Suspiria (pronounced [sʊsˈpɪ.ri.a], lit. Latin: "sighs") is a
1977 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento, co-written by
Argento and Daria Nicolodi, partially based on Thomas De Quincey's
Suspiria de Profundis (Sighs from the Depths) and
co-produced by Claudio and Salvatore Argento. The film stars Jessica
Harper as an American ballet student who transfers to a prestigious
dance academy in
Germany but later realizes, amidst a series of
murders, that the academy is a front for something far more sinister
and supernatural. The film also features Stefania Casini, Flavio
Bucci, Miguel Bosé, Alida Valli, Udo Kier, and, in her final film
role, Joan Bennett.
The film is the first of the trilogy Argento refers to as "The Three
Mothers", which also comprises Inferno (1980) and The Mother of Tears
Suspiria has become one of Argento's most successful feature
films, receiving critical acclaim for its visual and stylistic flair,
use of vibrant colors and its soundtrack. It is the first Argento
horror film to have THX-certified audio and video. The score was
composed by the prog-rock band Goblin.
Suspiria was nominated for two Saturn Awards: Best Supporting Actress
for Bennett in 1978, and Best
DVD Classic Film Release in 2002. It is
part of the giallo subgenre, has become a cult classic, and is
recognised as an influential film in the horror genre. A reboot by
Luca Guadagnino wrapped filming in 2017. It will star Dakota
Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz,
Mia Goth and Tilda Swinton, with Harper
returning in a secondary role.
3.4.2 Musical score
5 Critical reception
5.1 Contemporary assessment
6 Home media
7.1 In popular culture
8 Related works
8.1 Subsequent films
8.2.1 Unfilmed remake
8.2.2 Filmed reboot
10 See also
12 Works cited
13 External links
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Suzy Bannon, an American ballet student from New York City, arrives
late on a stormy night at the prestigious Tanz Dance Academy in
Freiburg, Germany. While trying (unsuccessfully) to get someone to
answer the door to the academy, she witnesses a young student, Pat
Hingle, flee from the school. Suzy makes her way to a hotel, while Pat
finds refuge at a friend's apartment in town. Pat tells her friend
that she has uncovered something terrible inside the Academy, then
locks herself in the bathroom. A shadowy figure appears outside the
bathroom window – an arm smashes through the window and grabs Pat.
Hearing Pat's screams, her friend runs for help but nobody answers.
The attacker stabs Pat repeatedly – even once in her heart – and
then slips a noose around her neck. The figure throws Pat through a
window that leads into the apartment lobby below and the rope snaps,
killing her, just as the falling glass kills her fleeing friend below.
Suzy returns to the academy in the morning and is introduced to Madame
Blanc, the vice-directress, and Miss Tanner, one of the instructors.
She is then introduced to students Sara and Olga, the latter with whom
she has previously arranged to share an off-campus apartment. After a
strange encounter with the academy's custodian, Suzy faints during a
lesson. She awakens that night to discover that she has been moved
into an on-campus dormitory, despite her reluctance. The doctors tell
her that she is to be "medicated" with a glass of wine daily, and will
have to live on campus for her continued care. Suzy rooms with Sara,
and the two become friends.
As the students prepare for dinner, maggots rain down from the
ceiling. The students are told this was due to spoiled food being
stored in the attic and are invited to sleep in the practice hall
overnight while the spoiled food and maggots are disposed of. During
the night, Sara identifies a distinctive whistling snore as that of
the school's director, who is not due to return to the academy for
The following day, Tanner orders the school's blind piano player,
Daniel, to leave the academy after his guide dog supposedly bites the
custodian's son (who is also Madame Blanc's nephew). That night, Sara
hears a teacher's footsteps and counts them whilst Suzy becomes drowsy
and falls asleep. Elsewhere, while crossing a plaza, Daniel's dog and
Daniel himself sense a strange presence before the canine – without
warning – lunges at him and tears his throat out, killing him.
Suzy recalls that Pat had mumbled "iris" and "secret" when they
briefly crossed paths. Suzy and Sara go for an evening swim at the
school's indoor swimming pool and Sara reveals that Pat had been
saying strange things for some time. The two girls search for Pat's
personal notes, but they are missing. Suzy suddenly becomes drowsy
again and falls asleep before Sara flees after hearing footsteps. Sara
is chased by an unseen pursuer and, thinking she will be able to
escape on a window ledge, falls into a pile of razor wire. She
struggles until a dark figure slits her throat.
