Midsommar is a horrifying and uncomfortable experience in an artful way.
Midsommar is Ari Aster’s sophomore film. Just like his first film Hereditary (2018), the main characters have to deal with a cult and some gruesome and horrifying experiences. Midsommar is an even less comfortable or easy watch than Hereditary.
The graphic horror is explicit and again shown in a most excruciating way. The idea of what the cult is capable of is terrifying and nauseating, but unlike Hereditary this film has some dark humor woven into the story. The story itself is about loss and grief and one of the most gruesome breakup stories you’ll ever see.
With beautiful cinematography, excellent use of light and a mysterious atmosphere the film is portentous and awkward at the same time. Midsommar is a relentless film not for the faint of heart, but also a wonderfully told story about human emotions.
As Dani Ardor struggles with the mental illness of her sister, Terri, she doesn’t get much support from her boyfriend Christian. In fact he’s about to go on a trip to Sweden with his college friends Josh, Mark and Pelle to study a reclusive community in Hårga for their thesis.
When Pelle asks Dani along, everyone is reluctant even Christian to take her with them. But for Dani it could be an opportunity to escape the horrors that happened to her family causing her great grief and loss. Unfortunately this community is not what it seems and when the summer festival Midsommar is initiated by a gruesome ritual, things take a sinister turn.
Why you should watch it
If you like folk horror, this film ticks all the boxes in an excellent way. Nature, the isolation, the horrifying rituals, death and a total feeling of desperation and helplessness with no chance for rescue at all, are all elements true to the genre. This film is a perfect folk horror, with reverence to the genre.
The explicit horror scenes are difficult to watch. Though they are limited to the functionality of the story and no to shock. Only the first ritual of the old man and woman jumping off a cliff is the most horrifying of them all. The rest is left to the imagination of the audience. Sure there are some more gruesome scenes, but only after the fact and not the actual execution of the act itself.
The film focuses on the ominous, foreboding and surreal atmosphere instead of the graphic horror. The cinematography is outstanding and though there’s a lot use of light, you strangely never see the actual sun, which could be symbolic.
The symbolism is well represented in a fun way, by means of the tapestries, that foretell the story and explain the different rituals and events.
The whole film, all the events are metaphors of the difficult breakup Dani is going through. All her feelings, her loneliness, her grief, her pain, the betrayal of Christian, her dark feelings of revenge, are all represented by the festival and the rituals. Just like Hereditary there’s a grave drama underneath the events, wrapped up in a horror. Both complement each other and bring out the best in both genres. It’s very impressive.
My favorite part
Every scene, every event is actually very horrifying. Excellently told and filmed, but the fact still remains that it’s gruesome and therefore this film is not a happy watch. The sunny and peaceful surroundings, the beautiful nature, the happy people and serene atmosphere is very deceiving. Every scene is excruciating, either physically or psychologically. If it was his goal to make you uncomfortable, then Aster succeeded with flying colors.
But it’s also horribly funny and weird at times and cruel at other times, and sometimes those extremes are put together to make something new and fresh. This film is also difficult to be seen as separate scenes. It’s the whole film that feels like one scene, one frightful event that keeps getting worse, and worse and more emotional and intense by the minute. You’ll just have to see it through, just like Dani did to find some release at the end. But be warned it can leave a nasty taste in your mouth at the same time.
With a duration of two and a half hours it can seem a little long, but due to the excellent storytelling and no filler scenes, it flies by. You are caught up in the story before you know it. The story grabs you by the throat and it is as relentless as the cult itself.
Gore factor: ★★★☆☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★★★
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Cast and crew
Midsommar is directed and written by Ari Aster. It stars Florence Pugh (Dani), Jack Reynor (Christian), William Jackson Harper (Josh), Vilhelm Blomgren (Pelle), Will Poulter (Mark), Ellora Torchia (Connie) and Archie Madekwe (Simon).
Duration: 148 minutes, Music: The Haxan Cloak. Cinematography: Pawel Pogorzelski. Produced by: Patrik Andersson, Lars Knudsen, Viktória Petrányi. Production companies: B-Reel Films, Square Peg. Distributed by: A24.