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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Suspiria (Latin: "sighs") is a 1977 Italian supernatural horror film directed by Dario Argento, co-written by Argento and Daria Nicolodi, partially based on Thomas De Quincey's 1845 essay Suspiria de Profundis (Sighs from the Depths) and co-produced by Claudio and Salvatore Argento. The film stars Jessica Harper as an American ballet student who transfers to a prestigious dance academy in Germany but realizes, amidst a series of brutal murders, that the academy is a front for a supernatural conspiracy. It also features Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé, Alida Valli, Udo Kier and Joan Bennett, in her final film role.

The film is the first of the trilogy Argento refers to as "The Three Mothers", which also comprises Inferno (1980) and The Mother of Tears (2007). Suspiria has become one of Argento's most successful feature films, receiving critical acclaim for its visual and stylistic flair, use of vibrant colors and its score by the prog-rock band Goblin.

Suspiria was nominated for two Saturn Awards: Best Supporting Actress for Bennett in 1978, and Best DVD Classic Film Release, in 2002. It has become a cult classic, and is recognised as an influential film in the horror genre. A reboot under the same name, directed by Luca Guadagnino, is currently in production; Harper appears in the film in a secondary role.


Suzy Bannion, a ballet student from New York City, arrives at the prestigious Tanz Dance Academy in Freiburg late on a stormy night. While trying to get someone to answer the door, she encounters a fellow student, Pat, fleeing from the academy. Suzy makes her way to a hotel, while Pat seeks refuge at a friend's apartment. Pat reveals that she has uncovered something terrible at the academy, then locks herself in the bathroom. A shadowy figure smashes the window and grabs Pat. Hearing Pat's screams, her friend runs for help. The attacker stabs Pat repeatedly, slips a noose around her neck, and throws her onto the building's sunroof, which shatters, hanging her. Pat's friend is killed by the falling glass and metalwork.

The next morning, Suzy returns to the academy, where she is introduced to Madame Blanc, the vice-directress, and Miss Tanner, an instructor. She also meets two fellow students, Sara and Olga. (Suzy had arranged to share an apartment with Olga.) After a strange encounter with the academy's custodian, Suzy faints during a lesson. She awakens to discover that she has been moved into a dormitory on campus. Doctors tell her that she is to be "medicated" daily with a glass of wine, and will have to live on campus for her continued care. Suzy moves in with Sara, and the two become friends.

As the students prepare for dinner, maggots fall from the ceiling. The students are told this is due to spoiled food having been stored in the attic, and are invited to sleep in the practice hall while the attic is cleaned. At night, Sara identifies a distinctive whistling snore as that of the school's director, who is not due to return to the academy for several weeks. The following day, Miss Tanner orders the school's blind piano player, Daniel, to leave the academy after his guide dog supposedly bit the custodian's son. That night, Sara hears a teacher's footsteps and counts them whilst Suzy becomes drowsy and falls asleep. Later, while crossing a plaza, Daniel and his dog sense a strange presence before the dog suddenly lunges at him and tears his throat out, killing him.

Suzy recalls that Pat had mumbled the words "iris" and "secret" when they briefly crossed paths; Sara reveals to Suzy that Pat had been saying strange things for some time. The girls search for personal notes Pat might have left, but cannot find them. Suddenly, Suzy becomes drowsy once more and falls asleep; Sara then flees, having heard footsteps again. Sara is chased by an unseen pursuer, who slits her throat. In the morning, Blanc and Miss Tanner inform Suzy that Sara has abruptly left the academy. Suspicious, Suzy goes into town to meet one of Sara's acquaintances, the psychologist Frank Mandel. He explains that the academy was founded by Helena Markos, a cruel Greek émigré who was widely believed to be a witch. Mandel's colleague, Professor Milius, tells Suzy that a coven cannot survive without their queen.

Suzy returns to the academy to find that all the other students have been sent out for the evening to see a performance by the Bolshoi Ballet. After disposing of her food and wine (which had been repeatedly drugged to keep her drowsy), she hears footsteps. Suzy follows them to Blanc's office, finding the walls painted with irises. After finding a hidden passage, she observes Blanc, Miss Tanner, and the staff performing a ritual and plotting her death. Suzy turns to discovers Sara's body nailed to a coffin. She sneaks into another room, where she accidentally awakens Helena Markos. Helena orders Sara's corpse to rise from the dead to murder Suzy, but Suzy stabs Helena through the throat with a knife, killing Helena and causing Sara's corpse to collapse. The rest of the coven start asphyxiating without their queen, and Suzy escapes just as the academy collapses in flames.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Suspiria" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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