Ari Aster’s Midsommar is an unsettling breakup story muddled with grotesque folk horror rituals, some surreal mind bending visuals and intense psychological trauma, pain and agony.
Midsommar is a horror story that happens in broad daylight. The screen is an aesthetic canvas of pastel hues, clear blue skies, lush green fields, murders, suicides, a chorally assisted ritual sex, magic mushrooms, (and if that hasn’t escalated quickly yet) barbaric customs and body-tearing executions. The cognitive dissonance is strange in the beginning but it grows on you, and even before you know it, you begin to admire the duality. An experience of hell in a very heavenly, peaceful setting. It’s quite ironic that the film opens with a dreary winter snowfall. Midsommar is like a horror movie played backwards where it begins with melancholic darkness gradually entering eternal sunshine.
The movie revolves around Dani, (Florence Pugh) an American woman suffering major depression after her bipolar sister murders their parents and commits suicide. Her boyfriend Christian (Will Poulter), is a manipulative, gaslighting dude who feels stuck, and suffocated being with her.
The story begins when Christian’s friend Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) invites the boys - Josh, (William Jackson Harper) Mark (Will Poulter) and Christian - or rather lures them - to visit his community in Sweden for the Midsommer festival. Dani is offered a pity invite which she accepts, partly because she wants to escape her depression and partly so she can save her dying relationship. Vulnerable and alone, with an emotionally unavailable boyfriend, insecure Dani falls into the traps of a Swedish cult. Everyone except her, is unknowingly following the Bagpiper like thoughtless rats, submitting themselves into the inescapable vacuum of a pre-planned ploy.
The transitions are crazy. A clever cut, and something I was sold at was, when Dani runs sobbing to the bathroom, the door slams shut and you realise you’re not where you thought you were. Another one, when Christian is unsuccessfully trying to calm Dani after hearing about her family loss and the camera pans from a warm, fuzzy room towards its window into the ruthless snowfall outside accompanied by a great soundtrack. The music from British composer Bobby Krlic is sensually creepy. I had more fun watching this movie the second time because Aster leaves hints of the plot in murals, paintings and a very smartly written script. A startling performance from Pugh, we see her mouth start to sink into a grimace, as she collapses on the floor by the weight of her own anger, wailing in pain helplessly. I also liked how Ari shows the peak of a psychedelic trip - there’s always this one guy getting paranoid, freaking out over everything and another trying to calm him down.
If you enjoy cult movies, dark humour, trippy visuals and psychological thrillers like me you are very likely to enjoy this film. I do agree that the movie’s slow descent into madness gives a lot of Wicker Man vibes, but this one’s very complex. Ari Aster, famous for his Hereditary success has unarguably proven that he’s not just a one hit wonder and definitely not a stereotypical horror filmmaker.