Let the Festivities Begin
In 2018, writer/director Ari Aster gave us the horror masterpiece Hereditary. It was slightly surprising to see him pump out another movie so fast. Midsommar is different from Hereditary in a lot of ways, but it also shares some similarities. Most importantly, this movie proves that Ari Aster is a force to be reckoned with and that the sophomore slump doesn’t apply to him. Midsommar is a great film. Much like Hereditary, it will be very divisive as well. This movie isn’t for everyone by any means. But if you loved Hereditary, you’ll love Midsommar.
A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown’s fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.
The first thing that is noticed almost immediately in Midsommar is how much Ari Aster has grown as a filmmaker in just a short year. The first 15 minutes or so establish our characters and the sinister tone. It just feels so confident right off the bat. Dani (Florence Pugh) hasn’t been able to reach her bi-polar sister since a very disturbing email she received. She calls her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) to tell him about it and you can just tell in his voice that he has checked out of this relationship a long time ago. Without spoiling anything, we’ll jump ahead a little bit. Christian had planned to go to Sweden with some friends and he didn’t tell Dani. She basically guilts him into tagging along. Aster does a great job establishing our lead characters and their personal issues and that helps with the direction the movie heads.
Once they all arrive in Sweden, that’s when Midsommar really draws the audience in. They are attending a 9 day festival that only happens every 90 years. A few things technically to note as soon as they get to the festival site is the astonishing production design and costume design. Everything is so unique and precise. It will be a crime if The Academy ignores the greatness of both of those things. On top of those, the camera work and cinematography are amazing. Certain camera moves help tell the story even better. There are so many wide shots that build tension between characters. Some of the framing helps illustrate how Dani and Christian definitely appear off as a couple. You can tell that Dani loves Christian way more than he loves her. That’s the funny thing about Midsommar; It isn’t truly terrifying like Hereditary is. Its actually a relatable break-up movie that is also incredibly disturbing, perverse, and unsettling. If anyone has ever been in a toxic relationship, they will definitely sympathize and understand what Dani is going through. She’s the person that cares too much. She’s the person that continually blames herself. Its pretty interesting how it is relatable, but at the same time its totally messed up. Pulling that off isn’t something that happens too often.
One of the best things about Midsommar is the tone. Ari Aster does a great job of establishing the tone and then letting the narrative make subtle changes to it and the movie goes on. Nothing feels right once they get to the festival site. Then some disturbing things happen that would make anyone want to leave right away, but the movie forces you to look at it from a cultural standpoint. In addition to the tone, the score is absolutely amazing and it adds so much to the storytelling. This score is Oscar worthy, hands down. Certain musical numbers in scenes will make the hair on your arms stand up. The script is surprisingly pretty funny as well. There is a nice blend of comedy, drama, and suspense. Its pretty cool to see a movie that’s so disturbing while taking place in the daylight. If anyone thought that a movie had to be set at night in order to make your skin crawl, Midsommar proves that wrong.
The acting all around is great. Florence Pugh steals the show, though. The amount of emotions she goes through and has to demonstrate in Midsommar is astonishing, and she kills it. One could draw parallels between her character and performance and Toni Collette’s in Hereditary. Ari Aster knows how to get the most out of his strong females leads, that’s for sure. Pugh has some scenes and facial expressions that will be remembered for years to come. Midsommar shows off her range as an actress and it proves that Aster has impeccable directing abilities.
Midsommar is an unsettling folk tale from the intense opening horrors to the spectacular finale. Ari Aster is officially a powerhouse filmmaker, proving yet again that the horror/suspense genre doesn’t have to be a lazy jump-scare filled piece of mediocrity. Midsommar oozes originality and absolutely needs to be seen in theaters. The best break-up movie ever made? It might be. Go check it out.
Side note: You will NOT want to travel to Sweden after this.