopian vibe to how they live together. We all kind of hang out and we take care of each other. We wash each other’s dishes, we go to the movies together, we eat dinner together. But then we also do black magic on the side. It is really interesting. As you pointed out, very few men in that movie. The only major male character you see is played by Tilda Swinton, Dr. Klemperer.
Ruby Soho: I need you guys to understand. When I saw the remake, I didn’t know that that was Tilda Swinton. And so when I saw the psychiatrist, I knew that, like the makeup was almost done so much so that you knew that this was not the man. Like, there was so much makeup on him. So you had to look up, who is this actor? And then I went on the journey of looking up who he was in the credits, not being able to find him and then seeing the news articles. I will say this on podcasts that have nothing to do with this movie. I will still find a way to bring it up because it’s the most amazing Easter egg thing that I have ever heard. It just blew my mind.
Dave: We mentioned this earlier in the episode before you came on, but they were trying to get her to do press in character as the actor who played Dr. Klemperer. And there was a whole thought around killing this fake actor off. I mean, like, this would be his first and only movie role. And of course, I’m not trying to brag by saying that I knew it was Tilda.
Ruby Soho: Sounds like a brag to me, guys, I don’t know.
Dave: No, no. I’m one of the most humble people in the world, right, Jonah? Right, right. He cut out. He just said no. So um, one of my favorite parts of the movie, for sure. And she also plays Mother Marcos.
Ruby Soho: I just found that out today.
Dave: It’s incredible the performance that she gives as all three characters, including the grossest, most deformed monster at the end. And of course, there’s this really interesting, complex Madame Blanc in the rest of the movie. There’s a great line with her and Dakota Johnson’s character. They’re talking about The Dance, and Susie said something about it being sexual in a way and Madame Blanc says, “Were you thinking about boys?” And she says, “No, I was thinking about animals.”
And I was like, This is both gross, and I understand exactly what she’s saying. This is a movie that is not about people caring about boys, sexuality, and all of that stuff. This is a movie about women and women’s issues, women working together as a collective and how women’s psychology is something that we don’t explore in movies. Do you feel like there’s any movie in your filmgoing history that comes close to this in terms of telling these kinds of women’s stories accurately?
Ruby Soho: Not one that I can think of right offhand because I saw this movie for the first time probably three months ago or so. Like, it was fairly recent. The thing that I love about just the line that you said is it’s more primal, like animalistic instead of like the sexual desire that’s now inherently been like a marketable thing with women. It’s become more, I guess dirty in a way. But in this movie, it’s so much more empowering, like this primal, animalistic, mother-like energy that she’s possessing with The Dance that I really like.
I also noticed, and maybe it’s not meant to be this way, but like in the original, the woman who plays the headmistress, the difference in their energy. I feel like inherently as women, when women are successful, successful women are portrayed as bitches immediately. Like they have to be these tyrant women that these other women fear. But Madame Blanc’s success and how she presents herself is very maternal and she carries herself in a way that you’re like, these girls aren’t afraid of her, they just admire her and they want to be around her and they want them to care about her, to care about them. There are so many subtle things that maybe you don’t pick up on that I think are so powerful within the context of women in film. I think it’s just really, really well done. I really like this movie.