Crying in Suspiria

Last Sunday I went and caught a late screening of Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake — which I wasn’t eager to see, hadn’t even seen the trailer or read a review, but it’s a moderately big-deal horror movie and I do feel an obligation to keep my thumb on the pulse of the genre, at least the mainstream stuff. 

I ended up having a kind f unexpectedly visceral reaction, though, because there’s this heartbreaking monologue at the very end that, given my current situation with the breakup (and the attendant angst of noticing that my ex was also apparently my closest friend), rang my bell pretty hard.

The movie’s about a talented young dancer (Dakota Johnson) who’s accepted into an elite dancing school in Berlin int he late ’70s. She slowly realizes that the whole troupe is also a kind of witch coven.

But so there’s this powerful monologue at the end, delivered by the supreme witch. She’s talking to an old man on his deathbed about what hapened to his wife, from whom he was separated during teh war and whoe whereabouts he’s never learned. She tells him that his wife was arrested, and put in a concentration camp. One night, the guards demanded a census be taken of the prisoners. So they were brought ut of tehir barracks and made to stand for several hours, half-naked, in freezing temperatures. His wife was one of the many to die of hypothermia. but, as the witch tells it, the old man’s wife, even in all that pain and dread, was smiling, as she died, because she was thinking of a particularly wonderful day they’d spent together, as young lovers. The old man is bawling through the story, trying to focus on every word but also clearly conflicted about whether he wants to hear it. (The old man, incidentally, is played by Tilda Swinton in heavy makeup. Even a prosthetic penis.)

This rang my bell pretty hard. Having just gone through the whole breakup thing with Rosie (especially that first nine-hour breakup where we spent the whole night reminiscing on our time together), I’m attuned to the way that a relationship is finally, int he minds of both parties, a constellation of moments. Good ones, ideally. Some of them are five seconds, just a meaningful glance at the right moment, and sometimes it’s three perfect days you spent together at an apartment on the beach. 

Those moments with Rosie are still, for me, just emerging. I don’t know whether to suppress/ignore them, keep that door to the past closed for a little while longer, or if I should open it up and look, wallow, weep.

Anyway. Suspiria captures that little reality in a beautiful way. Made for the strangest reaction I’ve ever had to a horror movie.

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