I was the… production designer for Suspiria

From Vogue fashion spreads and Fassbinder movies to Victorian cabinets of curiosities, production designer Inbal Weinberg breaks down how she brought the witchy world of Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria to life

A remake of the bizarre 1977 horror film of the same name, Suspiria follows the story of a young dancer drawn into the dark world of a Berlin dance school and the coven of women that run it. Production designer Inbal Weinbeg lavished attention on the film’s sets, drawing on the history of 1970s Beriln, as well as the architecture of Adolf Loos and the strangeness of early Victorian museums. CR met with her to discuss the ways she dreamed up a world for the film’s witches – including designing them a logo – and how she transformed an empty hotel in Italy into the imposing Tanz Dance Academy.

The role that German history played My biggest inspiration is always thinking about how people really live, and even though the story has serious elements of the supernatural, I was really attracted to the actual setting of Beriln in the 1970s. I love German history, and I’ve lived in Berlin, so naturally I felt comfortably thinking about the period. So we started not with the horror element, but the authentic elements and historical research on Berlin at the time. We really went into details, reading books of the time, going to the remnants of the wall, looking at photography of the time, documentaries, and lots of feature films from the German new wave. We had very rich references of what it was like to live in Berlin in the 1970s, and from Luca’s side – he’s very well-versed in art in general – his references were much bigger than just historical research. It was refreshing from a vsiaul style to think about painting, illustration, performance art and dance from the period, which elevated the historical research.

Focusing on the tiny details The details were really important. For example, the actual process that Doctor Klemperer goes through to get from West to East to visit his dacha – his garden house – is a very specific way that people travelled at the time. We researched the hell out of it, and knew exactly what had to happen at each point and the different institutions you had to go through You don’t always see these things reflected in the film, but the art department had to do things well and delve into details of the period to get them right. Our requests to our researcher were very diverse – so for example we had to know the number of the precinct of the police station that Doctor Klemperer went to, and where it was located in Berlin at the time. You have to be extremely detailed, because the world you’re creating is comprised of these details and if you get them wrong then something is off.