In the morning, Blanc and Tanner inform Suzy that Sara has abruptly
left the academy. Confused and suspicious, Suzy goes to meet one of
Sara's acquaintances in town, the psychologist Frank Mandel. Mandel
explains that the academy was founded by Helena Markos, a cruel Greek
émigré who was widely believed to be a witch, while Mandel's
colleague, Professor Milius, tells Suzy that a coven can not survive
without their queen.
Suzy returns to the academy to find that all the other students have
been sent out for the evening to see a performance by the Bolshoi.
After disposing of her food and wine (which may have been drugged,
thus explaining Suzy becoming drowsy), she then hears the same
footsteps that Sara heard, Suzy follows the sound to Blanc's office,
entering to find the walls painted with the irises Pat had mumbled
about. She finds a hidden passage and enters, quietly observing Blanc,
Tanner and the staff performing a ritual and plotting Suzy's death.
Suzy turns to find Sara's body nailed to a coffin. She sneaks into
another room, where she accidentally awakens a shadowy figure who
reveals herself as Helena Markos. Helena orders Sara's corpse to rise
from the dead to murder Suzy, but Suzy stabs Helena through the throat
with a knife she finds, killing Helena and causing Sara's corpse to
collapse. The rest of the coven start asphyxiating without their
queen, and Suzy escapes just as the academy collapses in flames.
Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion
Stefania Casini as Sara
Flavio Bucci as Daniel
Gregory Snegoff as Daniel
Miguel Bosé as Mark
Gregory Snegoff as Mark
Alida Valli as Miss Tanner
Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc
Udo Kier as Dr. Frank Mandel
Frank von Kugelgen as Dr. Frank Mandel
Barbara Magnolfi as Olga
Carolyn De Fonseca as Olga
Eva Axén as Pat Hingle
Rudolf Schündler as Professor Milius
Geoffrey Copleston as Professor Milius
Susanna Javicoli as Sonia
Franca Scagnetti as Cook
Giuseppe Transocchi as Pavlo
Jacopo Mariani as Albert
Renato Scarpa as Professor Verdegast
Margherita Horowitz as Teacher
Ted Rusoff as Police Inspector
Lela Svasta as Mater Suspiriorum/Helena Markos (uncredited)
Dario Argento as Narrator (uncredited)
William Kiehl as the English-language Narrator
Vocal dubbing only
Suspiria in-part on Thomas De Quincey's essay Suspiria
de Profundis. Critic Maitland McDonagh notes: "In Argento's
reading [of the material], the three mothers generate/inhabit a
cinematic world informed by Jungian archetypal imagery, each holding
sway over a particular city." Argento said the idea for the film
came to him after a trip through several European cities, including
Lyon, Prague, and Turin. He became fascinated by the "Magic
Triangle," a point where the countries of France, Germany, and
Switzerland meet; this is where Rudolf Steiner, a controversial social
reformer and occultist, founded an anthroposophic community.
Commenting on witchcraft and the occult, Argento stated: "There's very
little to joke about. It's something that exists."
Daria Nicolodi helped Argento write the screenplay for the film, which
combined the occult themes that interested Argento with fairytales
that were inspiring to Nicolodi, such as Bluebeard, Pinocchio, and
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Nicolodi also partially based her
contributions to the screenplay on a personal story her grandmother
had told her, in which her grandmother had gone to take a piano lesson
at an unnamed academy where she believed she encountered black
magic. The encounter terrified her grandmother, prompting her to
flee. This story, however, was later said by Argento to have been
fabricated. Using Nicolodi's core ideas, Argento helped co-write
the screenplay, which he chose to set at a dance academy set in
Freiburg, Germany. The lead character of Suzy Bannion was based on
that of Snow White. Initially, the characters in the film were very
young girls—around eight to ten years old—but this was altered
when the film's producers were hesitant to make a film with all young
actors. Additionally, the final sequence of the film was based on a
dream Nicolodi had while she was staying in Los Angeles,
The title and general concept of "The Three Mothers" (a concept
Argento would expand upon in the subsequent films Inferno and Mother
of Tears) came from
Suspiria de Profundis, an uncredited inspiration
for the film. There is a section in the book entitled "Levana and
Our Ladies of Sorrow". The piece asserts that just as there are three
Fates and three Graces, there are three Sorrows: "Mater Lacrymarum,
Our Lady of Tears", "Mater Suspiriorum, Our Lady of Sighs" and "Mater
Tenebrarum, Our Lady of Darkness".
Stefania Casini (left) plays a supporting role as Sara, while Jessica
Harper (right) plays the lead of Suzy Bannion
Jessica Harper was cast in the lead role of American
ballet dancer Suzy Bannion, after attending an audition via the
William Morris Agency. Argento chose Harper based on her
performance in Brian De Palma's
Phantom of the Paradise
Phantom of the Paradise (1974).
