SPOILER AHEAD, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Midsommar was one of my most highly anticipated films of 2019. Its director, Ari Aster was the man behind one of the scariest horror films I’ve ever seen, Hereditary. Loving the story behind that film, I was excited to watch this one, especially after watching the trailer.
In short, the story follows Dani (Florence Pugh), a young woman in her mid-twenties who suffers the tragic loss of her parents and sister. I’ll get into the cause and theory behind their death later. She is in a relationship with Christian (Jack Raynor), who doesn’t want to be too involved in the relationship as he struggles to be invested in the intensity of his relationship with her. One of Christian’s Swedish friends, Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), invites him and Christian’s friends, as well as Dani, to his home village in Sweden where they are about to have a midsummer daytime celebration, one which happens only once in 90 years. After arriving in the beautiful, colourful Swedish countryside, Christian slowly start noticing bizarre rituals that culminate in the most terrifying way for them. The Swedish families keep assuring their Australian and English friends (there was another couple present as well), that all the customs are really important and liberating for them. Taking hallucinogenics turned their experiences into a really bad trip as they try and figure out ways to deal with their internal and external struggles. This culminates into a grand finale, one which was intense and profound.
I don’t know where to start honestly. I was speechless at the end of the film, simply due to the fact that it was such an immersive experience. The cinematography was incredible, as the setting and colours throughout were absolutely beautiful. It was able to scare you whilst set in pure daylight, which is an impressive thing to do, as it really was frightening at times. Florence Pugh, Jack Raynor and the rest of the cast were incredible, as you could really feel the pain and complete shock and horror as they continued to be a part of this deadly cult. Dani’s character especially was so profound. The way she dealt with grief and a breakup simultaneously was unsettling to watch in the best possible way, so Florence definitely deserves her praise for her tremendous performance. I was drawn to the story and everything around the film, but it does come with it’s drawbacks.
Firstly, the film is 2 hours 27 minutes long. It didn’t need to be. Some of the sequences were a bit lengthy and I feel like the film could have been told in a shorter period of time. Also, thematically I feel like there’s such a strong overlap with Hereditary that I was left feeling a little disappointed that he didn’t bring a whole new idea to the film. The whole idea of sacrifice by death, hanging dead bodies (that scene where the British guy was completely deformed and removed from his body with his lungs and heart still beating was chilling), and organising them around a fire was something I’ve seen in previous films, namely 1973s The Wicker Man. Was Midsommar scary? Not particularly, at least in the way Hereditary was. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I know that a lot of people had built up expectations about this film, also coming from the trailer, so I know that left a few people disappointed. It did have some good humour throughout though, which alleviated some of the stressful, disgusting moments of the film. The score, however was sublime. It built up, made the film tense and frightening at times and was a brilliant addition to the tone of the story.
I’m not going to give too much analysis on the film itself, but one thing was clear – Dani’s fate was already written. I’ll go as far as to say that Pelle was the one who killed her family at the start, in order for her to find some peace finding another family, the Swedish villagers. That’s why the final moments of the film saw Dani coming to terms with the horrors she had experienced throughout her time there, finally (maybe under the influence of psychedelics) being at peace with everything. The foreshadowing symbolism throughout the film also makes it great to revisit and learn about in more detail. Ultimately this was a break-up film and shows how relationships inevitably break away no matter how hard you try and fix them. The drifting away between Dani and Christian is proof of that, as they accept their fate and fall into the hands of the Swedish cult. I can probably write a separate article for the analysis in particular, because there is a lot to digest, but I’ll leave it here.
Overall, this was an immersive, beautifully shot and unnerving watch. Ari Aster continues to deliver, and I hope that the next film he directs he takes a different approach, moving away from a family-cult themed horror film. There’s so much more to discover, but overall, it’s a great film.
Watch the trailer to Ari Aster’s new film Midsommar below. Please see it and support! Released by A24.