FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 19, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 19: november 11

As Klemperer slowly walks into Volk at the end of the film, the camera pans to a promotional poster for that night's performance. We see that it's November 11th.

During the epilogue, Suspiriorum visits Klemperer to let him know the truth about what happened to his wife, Anke. She was apprehended by Nazis at the border and taken to Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Anke was one of hundreds who died of exposure. November 11th.

Josef is abducted and forced to witness the Sabbath 34 years to the day of his long-lost wife's death at the hand of the Nazis. A mere coincidence? Always possible! But given the amount of depth and detail that is evident in every frame of this film, I don't think so. Surely it's deliberate and there's some significance?

"Volk" is a loaded term in German vernacular. Simply, it means "people," but in the years after World War I it became increasingly enmeshed with ideals of German nationalism. The term embodied the "national soul" of the country–if you weren't Volk, you were Other. By World War II it was a favorite term of Nazi propagandists, who promoted the "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer" ideal.

This is the era in which Veva Blanc's Volk was created. While the witches kept to themselves, hidden and low, throughout the war, they were still making art. Or at least some of them were–we don't know much about Helena Markos's role in the day-to-day business of the Tanzgruppe, but we can be sure she wasn't choreographing dance numbers that push back against Nazi jingoism. After all, "this isn't art."

But much like Suspiria itself, Volk reflects the political era in which is was made. It tells us where we've been, and it warns us about where we're headed. This dance is a violent thing, echoing the brutality inflicted upon the bodies of anyone who was Other.

Bedrich Fritta, Sleeping Quarters, Theresienstadt, 1943

We see it performed three decades after it originally premiered not only because it's a part of the Sabbath ritual, but because it's still a relevant, timely piece of art. The monsters who perpetrated horrors upon Anke Meier and millions of others feel no shame. By 1977, they'd simply assimilated into society again, working in positions of authority over a country that just wanted to forget. But as Volk and Suspiria and Susie Bannion remind us–as November 11th reminds us–there is no forgetting.
It's all a mess, isn't it? The one out there. The one in here. The one that's coming. Why is everyone so ready to think the worst is over?


L. Rob Hubb said...

Sort of a sidebar, but an interesting one that has some thematic connections is David Nickle's VOLK: A NOVEL OF RADIANT ABOMINATION, which is worth a read once you're through Shocktober & Bloodvember.

matango said...

A couple of things I have thought about with respect to the work "Volk" and the timing of the film:

1. The armistice ending the First World War was on November 11, 1918, and the Berlin Wall came down 11 years, 363 days after the 1977 Volk performance, on November 9, 1989.
2. Volk is also the word that is used where English speakers would use "People" or "Popular" e.g., the "People's Republic of China" is the "Volksrepublik China." The East German regular police were the "Volkspolizei," i.e., the "People's Police." I don't think this coincidental given the location of the Akademie, just meters from the domain of the Volkspolizei and the time of the film, just after the conclusion of the "German Autumn."

Disco said...

Just making my way through these Suspiria posts and I love them so much. One of the great things about this movie is it could be interpreted so many ways, but one of the themes that really stuck out to me is about the reunification of Germany and how it plays into so much of the film both literally and as an allegory. The line about needing guilt and shame hit particularly hard, as the German people needed to face and acknowledge the horrors of their past as they moved into the future.