Upon being cast in the film, Harper recalled watching Argento's Four
Flies on Grey Velvet to better understand the director's style.
Harper turned down a role in Woody Allen's
Annie Hall (1977) in order
to appear in the film.
Argento requested Italian actress
Stefania Casini for the supporting
role of Sara, a request which she obliged, having been an admirer of
Daria Nicolodi had originally planned on playing the
role of Sara, but was unable to due to illness, and Casini was brought
in at the last minute. German actor
Udo Kier was cast in the minor
supporting role of Frank Mandel.
The façade of
The Whale House
The Whale House in
Freiburg (pictured) was replicated
for the film
The majority of
Suspiria was shot at De Paoli studios in Rome, where
key exterior sets (including the façade of the academy) were
constructed. Actress Harper described the film shoot as "very,
very focused," as Argento "knew exactly what he was looking for."
The façade of the academy was replicated on a soundstage from the
The Whale House
The Whale House in Freiburg. Additional photography took
place in Munich, including Daniel's death scene in the city square, as
well as the opening scene of the film, which was shot on location at
Munich Airport. The scene in which Suzy meets with Dr. Mandel
was filmed outside the
BMW Headquarters building in Munich.
Suspiria is noteworthy for several stylistic flourishes that have
become Argento trademarks, particularly the use of ""set piece"
structures" that allow the camera to linger on pronounced visual
Luciano Tovoli was hired by Argento to
shoot the film based on color film tests he completed which Argento
felt matched his vision. The film was shot using anamorphic lenses.
The production design and cinematography emphasize vivid primary
colors, particularly red, creating a deliberately unrealistic,
nightmarish setting, emphasized by the use of imbibition Technicolor
prints. Commenting on the film's lush colors, Argento said: "We were
trying to reproduce the colour of Walt Disney's Snow White; it has
been said from the beginning that
Technicolor lacked subdued shades,
[and] was without nuances—like cut-out cartoons."
The imbibition process, used for The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the
Wind, is much more vivid in its color rendition than emulsion-based
release prints, therefore enhancing the nightmarish qualities of the
film Argento intended to evoke. It was one of the final feature
films to be processed in Technicolor, having been shot on one of
the last remaining
Technicolor 3-strip cameras in
Europe at the time;
the rest had been returned to California.
In the Suspiria: 25th Anniversary documentary, Harper commented on the
fact that the actors' dialogue was not properly recorded, but was
dubbed through additional dialogue recording—common practice in
Italian filmmaking at the time. Part of the reason was, she said,
that each actor spoke their native language (for instance, Harper,
Valli, and Bennett spoke English; Casini, Valli, and Bucci spoke
Italian; and several others spoke German), and as each actor generally
knew what the other was saying anyway, they each responded with their
lines as if they had understood the other. Argento also expressed
disappointment over the fact that Harper's voice, which he liked, was
not heard in the Italian market because she was dubbed in Italian by
another actress. The dubbing was overseen by Ted Rusoff, a prolific
voiceover artist based in
Rome who supervised English-language dubbing
for numerous European genre films including Argento's follow-up to
Italian prog-rock band Goblin composed most of the film's score in
collaboration with Argento himself. Goblin had previously scored
Argento's earlier film
Deep Red as well as several subsequent films
following Suspiria. In the film's opening credits, they are referred
to as "The Goblins".
Like Ennio Morricone's compositions for Sergio Leone, Goblin's score
Suspiria was created before the film was shot. It has been
reused in multiple
Hong Kong films, including Yuen Woo-ping's martial
Dance of the Drunk Mantis
Dance of the Drunk Mantis (1979) and Tsui Hark's
We're Going to Eat You
We're Going to Eat You (1980).
Claudio Simonetti later formed the heavy metal band
Daemonia. The 2001 Anchor Bay
DVD release contains a video of the band
playing a reworking of the
Suspiria theme song. The
DVD edition also
contains the entire original soundtrack as a bonus CD, which is
currently out of print in North America.
The main title theme was named as one of the best songs released
between 1977–79 in the book The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to the
Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present, compiled by influential music
website Pitchfork. It has been sampled on the
Raekwon and Ghostface
Killah song "Legal Coke", from the R. A. G. U. mix tape, by RJD2
for the song "Weather People" by Cage and by Army of the Pharaohs
in their song "Swords Drawn".
