Guadagnino's remake of Argento's 1977 classic 'Suspiria' presents Dakota Johnson under shades of grey

Guadagnino brings in the urban aesthetics instead of going all-in color splashes, like his predecessor Argento.


                            Guadagnino's remake of Argento's 1977 classic 'Suspiria' presents Dakota Johnson under shades of grey
Luca Guadagnino and Dame Julie Andrews (Source : Getty Images)

Although the Oscars still do not have a separate category for 'The Best Color Palette in a Movie', yet color palette plays an integral part bringing out the essence of characterization in a movie.

Nothing can better explain the statement other than the works of two great Italian filmmakers, Dario Argento and Luca Guadagnino.   

There is a lot of hype going on about Guadagnino's remake of Argento's 1977 masterpiece 'Suspiria'. 'Suspiria's is the first part of Argento's the Three Mothers trilogy- the other two parts being 'Inferno' and 'The Mother of Tears'. Argento's movies are based on Thomas de Quincey's 1845 series of psychological fantasy essays, 'Suspiria de Profundis'.

Thomas de Quincey mentions that just like the three ladies of Merci and Fate, there are three ladies of Sorrow: Mater Lacrymarum (Our Lady of Tears), Mater Suspirium (Our Lady of Sighs), and Mater Texebrarum (Our Lady of Darkness). While Argento has projected the three ladies, combining with the lore of the Three Mothers, in three separate parts, Guadagnino seems to have projected all three in one. 

Both the directors have presented the tale of witchcraft through the use of distinctive layers of colors and overlapping music. But both have added some signature features to their films. Guadagnino puts his characters against a backdrop of a more sullen Italy, as compared to Argento's color-splashed Italy. Guadagnino's trailer gives a quick of glimpse the movie which more or less seems to follow a more moody, effective and vague play of colors.

Predominantly in grey, there are only a few glimpses of red which was a predominant color in Argento's movie. The ominous and dreadful scheme of events is dropped on a more muted color palette, tinged with slates of greys, muddy browns, and cold blues. The darkness prevails throughout with the dull palette as compared to Argento's all-in color scheme. 

In Argento's film, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli uses the primary colors red, blue and green, to let the audience identify with the more general flow of life. When Suzy, the protagonist of the film (played by Jessica Harper in Argento's version), arrives at the airport the bright flashes of yellow and red immediately give the audience an otherworldly effect.

Tovoli has explained that the audience is at once transported to the world of fantasy and witchcraft the moment they come across such vibrant colors, almost convincing them that it is an unreal projection of the world that they live in. Yellow serves the purpose of contaminating the other colors, to establish Suzy's confused states of mind. 

Guadagnino, however, chose to stick with the dominance of more urban aesthetics, where the characters' pale skins are left in sync with the gun-metal palette. In a scene from the trailer, where Dakota Johnson (who plays the character of Suzy in Guadagnino's version) looks straight into the camera, the pebble colored wall behind and the crimson-colored straps of her top flare up her pale face and red locks of hair.

Probably to keep the remake closer to the original, there are certain moments where red dominates the palette. However, the palette chiefly seems to consist of graphite, ash, charcoal, pebble, and iron- the colors that are mostly used to present the 21st Century urban lifestyle. 

Argento's film was much inspired by the Technicolor grandeur of Disney's 'Snow White' (1937), focusing on a rich palette with the primary hues and deep blacks.

Tovoli also says, "To immediately make Suspiria a total abstraction from what we call ‘everyday reality,’ I used the usually reassuring primary colors only in their purest essence, making them immediately, surprisingly violent and provocative."

Jessica Harper's face, with her bright wide eyes, provides a perfect look of anxiety on the frame when Tovoli carefully throws bright lights her way. It shone brilliantly as her face was lit up laterally, adding perspective to the paranormal situation that she finds herself in. Such contrasts are not prevalent in Guadagnino's film. It seems to concentrate more on the situation and the scenery, which are set against dim lighting and sometimes overhead beams. 

Music plays a chief role in creating the atmosphere of a horror film. Argento's film was scored by the Italian progressive rock band, Goblin, which served as an eerie disconnect from the visual, as though the characters were already surrounded by the shadow of some lurking evil.

Radiohead's Thom Yorke's score for Guadagnino's film is more droning, atonal, at once pulling in the audience for a series of frightful events. Yorke seems to have drawn inspiration from the 'Blade Runner' soundtrack which was composed by Vangolis.

Probably Guadagnino's plot will differ in certain places, as there is a shot where the Three Mothers' names flash on the screen and an old man stands looking at the picture of a missing girl. Tilda Swinton who has been Guadagnino's muse for his previous two movies 'A Bigger Splash' and 'I am Love', will be seen returning as probably the headmistress of the prestigious German Academy, Tanz Dance Academy. Guadagnino's has been known throughout for his sun-splashed scenes and his bright play of colors. It will be interesting to see him project a story in the full-metal grey jacket.