Midsommar ★★★

MIDSOMMAR draws so heavily on THE WICKER MAN that it feels like a contemporary remix. But it takes out the element of religious conflict driving THE WICKER MAN's plot: the Americans are secular and consumed with grief and their own romantic problems, while the Swedish cult it depicts is never fully sketched out. Pawel Pogzorzelski's cinematography creates a seductive world evoking '60s Eastern European art/horror films: slightly out-of-focus, misty and pastel. Is MIDSOMMAR hinting at something larger through its sea of white clothing and blonde hair and emphasis on dazed Americans getting absorbed into a European collective? I don't know, truly; maybe that's reading too much into the film. Despite the gore (lovingly depicted in gruesome detail), this isn't particularly scary; in fact, it's funny and oddly optimistic. For all the heroine's hallucinations under the influence of mushrooms and other substances, the film never seems out of control. At the end, it feels like Aster spends 140 minutes building up a great deal of steam simply to play out an elaborate metaphor for the ups and downs of a relationship, which is depicted upfront in the beginning and gradually grows more distant. An improvement on HEREDITARY, but neither as soulful or weird as it wants to be (despite Aster's recurring emphasis on building genre elements out of his characters' emotions), although I appreciate its style.

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