In 1977 a young American dancer successfully auditions for a renown West Berlin dance company but in doing so inadvertently enters a witches coven. The Marko Dance Academy is run by witches and their sorceress leader gradually converts the young dancer.
If you have a penchant for the dark and dangerous then this is for you.You are led into the maelstrom of terror through the eyes of the newly auditioned dancer, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson). Seamless editing enhances the narrative that centres around cold war Germany. Director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name, A Bigger Splash) has a knack for immediate terror and suspenseful drama that is not of the clichéd variety. Symbol rich imagery intensifies the drama and like Susie Bannion, you are unwittingly seduced.
The voice over scene and the post performance dinner in the crowded restaurant are successful and inspired filming.
Tilda Swinton gives a powerful performance as the lead choreographer Madame Blanc (who is really a sorceress) and appears sincere and empathetic to Susie, her young protégé. As she stands before her class of twisting and writhing dancers she appears to direct them while carefully manipulating them. This is surely one of the key inspirations to the screenplay; the quirky concept of sorcery under the guise of choreographic dance moves (!)
Tilda Swinton succeeds in conveying this. At times Madame Blanc comes across as a normal if rather austere teacher but then switches on her psychic powers of control.
Dekota Johnson has a physical, visceral presence (as Susie Bannion). She is able to impart a gamut of emotions solely through her dancing gestures and body movement. There is a kind of wordless meaning to her role and along with the frightening stream-of-consciousness imagery you see her gradually become the chosen protégé.
Music of Thom Yorke (Radiohead) is magical and provides far more than the requisite ‘scary sound track’. The haunting piano theme and final song are beautiful. This arthouse horror is recommended.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Screenplay by David Kajganich
Dakota Johnson as Susie Bannion
Tilda Swinton as Madame Blanc
Lutz Ebersdorf as Dr. Jozef Klemperer
Mia Goth as Sara
Music by Thom Yorke