Suspiria Explained
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Suspiria Explained

Suspiria is an Italian horror film released in 1977 and directed by Dario Argento. This film follows Suzy Bannion, a young American dancer who enrolls in a prestigious dance academy in Freiburg, Germany. After arriving at the academy, Suzy discovers that it is inhabited by a coven of witches who are using the academy as a cover for their dark and sinister practices. The film has become a cult classic for its unique visual style, intense soundtrack, and complex thematic elements. This article will provide an in-depth analysis of Suspiria, exploring its themes and symbols, plot, cinematography, music and sound, and its enduring legacy and cultural impact.

Themes and Symbols

Themes and symbols play an integral role in conveying the narrative and visual elements of the film, allowing viewers to gain insight into the core themes and ideas presented. In Suspiria, psychological horror and feminist themes are heavily featured. The film follows a young woman, Susie Bannion, as she moves to Berlin and joins a prestigious dance academy. Throughout the course of the story, Susie discovers the school is actually run by a coven of witches and is forced to confront the darkness within. This serves to represent the psychological horror of the unknown and the struggles of womanhood.

The film also features multiple symbols that help to reinforce its themes. For example, the color red is used to represent the witches’ power, while the color green is used to signify Susie’s inner strength and courage. Additionally, Susie’s journey through the academy is represented through the use of mirrors and reflections, which symbolize her inner journey of self-discovery. Through the use of these symbols and themes, Suspiria is able to effectively convey the psychological horror and feminist themes that the film seeks to explore.

Plot Overview

The narrative of this film follows a young woman who uncovers a supernatural force lurking within an acclaimed dance academy. Suspiria follows the story of Suzy Bannion, who arrives at the academy in Germany in 1977. As she begins to explore the inner workings of the academy, she discovers that it is run by a coven of witches who are responsible for strange events occurring in the academy. The film makes use of visual symbolism to convey the allegorical meaning of the story. Various elements such as the color red, a blackbird, and a mirrored room are used to represent the underlying themes of evil and power. Also, the fact that the academy is located in Germany is a reference to the Nazi regime and its oppressive control.

As Suzy delves deeper into the mystery, she finds out that the coven of witches is led by an ancient witch named Helena Markos, who has been using her powers to manipulate and control the academy. Suzy also discovers that Helena is attempting to summon an ancient evil to the academy. Suspiria ultimately culminates in a climactic battle between Suzy and Helena, in which Suzy is victorious and is able to save the academy from the darkness. The film ends with Suzy walking away, leaving the academy and its inhabitants to their fate. Suspiria is a compelling supernatural thriller that is filled with symbolism and allegorical meaning.

Cinematography and Style

Cinematographically, Suspiria utilizes symbolism, color, and camera angles to create a visual representation of the underlying themes of power, evil, and oppression. This is most evident in the use of visual motifs and mise en scène. By contrasting the bright and warm colors of the Tanz Dance Academy with the dark and drab colors of the witches’ lair, the audience is able to understand the duality between good and evil. The use of camera angles also adds to the atmosphere of the film; in particular, the low-angled shots of the witches give them an almost god-like presence. The use of mise en scène also serves to further illustrate the themes of power and oppression, as the witches are often placed in positions of power and authority, while Susie is often placed in a position of vulnerability and helplessness. Ultimately, the cinematography and style of Suspiria helps to convey its underlying themes of power, evil, and oppression, while also providing a visually captivating experience.

Music and Sound

Through its use of musical score and sound design, Suspiria creates an eerie atmosphere of dread and tension that amplifies the film’s underlying themes. The score was composed by Italian musician and composer, Goblin, and the combination of their dark, progressive rock-inspired soundtrack with the film’s surreal visuals creates a unique and unsettling atmosphere. Goblin’s score is heavily themed around a four-note motif, which is repeated throughout the film and is used to emphasize the tension of a particular scene. This motif is also accompanied by a variety of other musical motifs and sound effects, such as discordant electronic music, dying strings, and discordant choirs. These motifs and sound effects further add to the feeling of dread and tension that Suspiria creates. The sound design of the film is also used to great effect, with the use of loud bangs and screeches to punctuate certain moments. This creates an atmosphere of intense suspense, further amplifying the film’s themes of fear and horror.

Legacy and Cultural Impact

Since its release in 1977, Suspiria has been a highly influential and widely discussed film, leaving an indelible mark on the horror genre and inspiring countless other filmmakers. Its timelessness and status as a cult classic has contributed to the film’s lasting legacy and cultural impact. The film has been cited as an influence in the works of other filmmakers, including Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak.

The film also has a dedicated fanbase who have kept the film alive and relevant over the decades, often celebrating its aesthetics and musical score. For some fans, Suspiria serves as a source of both fear and inspiration, tapping into a wide range of emotions and creating a unique cinematic experience. As a result, Suspiria continues to be discussed and celebrated today, with its legacy and cultural impact continuing to grow and expand.


Suspiria is a unique and remarkable work of art that has left an indelible mark on the horror film genre. Its complex visual and auditory aesthetics, combined with its exploration of themes such as femininity, motherhood, and trauma have resonated with viewers for decades. Its influence on subsequent films and television is evident, and its influence on the horror genre has been profound. Its visual and aural elements, along with its narrative style, have allowed Suspiria to remain a relevant and powerful piece of cinema for many years. Its legacy is a testament to its ability to entertain, disturb, and inspire viewers, and its cultural impact is sure to be felt for generations to come.

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