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 4, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 4: this moment

Today I want to focus on a moment in Suspiria that I love, like get into it, 'queen out over it' as our pal Colin Drucker might say. (He queens out over all sorts of "micro-moments, acting choices and all of the magic in the minutiae--the nuances, if you will--that make a scene great" on his podcast In the Details. If you consider yourself an actressexual, I highly suggest you check it out!)

One of my favorite moments in a film full of favorite moments occurs fairly early. Susie has finished her startlingly good audition and is waiting for judgment to fall. Miss Tanner calls her over for a chat. She's spoken with Madame Blanc: Well done, Susie. She's in. She's now a member of Markos Tanzgruppe.

Tanner then tells her that the company cannot pay their dancers much and to make up for this, they offer free housing. Dancers don't have to pay a single Mark in living expenses.

And Susie:

It's such a beautiful, perfect reaction. Dakota Johnson gives us one of those small, small truths we rarely get to see on-screen, when an actor renders the character fully human with but a gesture. These are the moments I hold onto and treasure in film, as they're so rarely given.

No matter the death or destruction Susie witnesses or causes, she is even-keeled throughout, never displaying heightened emotions. When Sara collapses, writhing and moaning in excruciating pain beside her, Susie sheds a single, silent tear. She reveals herself to be Mother Suspiriorum and rips her chest open with an unsettling calm. She is barely affected by the grueling physicality of her training. We get a small smile here, a giggle there, the occasional tear-filled eye. These tiny reactions hint at so much underneath the surface, at Susie's inner life, and the fact that she gives us so few reactions means that what she does give us is weighted and worthy of extra consideration. It's also one of the reasons why she's so damn fascinating.

Susie is always fully in control of her emotions, the result of her strict religious upbringing in Ohio. It's safe to say that, you know, her Mennonite family wasn't exactly a wild bunch under any circumstances. But Susie learned early on to lock it all inside; all of her dreams, her desires, her feelings. Her very essence. Keep yourself shut tight. Keep it secret.

She arrives in Berlin with barely anything to her name. A few dollars, stolen and/or secreted away over the years, and her decidedly un-chic wardrobe. There's this terrific moment, as she unpacks her meager belongings:

A Salvation Army bag. Her Volk program. This single shot tells us so much: she has nothing in terms of material goods–clothes, personal effects. Her family was poor, anything she's bought since leaving them is secondhand at best. But she has kept that program, and it's so important to her that it's one of the few things she took when she left the farm. How many hours she must have spent over the years, quietly poring over it whenever she could find a moment alone. Reliving the dance in her mind, every step memorized. Dreaming of her future.

And so when Tanner tells her that there are no strings attached to her acceptance (well, no financial strings, at any rate...Susie being admitted actually comes with a lot of strings that they don't tell her about) it's a matter of money, sure. "We fully understand the importance of a woman's financial autonomy," Tanner says. The Tanzgruppe completely removes the burden of providing for oneself, allowing the dancers to focus solely on their art. A Room of One's Own for each of them.

But it's more than that. It is Tanner, the Tanzgruppe, and even Susie's hero Madame Blanc saying: We see you, Susie Bannion. You are one of us now. We know what you can do, and you don't have to hide it. You will flourish here, in your place, unfettered by daily concerns. All of your hard work, all of the punishment you endured for wanting a life beyond that drab farmhouse. All the sacrifices you made, all of the punishment you endured for daring to want. We see you, and we understand.

And so Susie allows herself this one small moment, disbelief to a laugh to tears of pure joy and relief. Or maybe this is one time where the emotion gets away and overtakes her. No matter. We're watching a woman–an artist–be validated for the very first time in her life. What a privilege.


CashBailey said...

Goddamn, this movie is amazing. I would put it in my top five best movies of the decade, for sure.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is still number one.

Stacie Ponder said...

Agggh thanks for reminding me that I still need to see that one!