Suspiria was released in Italy on 1 February 1977. In May 1977, it
was announced in Variety that
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox had acquired Suspiria
for U.S. release. The film received theatrical distribution in the
United States by Twentieth Century Fox and International
Classics, premiering in July 1977. The theatrical release in the
United States was truncated by a total of eight minutes in order for
the film to pass with an R-rating. Of all of Argento's films,
Suspiria was his highest-earning film in the United States.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 91%
"Certified Fresh" score based on 47 retrospectively-collected reviews,
with an average rating of 8.4/10. The website's critical consensus
states: "The blood pours freely in Argento's classic Suspiria, a
giallo horror as grandiose and glossy as it is gory". Rotten
Tomatoes also ranked it number 41 on their 2010 list of the greatest
horror films. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score
of 79 out of 100, based on 10 critics, indicating "generally favorable
Janet Maslin of
The New York Times
The New York Times wrote a mixed review, saying the
film had "slender charms, though they will most assuredly be lost on
viewers who are squeamish." Dave Kehr of the
Chicago Reader gave a
positive review, claiming that "Argento works so hard for his
effects—throwing around shock cuts, colored lights and peculiar
camera angles—that it would be impolite not to be a little
frightened". Although J. Hoberman of
The Village Voice
The Village Voice gave a
positive review as well, he calls it "a movie that makes sense only to
In the years since its release,
Suspiria has been cited by critics as
a cult film. In the book European Nightmares: Horror Cinema in
Europe Since the 1945 (2012), the film is noted for being an "exemplar
of Eurohorror...it is excessive but here the excess seems to entail a
more forceful retardation of a narrative drive, to the extent that the
narrative periodically ceases to exist."
Suspiria has been praised
by film historians and critics for its emphasized employment of color
and elaborate set-pieces; film scholar
John Kenneth Muir notes that
"each and every frame of
Suspiria is composed with an artistic,
remarkable attention to color."
The Village Voice
The Village Voice ranked
Suspiria #100 on their list of the 100
greatest films made in the 20th century. Adam Smith of Empire
magazine awarded the film a perfect score of five out of five.
Empire magazine also ranked
Suspiria #312 on their list of the 500
greatest films ever as well as number 45 on their list 'The 100
Best Films of World Cinema'.
AllMovie called it "one of the most
striking assaults on the senses ever to be committed to celluloid
[...] this unrelenting tale of the supernatural was—and likely still
is—the closest a filmmaker has come to capturing a nightmare on
Entertainment Weekly ranked
Suspiria #18 on their list of
the 25 scariest films ever. A poll of critics of
Total Film ranked
it #3 on their list of the 50 greatest horror films ever. One of
the film's sequences was ranked at #24 on Bravo's The 100 Scariest
Movie Moments program.
IGN ranked it #20 on their list of the 25
best horror films.
Suspiria was released on
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment in a
three-disc set on September 11, 2001. This release, which was a
limited edition run restricted to 60,000 units, features a
THX-certified video master of the film, with a second disc consisting
of a 52-minute documentary and other bonus material; the third disc is
a CD consisting of the original film score. This release also
includes a 28-page booklet and ten lobby card and poster
reproductions. A standard single-disc edition was released by
Anchor Bay the following month.
On 19 December 2017, the independent home media distributor Synapse
Films released the film for the first time on
Blu-ray in the United
States in a limited steelbook package. This release also consists
of three discs which include a 4K restoration of the feature film,
bonus materials, and the original score on a compact disc. A
wide-release version not containing the soundtrack CD was released on
March 13, 2018.
In Italy, the film received a 4K-remastered
Blu-ray release via the
Italian distributor Videa in February 2017.
In popular culture
Three bands, Norwegian thrash metal band Susperia, a pioneering
mid-1990s UK gothic rock band, and the witch house project Mater
Suspiria Vision, have named themselves after the film. Several albums
have also used the title, including an album by gothic metal band
Darkwell, an album by Darkwave band Miranda Sex Garden and
Profundis by Die Form, which can also be regarded as inspired by
Thomas De Quincey's work of the same title.
In the 2007 film Juno,
Suspiria is considered by the title character
to be the goriest film ever made, until she is shown The Wizard of
Gore and changes her mind, saying it is actually gorier than Suspiria.
The film's music has been imitated and sampled by various artists,
including Ministry in the track "Psalm 69" from their album Psalm 69:
The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs,
Cage Kennylz on "Weather
People" and Atmosphere on "Bird Sings Why the Caged I Know".
The Houston, Texas-based Two Star Symphony Orchestra included a track
titled "Goblin Attack" on their 2004 CD Danse Macabre: Constant
Companion that features a strings rendition of the
Suspiria theme; the
track's title also appears to be a reference to the band Goblin. The
69 Eyes have a song called "
Suspiria Snow White" on their album Back
In books by Simon R. Green, mentions are often made of a "Black Forest
Dance Academy" in Germany, a place where witches and Satanists gather,
a possible reference to Suspiria.
