Coming off of last year’s Hereditary, Ari Aster had everyone anticipating his second feature film, Midsommar has finally arrived and it is devilishly disturbing. Midsommar is a fairytale about the impossible extent of grief, the struggles of codependency and a Wizard of Oz-like twist on Swedish-traditions.
There is a clear comparison that can be made to The Wicker Man, yet it seems to relate more to the concepts seen in The Wizard of Oz (1939). The upside-down drone shot parallels to Dorothy’s descent into Oz via tornado, with a land of vibrant day-light unlike anything they’ve ever seen. In the village, we are shown what life looks like on the other side of the rainbow, but not the rainbow that leads to Oz, but to a ritualistic nightmare.
Midsommar begins with a shocking tragedy. Dani (Florence Pugh), loses her entire family as her bipolar sister floods her parents house with vehicle exhaust. This tears Dani down, in her time of need, Christian (Jack Reynor) is there to comfort her. However, the couple have been having recent issues with their relationship, who’s grown rather distant. Dani joins Christian and his friends on a trip to Sweden, to a festival that happens only every 90 years. The horrors seen tap into Dani’s grief, yet a justification is met in regards to some highly questionable traditions. We begin in America’s dark grey winter nights, moving to a technicolour-filled land in a remote Swedish village, where it stays vibrantly lit for most of the day.
Midsommar is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It is a disturbing film with mythic properties. It’s intricacy, symbols and beauty all relate to Kubrick, especially in the controlled use of symmetry seen in the production design and jaw-dropping cinematography. Midsommar highlights Ari Aster as a director of masterful powers. The vision presented is unlike no other, with its brutally disturbing imagery you can’t help but in absolute awe of his vision.
A core theme is codependency, presented as some-what of a curse in that Christian is distant, whereas Dani still clings to what is left. There is a disconnect between the two, it is a relationship in denial. The extreme grief experienced allows Aster to destabilise the foundations of what we perceive to be reality, as we predominantly see through Dani’s grief-stricken perspective. Relating to codependency, the question of, is Christian a brainless person whose only mission is to get Dani where she inevitably is? Remains simmering throughout. This parallel to the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz seems to shine a further light upon the ‘curse’ of codependency and the prerequisite of fate seen in the film.
This film is by far not what I and many others expected, it is more of a psychological film with aspects of horror, this breaking of expectation adds to my extreme admiration for Ari Aster, who I perceive to be a master-filmmaker. The disturbing themes explored relate to Hereditary, but more towards Aster’s short The Strange Thing About The Johnsons, in the twisted-vision presented.
Midsommar’s cinematography is dream-like, with its colour palette evoking a feel of unnerving in the juxtaposition seen from the outer-more-darkened-world. Pawel Pogorzelski’s photography captures a sensual feel, with the use of beautiful greens, yellows and blues. Ari Aster shows full control, with his now-infamous tracking shots seen also in Hereditary. The symmetry and precision seen in the visuals, add to the ongoing sense of unease, as bit by bit, revelations unravel the disturbing true-nature of what really happens at the festival every 90 years.
The film’s use of gore and brutality allow for shock and fear, as all who are within are most definitely stuck. However, there is a sense of awe in watching Aster’s beautiful execution seen in the psychologically nightmare-inducing visuals. The traditional happenings are inherently strange, emphasised by the all-white clothing of the village. However, when Dani arrives her mood rapidly changes, there is a sense of admiration for this non-traditional lifestyle seen within her. As the drug-induced dance competition ensues, Dani finds out she can speak Swedish, adding to the other-worldly feeling from scene to scene.
Without spoiling, cinema’s finest sex scene is within Midsommar, it is utterly hilarious, disturbing and beautiful in the Kubrick-inspired and Suspiria-evoked scene. The ending to the film is ritualistically beautiful and disturbing beyond belief, Aster successfully digs extremely deep under your skin. The scarecrow-inspired imagery comes full circle.
Midsommar is a disturbingly beautiful fairytale of mischievous and malevolent qualities. It proves Ari Aster to be a director of masterful strength, you can’t help but be in absolute awe of the beauty captured in this psychological nightmare-inducing vision unlike no other. It is a masterpiece, Midsommar is filmmaking at its finest.
5/5 Stars ★★★★★