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 22, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 22: time

After the blood-red blood-soaked Sabbath, Suspiria takes an unexpected turn into modern day domesticity for an enigmatic ending (before, you know, the equally enigmatic stinger).

We have seen Klemperer make his frequent pilgrimages to his dacha, the home he once shared with Anke. It's a long, beautiful journey each time as he crosses checkpoints, takes trains, and walks and walks and walks to his lonely sanctuary. Like virtually the entirety of the film, it is grey, wet, and drab, the foliage dead with the coming of winter. It's sadness and depression made real.

These shots are essentially replicated at the end, but what a difference the years have made. A train zips by, a new family lives there, and there are cell phones. Even more jarring is that bright blue sky–the first we've seen in the 2.5 hour runtime–and the abundant greenery. The house is nearly fit to bursting with life.

In a supremely cheeky moment, a character walks by holding a textbook: The Great Mother, by psychologist/philosopher Erich Neumann.

In this 1955 work, Neumann discusses ways in which the feminine or mother archetype has been expressed throughout culture and history. He talks at length about six archetypes representing both positive and negative aspects of the feminine: Kali, Lilith, Isis, Mary, Sophia, and...the witches. Like Suspiria and its Tanzgruppe, The Great Mother explores all aspects of the maternal, from the nurturing to the diabolical.

It's no accident, either, that nearly all of the characters in this finale are women. My Gaylords of Darkness co-host Anthony and I have decreed–so it's canon now, obviously–that it's a lesbian couple and their daughters. One of them is wearing plaid, after all! And if you really want to fall down a red string-conspiracy theory-k-hole, it sure sounds like they call the younger daughter Susie as one mama passes her to the other. But! There are no subtitles, and the closed captioning just says "quiet, indistinct chatter," so it could be some "Oh, I see Jesus in this tortilla chip"-style pareidolia. I wouldn't be surprised either way. This movie has layers within layers to be sure, but also it has broken my brain a little.

The last shot is a slow zoom on the A+J that was carved into the dacha walls. It's faded now, worn away to almost nothing by all the years and all those loving touches. Josef and Anke are both long dead, their names and story likely unknown to the family who walks by those initials every day.

It is a stark reminder that the past remains. The horrors inflicted on Anke Meier and millions like her will always be there, no matter how much we'd like to forget, or how much we try to, or how much the world changes around us. It happened, and though time dulls the pain for some of us, it can't be erased.

It's also a bittersweet reminder that life goes on when we're gone.

We are all forgotten in the end. Each of us will die, and someday, someone will say our name for the last time. There will come a day when there is no one alive who knew us, who can tell someone else that they loved us or who or what we loved.

I used to get easily overwhelmed by this. The indifference that time has for each of us has always struck me as cruel. I would visit a graveyard or a cemetery and end up in tears (I am soft, yes) when confronted by stones so old and worn that the names are illegible. If the graves are old enough, many of the women weren't afforded names to begin with. They are "Mrs." and "wife" and "mother." I would get so...existentially sad for them, for all of us. For myself, mostly, I think. Don't we all matter? Don't I matter? Don't I exist?

I am not a religious lady (beyond worshiping Susie Bannion and the possessed floor lamp in Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes, of course). I am agnostic at best, and while I'd like to think that something happens to us after death beyond, you know, decomposition, I am unconvinced. So if this is all we have, this brief life, yes, it seems cruel that ultimately we are all forgotten. Life goes on.

In the last couple of years, though, I have tried to view the mundane tragedy of life and death as something of a comfort lest I simply spiral into a never-ending crisis of identity. It's sort of an equalizer, isn't it? No matter the mark we leave during our time, no matter how great or small our work is or how many loved ones we have or how large of an impact we make, we are all forgotten eventually. So scratch your initials on a wall to tell people you were there, to tell them you lived. Someday no one will know what those letters mean. But the marks will still be there. Maybe they'll fade away to nothing in time. Does it matter?

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