The name of this blog should really be “I Was Late” because as with most of the works I write about I was late to Ari Aster’s folk horror film Midsummer (released last year). Like with Aster’s first film, Hereditary, Midsommar is best experienced with as little known about it as possible. The start of the film is one of the most shocking and saddest openings I’ve ever seen. I won’t give it away. The film follows an American young couple, Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor), who have tagged along with their two friends and a Swedish exchange student to the Swede’s family commune in the Swedish countryside. Things start to get weird and violent fast when the commune quickly reveals itself to be a pagan cult.
Midsommar is often darkly humorous largely because the character dynamics are believable. Dani is both excessively clingy and needy and also rightly so after a horrific family trauma. Jack is enabling, but also aloof and cowardly. Jack’s friends can barely stand Dani or be in their presence. Jack and his friends are also grad students, and with that comes their pathetic attempts at armchair psychology as well as selfish competitiveness and self-righteous moral superiority. Aster is brave enough to make movies where you won’t necessarily like the main characters.
For the most part, Midsommar is exceptional though it becomes more predictable as its nearly two and a half hour running time goes on. If you’ve seen either version of The Wicker Man, you’ll see the film’s ending coming long ahead of time. That being said, Aster has some incredible aesthetic instincts. His meticulous mis-en-scene frequently calls to mind the work of Stanley Kubrick, particularly The Shining, and on occasion Wes Anderson (who seems to also often visually nod to Kubrick). There is a great, enveloping score by Bobby Krlic that seems heavily influenced by Penderecki and Penderecki’s spiritual descendant Jonny Greenwood.
Midsommar is long, brutal, and mean. You won’t feel good after watching it, but you’ll experience first-rate filmmaking.