Luca Guadagnino was adamant during the lead up to the release of his “Suspiria” that his movie was not a traditional remake of Dario Argento’s original but a cover version. Anyone who has seen the horror film over its last two weeks of release know the director wasn’t kidding. Guadagnino’s ending, in particular, completely upends Argento’s original vision as well as his own after it is revealed in the bloody climax that Susie Bannion is in fact Mother Suspiriorum.
Guadagnino’s “Suspiria” begins as Susie (Dakota Johnson) leaves her Mennonite family in America to attend the prestigious Markos Dance Academy in Germany. Susie proves to be remarkably talented, so much so that she attracts an instant, almost otherworldly connection with the academy’s artistic director, Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). Much of the tension in “Suspiria” comes from what exactly Blanc and the coven of witches intend to do with Susie, who starts being groomed by the coven for some mysterious purpose. Markos was Mother Suspiriorum in Argento’s original, so it’s an absolute shock when it’s revealed in Guadagnino’s version that it’s actually Susie who is one of the three powerful mothers.
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The revelation about Susie opens up some major questions about the film, mainly whether or not Susie was Mother Suspiriorum the entire time or if Mother Suspiriorum slowly possessed Susie throughout the film in order to conquer the coven and drive Markos out. Collider recently asked Johnson to weigh in on her character’s fate, and the actress said she went into the project making sure her acting wouldn’t give a clear answer away.
“I did make an effort to sort of leave that open for interpretation,” Johnson said. “Susie’s evolution is very internal. It’s deeply internal, but the thing that draws her to Berlin to Madame Blanc is also deeply internal. There are so many threads of possibilities.”
Johnson knew from the beginning that Susie was “different,” and it was in that ambiguous space where she found the heart of her character. Whether Susie was Mother Suspiriorum the whole time or gradually became her over the course of the film, the character was clearly always destined for the coven and Madame Blanc.
“She comes from a Mennonite family, and Mennonites came from Germany. She has sort of like denounced the church, her mother and her father,” Johnson explained. “She just fundamentally does not accept the life that she’s been given, which a long time ago if you did that, you were a witch. If you were at all independent, if you thought independently, if you felt independently from your father or the church, you were a witch.”
“There’s all these kind of like hints that Susie’s different but she doesn’t know,” Johnson continued. “She just feels this pull, this magnet, this thing, to dance and she has to go to Berlin. She has to be with Madame Blanc. It’s like just she was born in the wrong place. I think that’s how she makes sense of it, like, ‘I just don’t belong here.’ Then I believe once she understands what is happening there is a very, very subtle moment where I think she realizes what she’s meant to do. I want the audience to figure out when that is.”
“Suspiria” is now playing in theaters from Amazon Studios.