Berlinale 2019 Review: Posh people suffer in ‘The Souvenir’

Twenty-four year old Julie (Honor Swinton-Byrne) wants for nothing in life, bar artistic inspiration. As a film student, she avoids the starving artist stereotype by calling up her parents every time she needs supplies – “Mummy, I need two hundred pounds again!” – in order to continue treading water on multiple fruitless projects. Her airily considered ideas trace working class struggles that she will never experience, exemplifying the voyeurism of rich filmmakers for whom the dying towns beyond the Watford gap represent nothing but artistic potential. Through her character, Joanna Hogg has created the perfect representation of the precocious young woman, for whom opportunities will be created via wealth, rather than talent or work ethic. When the arrogant and manipulative Anthony (Tom Burke) comes swaggering into Julie’s life, however, she is soon forced to learn the heavy weight of adult responsibility, in the most painful way possible.

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Tilda Swinton, Tom Burke and Honor Swinton Byrne in ‘The Souvenir’ (2019) © Nicola Honor

To watch this relationship develop is unpleasant to say the least. Each grotesque leer that Anthony throws in Julie’s direction is enough to make bile rise in the throat, and the feeling only worsens as the film continues to expand on his true nature. Hogg is careful never to romanticise the abuse that our heroine suffers, casting a largely negative light on his actions through an incredulous gaze: as Julie returns to Anthony again and again despite his behaviour, we despair for her, and collectively long for her to escape his clutches. It’s not an easy watch by any means, but Hogg’s refusal to counteract Anthony’s exploitation with any redeeming qualities thankfully precludes any kind of apologism. 

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‘Suspiria’ is an Unholy Concoction of Blood and Guts

Suspiria is the devil dressed in tights and leotards. She allures and intrigues, disturbs and horrifies. Her body contorts into an array of grotesque positions. Limbs bend and break, bones protrude from taut skin. Yet the dance she performs is visceral, so fascinating it’s impossible to look away.

A remake of Dario Argento’s horror classic seems like an unexpected choice for Luca Guadagnino’s follow-up to Call Me By Your Name, but it’s a welcome change of pace. Mostly known for making movies about rich people lounging around pools in Italy, Guadagnino has instead transported us to 1970s Berlin. Though it should be said that this iteration of Suspiria is less a remake and more like the creepy cousin no one wants to talk to at the family gathering.

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