The American death metal band Infester included a sample from the film
in their song, "Chamber of Reunion", from their 1994 album, To The
Depths, In Degradation.
A section of the soundtrack cue "Markos" was incorporated into the
noted Australian radiophonic work What's Rangoon to You is Grafton to
Me, conceived and written by radio presenter and author Russell Guy,
co-narrated by Guy and former ABC TV newsreader James Dibble, and
co-produced by Guy and Graham Wyatt. It was originally broadcast in
1978 on the ABC's "youth" radio station 2JJ aka Double Jay (the
Sydney-based AM-band precursor to the current
Triple J network).
The film is also mentioned in Season 7, Episode 14 of "The Office"
when Gabe intends to watch it with Erin, much to her dismay.
It is mentioned, and featured in Kirby Reed's horror film collection
in the 2011 horror film Scream 4.
Suspiria is the first of a trilogy of films by Argento, referred to as
The Three Mothers. The trilogy centers around three witches, or
"Mothers of Sorrow" who unleash evil from three locations in the
world. In Suspiria, Helena Marcos is Mater Suspiriorum (lit.
Latin: "Mother of Sighs") in Freiburg. Argento's 1980 film Inferno
focuses on Mater Tenebrarum (lit. Latin: "Mother of Darkness"), in New
York City. The final installment in the trilogy, The Mother of
Tears (2007), focuses on Mater Lachrymarum (lit. Latin: "Mother of
Tears") in Rome.
Film scholar L. Andrew Cooper notes: "Aesthetic experience is arguably
the ultimate source of "meaning" in all of Argento's films, but
Suspiria and the other films of the Three Mothers trilogy...take their
emphasis on aesthetics further by self-consciously connecting their
irrational worlds to nineteenth-century romanticism and the
aestheticism that grew out of it."
Suspiria (2018 film)
It was announced through
MTV in 2008 that a remake of
Suspiria was in
production, to be directed by David Gordon Green, who directed films
such as Undertow and Pineapple Express. As with many remakes of
cult films, the announcement was met with hostility by some,
including Argento himself. The film was to be produced by Italian
production company First Sun. In August 2008, the Bloody
Disgusting website reported that
Natalie Portman and Annette Savitch's
Handsome Charlie Films were set to produce the remake and that Portman
would play the lead role. The First Sun project was also announced
to be produced by Marco Morabito and Luca Guadagnino. After a
period of no news in which it was thought that the remake attempt had
failed, Green stated in August 2011 that he was again trying to remake
the film. It was announced on 15 May 2012 that actress Isabelle
Fuhrman (Orphan, The Hunger Games) would play the lead role. In
late 2012, the planned remake was put on hold. In January 2013, Gordon
Green revealed that it may never happen due to legal issues. In
April 2014, Green admitted the remake was too expensive to make during
the "found footage boom" and this version was ultimately not made.
In September 2015, Luca Guadagnino announced at the 72nd Venice
Film Festival that he would direct a
Suspiria reboot, with the
intention of using the cast of his film A Bigger Splash (Tilda
Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts,
Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson).
Guadagnino set his version in Berlin circa 1977, running in accordance
with the release year of Argento’s film and making a slight location
shift, and in this iteration focus on "the concept of motherhood and
about the uncompromising force of motherhood." Dakota Johnson
mentioned in the Autumm/Winter 2015 issue of AnOther Magazine, that
she was undertaking ballet training to prepare for the film. On 23
Luca Guadagnino revealed during an interview to Italian
website Daruma View that
Tilda Swinton will star in the film, and
that shooting will begin August 2016 in time for a 2017 theatrical
release. Prior to the announcement, in April 2015, an
English-language television series based on the film, along with a
series based on Sergio Corbucci's Django, was being developed by
Atlantique Productions and Cattleya. Both series were slated to
consist of 12 fifty-minute long episodes, with the possibility of
In October 2016, it was announced that Chloe Grace Moretz would
co-star, alongside Dakota Johnson, and Tilda Swinton. Since the
fall of 2016, both
Dakota Johnson and
Tilda Swinton are frequently
reported by local news in Varese. The film finished shooting on 10
March 2017 in Berlin.
Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress – Joan
Saturn Award for Best
DVD Classic Film Release
Gothic film § Notable films
Suspiria (18) (CUT)". British Board of Film Classification. 28 July
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^ Klein, Brennan (October 31, 2016). "
Jessica Harper to Return for
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Suspiria on IMDb
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