Midsommar ★★★★★

Midsommar. 2019. Directed by Ari Aster.

Midsommar (2019) is a multigenre (drama, horror, mystery, thriller) A24 produced masterclass in filmmaking. We wouldn’t expect anything less from horror screenplay master Ari Aster. Every chapter hits the correct notes and this folk horror film that plays like a perfect symphony of distress that meets the highest levels of anxiety. As the films bounces back and forth between drama and suspense like a professional tennis match, the audience may begin to feel that this isn’t the average graduate student trip to Sweden. This is our third viewing of the film and our second viewing of the director’s cut and it is just as visceral as the first time. 

Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) are taking a trip to Sweden so Christian can make a concrete decision on his thesis topic. Their trip happens to be taking place during midsummer which corresponds with a Scandinavian pagan cult’s Midsommar festival which occurs every 90 years. Although they are joined by several others, the film primarily revolves around Dani and Christian’s strained relationship. Dani has lost her family due to her sister’s psychotic murder-suicide of Dani’s entire family. So, this puts a great deal of stress on Christian and his fellow graduate student friends. In fact, a great deal of melodrama unfolds. Dani and the groups’ lack of awareness of the Hårga and its rituals leads to a multitude of surprises and gasps. As Ari displays many elder Futhark runes with deep and complex meanings (just as The Northman (2022)), the cult is well aware of their ancient rituals and are in need of new genetics to prevent inbreeding. 

With regard to screenplay, direction, composition, and cinematography, this film is top tier. Midsommar had a 9 million dollar budget and grossed 47 million dollars worldwide. This is a testament to the aforementioned talent. The screenplay is multilayered and weaves like a well oiled machine in and out of many genres making it attractive to a larger demographic. In other words, it isn’t just a gore filled horror film. Nevertheless, it is filled with horrific scenes. Aster’s direction is unparalleled in this world. Many films like The Shining (1980) directed by Stanley Kubrick exhibit the same level of horror felt by a family that travels to a strange state and hotel. The Haxan Cloak composed the score that highlighted the folk cult nature and showcased the murder suicide with such tragic mastery. In addition, many other rituals are elevated by their subtle yet profound vocals and instrumentals. The cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski (Hereditary, Midsommar, and Nobody) can be tight depending on the scene. For example, the murder suicide relies on a tracking zoom whereas the outdoor ritual scenes involve panning zooms and booms. 

Overall, Midsommar left us with a sense of closure and despair. This was our third viewing and we were just as in awe of Aster’s skills as we were the first time. Midsommar is not for everyone but, apparently millions have seen it. Just like the classic The Wicker Man (1973), Midsommar takes the audience blindly into a cult dominated world while concurrently taking us on a journey in which many characters will not return.

DNA (Donna & Allison’s) A24 Marathon 

Purchased on AppleTV.

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