Midsommar ★★★★½

Since rattling the cages of audiences last year with his pitch-black incantation of familial grief, Hereditary, Ari Aster returns with another euphoric séance of terror, once again tapping into our deepest, darkest fears through emotional torment, and while much less grim and ghoulish than its predecessor, Midsommar proves to be no less cruel, revealing its black heart ever so slowly like a rainbow of death forming across an open sky, cursing the eyes of those who allow themselves to be charmed by its beauty.

Like many great horror films of the 20th century, Midsommar begins with an unfathomable tragedy, which propels our unsuspecting protagonist into a nightmarish descent of self-discovery and ultimate catharsis. Yet, this time around, Aster’s interpretation of a tortured soul is stridently ambiguous; like examining the open wound of a stranger that fails to stop bleeding, cascading with rivers of blood around the feet of those firmly planted on land that’s just as pure and unstable as its inhabitants.

Following a devastating event involving her family, student Dani (Florence Pugh) is invited along on a trip to remote Sweden with her emotionally distant boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his three mates – who are not all too keen on the idea of her tagging along for the ride. What begins as an idyllic holiday full of endless horizons painted with lush green grass, mushroom-infused trips and cheerful folk dancing, slowly but steadily takes a turn when the group of young westerners suddenly realise that the overwhelming sense of hospitality they are experiencing from the village folk is leading to far more sinister intentions.

While it’s clear that Aster has a fascination with the psychological effects of trauma and the ways in which these effects can be manifested to cope with loss, his primary focus is on the process of emotional repair here. Even before the horrific incident involving her family, Dani is already surrounded by unrelenting pain, and it’s not until the end (or in some sense, the beginning) of her journey that we realise the darkness surrounding her has never been a fault of her own, but of those around her. Aster understands this in his bones, and uses every opportunity to put the audience through the emotional wringer with Dani.

Technically, it’s difficult to fault Aster’s vision; the intense use of light, colour, sound and more specifically, space, is perfectly balanced and necessary. Even if Aster’s whirling camera and visual trickery can be distracting at times, let alone be enough to fill the bloated runtime, it’s impossible to deny that his visually hypnotic journey into spiritual madness only enhances the boiling sense of empathy for our budding flower-queen.

Midsommar is almost certain to contain some of the most controversial scenes in a film so far this year, some of which, will have audiences either squirming in their seats with discomfort or nervously laughing in bemusement, either way, Aster has created something special, something that could even be considered a gloriously twisted form of therapy for the ages, bringing the hidden anxieties and disgruntled demons of our pasts to the surface with one big beautiful regurgitation ~ SKOL!

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