A waking nightmare cloaked in sunshine, flower crowns and psychedelics. Ari Aster’s sophomore follow up to his haunting breakout film Hereditary, is like the yang to its predecessor’s yin. Midsommar doesn’t rely on horror tropes to grip its viewers to the edge of their seats. It’s a slow burn kind of film that continually becomes more disturbing the more beautiful it becomes. It almost feels like I’m watching a flower bloom but that flower is dosing me with gasoline trying to strike a match. I don’t know of I would necessarily classify this film into the “horror” genre. I don’t know if this film even fits into a specific genre. It has certain feelings of horror and dread but I was never scared of the content being shown. I wasn’t haunted by it’s premise or the subject matter like I was after Hereditary. This feels like a film made by a completely different person and I absolutely love the fact that Ari Aster has the creative grit to pull something like this off.
Midsommar follows a group of friends embarking on a once in a life time trip to the northern country side of Sweden to partake in a Summer Solstice Festival held once every 90 years. The film’s focus is perched upon the emotionally abusive relationship between Dani and Christian, and its pursuit into a state of psychosis. They are invited to this pagan cult festival by their graduate school colleague who grew up in this small rural village. The festival grounds are beautiful, the people are welcoming and all dressed in flowing white gowns; to a point where it almost feels like a dream. At first, everything is centered around the new-comers becoming acclimated to their surroundings and the culture they are immersed in, but then things start to get twisted.
The film has a run time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, and does tend to drag its feet at times. I never felt bored during my screening because this film seems to draw a lot of influence from Stanley Kubrick and his style of allowing scenes and moments to breathe for longer than you think they should. The cinematography is really what brings this Kubrick-esque feeling to life. Every shot is perfectly framed and stunningly beautiful to look at. It truly carries this daymare into fruition. Major props to Pawel Pogorzelski for his amazing camera work on this film, as well as his work on Hereditary. I truly hope that Pogorzelski and Aster continue their cinematic chemistry well into the future.
As much as I adored this film, I wish the story had been a little more fleshed out. There is a life changing event that starts off the film for Dani’s character and it never feels like this moment is revisited enough to justify its purpose. There are hints of it throughout our character’s journey but it appears more as a feeling rather than a defining moment as one would assume it would be. All of the characters besides Dani feel pretty one dimensional and don’t show any real signs of development as our fantasy goes on. The story isn’t as compelling as Hereditary but I don’t think the purpose of this film was to tell a clear narrative. It feels more like a visual poem that tells a tale of love, loss and lust. I can forgive the story because of how compelling the emotions were displayed through sight and sound. It feels like if you were to make a baby out of Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and The Wicker Man (1973) you would get Midsommar.
This was my first exposure to Florence Pugh (Dani) and I think she delivered an amazing performance. She was able to bend her emotional range through every extremity and it never felt out of place or stale. The last 45 min of this film are absolutely breathtaking and she commits everything she has into her performance.
If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t really enjoy horror movies, but you like the idea of being scared then you might enjoy this film. If you enjoy horror movies don’t expect this to be anything like Hereditary, because it isn’t. Who knew the daytime could be so haunting and so beautiful at the same time? Ari Aster, that’s who. I look forward to whatever twisted story he decides to grace us with next.