Amazon Studios’ CinemaCon presentation teased “Suspiria,” director Luca Guadagnino’s tribute to the namesake ’70s Italian gore-fest. The film stars repeat Guadagnino muses Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton, respectively playing a modern dance student and the sinister headmistress at Europe’s most prestigious dance company. For his version, Guadagnino shifted the action from southern Germany to Berlin.
The post-lunch crowd watched an exclusive and graphic scene (“It’s not for the faint of heart,” said the studio’s head of movie marketing and distribution, Bob Berney). A young woman is in the midst of a violent crying jag, clawing against the mirrored walls of an empty studio. In another studio, Susie Bannion (Johnson) is about to perform an exercise for her class. Madame Blanc (Swinton) tells Susie, “If you feel ill at any time, just stop.”
Susie begins to dance, but with each twist and turn, the girl in the other room is flung up against the mirrors. A sinewy mass — possibly a creature — stretches out her flank. During Susie’s performance, the other student sustains broken bones, feels her jaw burst through her lip, and soaks the floor with drool and urine. When Susie swipes her wrists across each other, the girl’s legs bend back at unnatural angles. She is in agony, reduced to a knot convulsing on the floor.
Guadagnino and Johnson, CinemaCon’s Female Star of the Year, were in attendance. “You’ll see how how dance, magic, spells, horror, are all intertwined,” promised the director. Johnson has admitted that the “Suspiria” sets — in particular a deserted hotel — sent her to a therapist’s couch. “The location kind of held this energy in itself, and we were all only there,” said Johnson. “It felt like a hospital, like a mental institution.”
For four months, Johnson trained in modern dance. “It’s against what you see in ballet, it’s against gravity,” she said. “It’s aggressive, and it’s not necessarily pretty. It’s hard on the body.” Still, she had nothing but compliments for Guadagnino: “Since meeting Luca, my whole creative world sort of exploded, in my heart and in my brain.”
“Suspiria” features a score by Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, and was scripted by “The Terror” creator David Kajganich, who wrote “A Bigger Splash” for Guadnagnino, Johnson, and Swinton.
Amazon Studios will release “Suspiria” in theaters this fall.