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 2, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 2: when did susie know?

In Suspiria (1977), Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) is essentially your good old-fashioned Final Girl. She slays the villain, Helena Markos, and Markos's cronies. She survives the ordeal and even laughs to herself as she walks away, leaving the Freiburg Dance Academy in flames behind her.

What a revelation it was for fans of the original film when the 2018 incarnation of Susie Bannion, as portrayed by Dakota Johnson, revealed herself to be a new kind of Final Girl. She's not only (gasp) spelling her name differently, she's Mother Suspiriorum herself. Like the OG Suzy, she kills Markos and her cronies. Instead of walking away, however, she rips herself open, showing off her brand new chest vagina, and claims power for herself. She only burns the Tanz Akademie to the ground metaphorically–this time, she's taking over.

After seeing Suspiria the first time, I wanted to immediately watch it again for a million reasons. That initial viewing was something of a religious experience, I'm telling you. I know how that sounds! It sounds, perhaps to you, a bit much. But that's the only way I can describe it. This movie somehow hit me where I live, giving me a touch of the ol' Stendhal syndrome–and no, I'm not talking about the 1996 Argento film. It was a visceral reaction, pure emotion, but I knew there were layers to it, mysteries to unravel (I'm still unraveling, obviously) that would require multiple viewings. The biggest mystery, initially, anyway, was: When did Susie know she's Mother Suspiriorum?

Did she always know? Was Suspiriorum always inside her, and thus it was a slow evolution to her chest vagina-laden final form? Or was she just a dancer who–fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your view–was possessed by Suspiriorum the way Markos wanted to possess her? How much of Susie is left inside?

Susie has always known, to some extent, that she is different. It's an idea I'll revisit in a later entry this month, just what Susie's "difference" means symbolically, but here I'm talking about the burgeoning Suspiriorum within. Susie may not have understood what her destiny held in store for her, but even as a child she knew she was meant for something–and somewhere–beyond that farmhouse. Berlin was calling to her, pulling her to itself. We see this shortly after Susie's first rehearsal, where she unwittingly destroys Olga. She thinks back on her time in Ohio, shirking her lessons on "America" in lieu of daydreaming about somewhere else, somewhere she doesn't know.

After their erotic chicken wing tête-à-tête, Madame Blanc begins to send dreams to Susie in the night. Oh yes, we'll get to those dreams later this month, too. They're sexual, violent, primal, artistic, and gross glimpses of the past and the future. Hey, kinda like Suspiria itself!

During the second dream, Susie wakes, screaming "I know who I am!" This is a moment viewers often point to as the moment Susie...well, knows who she is. That she knows her destiny, that she knows she's the Mother of Sighs. It's as if she's suddenly got it all figured out.

But there's another, subtly different way to look at that outburst. Rather than simply a revelation, it's a determined declaration. Did the dreams reveal to her anything she didn't already know?

I know who I am.

Susie Bannion has always known just who Susie Bannion is–not the power she wields as the Mother of Sighs, but the power she wields as Susie motherfucking Bannion.

I adore this character, not simply for the boss she becomes, but for the boss she already is, the boss she always has been, defiantly daydreaming about Berlin no matter the cost of doing so. I think maybe Susie Bannion deserves her own entry later this month. She certainly deserves to be revered.

This entry is about the moment, and on my most recent viewing (for the recent Gaylords of Darkness Suspiria episode–our third about it!) I think I figured out that exact moment, when Susie knows what's coming and what she has to do. It's a subtle one, no shouting or waking nightmares.

It comes at the end of the Volk performance. Sara...poor, lovely Sara...has collapsed and lies howling on the floor. Susie rushes to her side–she is the only one to do so, initially, and throughout this scene she's the only one to try to provide Sara with any comfort. Tanner, in fact, is rough with the injured girl. Susie looks to Blanc for some kind of...assistance? Confirmation? Something. But Blanc gives her nothing, not even eye contact. Sara writhes and moans, and Susie sheds a tear.

When Sara is finally taken away–not to a hospital or to aid, but to the even greater horrors that await her–that's when Susie knows. Her demeanor changes. The tears are gone. She does not look to Blanc. She does not follow her dear friend out of the room. Susie has always been confident, but this is new for her. That slight downward tilt of her head, the hint of a smirk–it's determined. It's powerful. She's about to stake her claim, and she knows what's about to happen, what must be done. Mother Suspiriorum is here.

She knows who she is.


Unknown said...

I like the idea of Mother Suspiriorum's awakening being after the dance, especially since Blanc and she begin their telepathic conversations after here.

You briefly mention sexuality, will there be a full article on that because Susie's is fascinating? My favourite Susie wank is just before her audition--I thought that was just trying to calm her thundering heart but after seeing the end...
Oh, and do you think any of those witches could have been involved with one another? I feel like Balfour would have at least tried.

Stacie Ponder said...

I'm definitely going to get into all of it...somehow! There are several love stories running throughout this film (which are sometimes completely independent of the sexuality, even). But short answer–I would be very surprised if these witches are not all fucking each other, even if it's only occasionally!