Anas Itani’s review published on Letterboxd:
[Director's Cut] I watched the director's cut only and I am sure it's much better than the theatrical release. I wouldn't take out any of the scenes. Everything is there for a reason. So I highly recommend you watch it likewise.
[Mild spoilers are included]
It's been about 22 hours since I finished watching it. I had to gather my thoughts, but most importantly, I had to gather myself. Ari Aster managed to make a film more horrifying and disturbing than his critically acclaimed and praised feature debut; Hereditary. Some might say it is actually less terrifying than Hereditary, which is understandable, given the perfect comedy bits here and there and the whole atmosphere of the film, but to me, I was on edge the entire time.
My mind was racing yesterday as soon as I finished watching the film. The visuals alone were enough to make me sick for a week. Ari sure doesn't shy away from showing fucked up visuals. In fact its kind of his trademark now. One of the many reasons I respect him and love him as a director is his originality. His two features are their own genre. You can say he introduced, or elevated, the folk horror genre. It takes talent to be this creative and original. Midsommar also counts as an improvement of Aster's work. I don't believe that I'm actually saying this because it's not possible to surpass what he did on Hereditary. Bravo sir.
Midsommar is based on ancient folk rituals and traditions in Sweden that go thousands of years back. There is no proof of it being this precise as it was shown in the film. But it is there, the material is real, and you can tell that most of the extras (Swedish actors) if not all of them had done this before. This is what actually frightens me to my core; the reality of it. It's not just another typical horror story that has been told many times before to the point where you predict the ending before the film gets going. That's not the case here.
I wanna talk about the pacing for a second because it's perfect. Ari understands EXACTLY when to make the viewer be on the edge of their seat. In the first act you get to explore the main characters (the group), you get to know them very well from just two scenes. How crazy is that? You have Dani; our hero, the vulnerable one, the one who always feels unwanted, having trust issues especially with her boyfriend Christian, who is an unloving selfish prick. You have Mark who is the loud one, who speaks with no filter and have no respect for anyone or anything. You have Josh who is cocky and arrogant, who thinks he is better than everyone, and then you have Pelle; the weird and quiet one. Yeah, this is the perfect group to go on a midsummer vacation in a foreign european country together (perfect casting btw). So the question "What's going on" isn't really needed here as the group takes care of it. We get to slowly explore and dive with the group into a world that we know nothing about. Leading to one of the best and most intense 3rd acts I've seen in a long while. You know you've fucked up when you realize it's already too late. So the question becomes "What now?"
The film is filled with paintings, or art for that matter, of different meanings and clues. The very first shot is one that shows the entire film from beginning to end. How brilliant is that? It's all there in the first shot. I still don't know the meaning behind most of the art but I need to rewatch it anyway. Maybe I'll watch the theatrical release this time.
As for the star of the film; Florence Pugh, what a tremendous talent she is. Definitely award worthy performance. She lived the character of Dani. Dani is someone who is struggling with finding her rightful place in the world, someone who is trying to find a real home and family where she feels loved and safe and protected. Because she deserves much better. It's clear from the beginning that she is the one who'd become the May Queen. Subtle hints are scattered all over the film, and they are not hard to pick. Dani clearly stands out from the rest of the group. She is different in her approach to things, different in her actions and reactions. She feels things, notices things the rest of the group don't. She is special, she is a queen, and she will thrive above all. That very last shot of her smiling gave me goosebumps.
I didn't give this much thought but I think the film actually took course over much less days than we are told. It’s supposed to be a 9 day trip but I think it was actually 2 maybe 3 days max. We only get to see the night once and the dawn once. Maybe they were drugged out of their minds? It's just a thought. There is a high probability I'm wrong. Anyway, looking forward to rewatching it soon.