How’d That Get In There? Bad Scenes in Great Films, SUSPIRIA edition

As a film scholar, knowing how to improve on screenplays or movies is not really my forte. But I do have some background in creative writing and, more than that, I am a deeply opinionated person when it comes to movies and TV, and where better to express those than my personal blog?

Suspiria (1977) is a gorgeous giallo film that I just taught in my horror film class last week. It is beautiful in the most twisted way, inviting us all to be sadistic aesthetes. People who know me know that I’m not a horror buff, but I am intrigued by the social and political questions that horror films raise, and one of those questions is why we want to exorcise and play with our own primal and socialized fears. Does that make us sadists, masochists, or something in the middle?

See? Colorful. Painterly. Dramatic. (There are some much more disgusting images in this film, but I’ll let you consult Google Image for that)

So what’s up with this?

The scene in which Suzy does her homework and talks to some academics about (SPOILERS) witchcraft. The aerial shots fit in with the rest of the film — what Adam Knee explains in his writing on Argento constitutes a kind of menacing, if sexless, surveillance, a supernatural gaze. But the space is so… vanilla, particularly in comparison with the dreamy, expressionist colors and contours of Suspiria’s ballet school. While the rest of the film has very little in the way of dialogue, this scene is overly talky and, frankly, boring.

What is this scene doing here?

My thinking is that Suspiria, even as it should be condemning violence and bitchiness (the film is overflowing with both), is meant to be seductive, attractive — so when you leave it to enter, of all places, academia, Argento wants you to feel that loss… he wants you to miss Murder School. Again, does that make us sadists, masochists, or just stone-cold weirdos?

Two of my students, however, came up with alternative theories: first, an Argento aficionado, described the director’s disdain for mental health professionals generally and saw the scene as a critique or satire of these Authority Figures. Another mentioned how the scene reminded her of the final scene in Psycho, where the psychiatrists explains Norman Bates’ “condition” in a similarly dry, know-it-all kind of way. I gotta say I love both of these readings 🙂

Next installment of HOW’D THAT GET IN THERE? is looking like it will be Casablanca… why do we need to flashback to Paris?! Okay, okay, I’ll wait to talk about that next time.

In the meanwhile, do you have questions or complaints about a scene in a film you otherwise love? Please comment below!

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