Midsommar ★★★

This week we were blessed with a planned visit from our daughter and a total surprise visit from our son in Berlin. Among the family traditions revived during this rare gathering of our four, including table games and outdoor snow activities, we sat down tonight to popcorn and a movie. I suggested this movie to satisfy our daughter’s appetite for horror.

The bizarre pagan summer solstice rituals of this Swedish community were horror-fying on several levels. But what mostly captured my attention was the tragic background story of Dani that left her without her family. The traumatic depth of the pain  of her suffering was vividly enacted by Florence Pugh.  I was completely captivated by her presence in this movie and caught up in her experience.  There was a time early in this summer festival when it was hinted that this commune-ity might offer a replacement experience for the family that was brutally taken from her. I was hopeful . . . and curious to see if there might be something transformative for her in this festival of fright.

Maybe I have only my naivety to blame for expecting something redemptively meaningful in this horror story, but I was largely disappointed on this level. There was only one scene where I was moved by the empathic enfolding of this community that seemed to foster a cathartic healing of Dani’s pain. But this was soon lost in the rapid descent to the final culmination of this seemingly desperate bargain with the gods, leaving me unconvinced that this commune had offered her any true or meaningful transformation or healing. 

So in the end I was left with the impression that what I had just witnessed was largely sensationalist cinema focused primarily on its shock value. It was unfortunate that in the end it was this final impression that robbed me of the other meritorious elements of this movie, including the stark beauty of the setting and Pugh’s outstanding performance.

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