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Oct 17, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 17: hands

There are hands everywhere in Suspiria. No matter how they are engaged, they are often shot in reverential close-ups, affording even the most mundane of tasks a kind of beauty. The gentle care given a dying mother, the cold efficiency of bureaucracy, a moment's pause at the start of a new life–there is a reverence for the everyday throughout this film full of the fantastic.

Again and again we see hands imparting tenderness. Words can be inadequate, sometimes, when we try to convey love. Instead we might offer a soft touch that carries the world. Caressing her name as if it were her sweet face years ago, a ritual to let her know she is not forgotten, that he is still here, that they are still here.

A jumble of fingers, grasping tightly, promise made and secrets kept.

Conduits for spells, spells given, spells taken, all the violence and power they cast. Art is beautiful, art is monstrous, the savior and the destroyer. Supplication and worship before the terrible judgments.

Susie's dreams are full of hands. Hands upon hands, hands within hands, echoes of the Sabbath and the Mother.

"You're in a company now. You have to find your right place. You have to decide–what is it you want to be for this company? Is it the head? The spine? The sex? The heart?"

"The hands. I want to be this company's hands."

Of course Susie wants to be the hands. Of course her dreams are full of them.

It is always difficult to navigate attraction, but it is infinitely more so for queer women. The guessing, the second-guessing, the doubling back and the doubting. The rules of straight courtship and romance don't apply. For a boy and a girl, holding hands is literally child's play. Before you do anything else, before you know there's anything else to do, you can walk hand-in-hand anywhere you please, saying "this one is mine." For queers, this simple thing carries enormous risk. A risk to personal safety. A risk of losing everything and everyone you have, because you said "this one is mine."

Hands are held in secret. A caress, a grasp, an intertwining...touching is done only when there's no one else around to see. You are mine, but only we know.

There is a parallel to be made, once again, to Carol. Hands figure prominently into the film and the novel, The Price of Salt.

"She thought of people she has seen holding hands in movies, and why shouldn't she and Carol?"

Todd Haynes, like Luca Guadagnino, is a queer filmmaker who understands the significance and weight of the barest hint of contact between two women trying to impart romantic intent in the private way they must. Every lingering touch, every hair tucked behind an ear, every line traced...even the brush of fingertips carries the hint of the erotic. For queer women, hands often double as sex organs; her hand on yours is sometimes more than just that. It's a suggestion, a hint of what could be, of what might come next. A hint of where else those fingers might go. What else these hands can do.

Susie knows this. She learned at a young age what hands can do, and once again, as ever, she was punished. The hands that caress can also bring unimaginable violence.

"I want to be this company's hands."

Susie takes back every bit of power her mother tried to take from her, turning abuse into motivation. Her hands bring pleasure. Why should she be punished for that?

As she has proven time and time again, Susie motherfucking Bannion is a brave one. She is not willing to keep her desires secret, no matter the risk, no matter the cost. Not satisfied with hints and guessing and doubt, she tells Blanc exactly what she wants, exactly what she is. She grabs Blanc's hands, takes them, brings them to her cheek.

This one is mine.

Again, it is an invitation. It is a question. What else can these hands do?

And again, it goes unanswered, and Susie is left alone with her thoughts.

But she knows who she is. Later, she uses those hands, those hands her mother punished her for so long ago, those hands no longer held by Sara or Blanc, to rip herself open, to make herself free.

Susie Bannion knows what hands mean, what hands can do. And she is not afraid to show you.


colincake said...

ya know, being gay, I tend to catch the gayness of a film pretty well, and I knew this was a pretty gay film, but all these daily shocktover thingies have really made me realize this isnt just a gay film it's T H E gay film.

Stacie Ponder said...

It truly is and I hope the rest of the world comes to realize it as such!

colincake said...

Omggggg I came here AS QUICK AS I COULD, I was looking at my volk recreation poster on my wall and it says that volk was performed in the movie on 11.11.1977 and anke died on November 11th...I DONT KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF THAT BUT I THOUGHT IT WAS CRAZY

also unrelated, when Susie speaking French with blanc and Sara notices, the moment she stops dancing to watch them talk is the exact moment in the dance where Sara gets all messed up

Stacie Ponder said...

Omg Anthony and I were just talking about the November 11 detail! I think it's worth a mention for sure–something like that isn't unintentional. And the Sara detail! GAHD THIS MOVIE. So much care went into every little thing, it hurts my heart place that it doesn't get more love.

Adam said...

Just wanted to say thank you for your lovely, thoughtful, and always hilarious writing and perfect podcast, also deepening my obsession for Suspiria. You've spoiled us with these daily blogs.

I'm also curious of your thoughts on two recent actress-centric horror films: "Raw" and "The Blackcoat's Daughter." I don't think I've heard mention of them on your podcast or here, but they seem very Gaylords of Darkness friendly.

Stacie Ponder said...

Thank you so much, Adam! Made my day.

You're right, I haven't mentioned either film anywhere...I really really need to get on seeing The Blackcoat's Daughter–I'm really looking forward to it! I did see Raw and honestly I think I need to see it again. I wasn't overly impressed with it at the time, but that could have been my own expectations and all that jazz. Lots of people I hold in high regard dig it, so it definitely needs a reassessing by me. It was delightfully nauseating though, I'll give it that much already!

G.Versão said...

Any particular thoughts on the fact that the moment in the Volk Performance when Sara returned with broken legs was the moment where she aligns with Suzie and make the illusion of a single person with many arms/hands....

Mark said...

I graduated from film school and I have to say, Stacie, you're very good at film analysis and identifying symbolism in the art. You would do well in a film analysis class. I've been reading different perspectives on Suspiria but hadn't read such interesting thoughts on the role hands play in the film. I came across this article when I was trying to find out exactly why Suzie specificically wanted to be the "hands" of the company. Well done!

Stacie Ponder said...

Thanks, Mark!