Richmondhill’s review published on Letterboxd:
Since the general demise of filming on celluloid, have films becomes longer in duration as a result of now working in a less finite medium? I haven’t conducted a survey so couldn’t say for certain, but I do wonder if that partly explains the drift in commercial cinema to seemingly inordinate durations where technical pyrotechnics increasingly fill in for storytelling - simply because they can - because at two and a half hours this film is a good hour too long and marinaded to the hilt with infill. Either that or these people simply don’t have storytelling skills.
I wouldn’t mind if it had a plot or characters that could support such largess, but it hasn’t: the plot has pitifully poor drive and the characterisations are unconvincing when not paper thin. That’s no dynamism, no nuance and no serious intent for something edging towards epic duration. I’m not sure who Aster and team are making this film for, but the audience seems to rank low in their estimates.
The padding starts immediately with the poorly extrapolated preamble. Aside from a visual contrast of dour night to later scenes in the midnight sun, this sequence confirms we’re in Pseud’s Corner and sounds an early alarm: it’s a fig leaf, a proxy for motivation, if not emotional insight, that remains unfulfilled to the end credits. These aren’t characters, they’re not even cyphers, they’re the things left behind in the dust clouds of forward-charging technical skill. That they should carry plot seems forgotten: these etchings do things no human would do. They simply don’t convince.
Why not just have a boyfriend and girlfriend go away on holiday (dropping the bogus thesis-device in the process) and simply refer to this backstory? As it is it could be made to be important but the film does nothing much with it. What is it? A revenge drama for favours unreturned? Who knows? Who cares...
Two-plus hours of faux-ethnography in lieu of a plot is a tall order and even that strikes a sour note. When it’s not shitting on paganism - more insidiously on European culture in general - this is so far up its own fundament so as you can see right up into its mean headed intent. This is arrogant tosh. A confidence trick.
Give me Friday the 13th any day. It’s quicker and more honest.