Directed by Ari Aster
After the death of her sister, a woman in a troubled relationship travels with her boyfriend and some friends to Sweden to witness a festival known as Midsommar only to be drawn into an ever increasingly bizarre world.
This is another messed up film by Ari Aster. Not as screwed up as Hereditary but definitely on the same level of just general weirdness. Much like his previous film, the events in this movie start out seemingly normal but as the movie goes on little quirks or things that you might question occur that while odd in the context of our world are not too unusual in the world that is forming in the movie and you can dismiss it even though you know you’re watching a movie and it’s something important. Get what I am saying?
You could see the Midsommar festival in a similar way as the characters do as it being some weird hippie type festival despite knowing you are watching a horror movie, and something messed up is bound to happen. And that is part of why this movie works: the abnormal can be explained away at first but you know that it is not good for the characters. Every explanation or every thing that gets explained away is part of the trap to draw the outsiders in.
Another reason that this film works is that the characters feel and look normal. They are not excessively photogenic or the exceedingly damaged or even exceedingly perfect people who suddenly find themselves in an extraordinarily bizarre or dangerous situation. The central female character of Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh) does have problems but it is nothing that feels like it is too much. Her sister has committed suicide and she herself has mental health issues but this is nothing that feels excessive. It just comes off as a rough patch in her life.
Christian (Jack Reynor), her boyfriend, friends are pressuring him to break up with Dani because he is not happy. And apparently he has not been happy for a while. And again this is a real issue people have and the way it’s presented here feels genuine. Ari Aster gets relationships. He knows how to present realistic relationship dynamics up on screen as well by coaching them out of his actors. Not many directors or writers get that.
The ending is just weird. There is no way to describe it in broad strokes without ruining it for the viewer. I was left wondering if some of the visions that Dani had were not drug induced hallucinations as implied but rather something precognitive.
And the music is just perfect. It works hand-in-hand with the acting and the directing to create a bizarre and unsettling mood throughout this film. Everything complements everything else and that is something not done often enough in movies. Every part of what you see is aimed at creating or enhancing the mood.
I enjoyed both Hereditary and Midsommar but I’m worried Ari Aster might be falling into the M. Night Shyamalan trap of having a formula and repeating it film after film. This is what I’m saying in regards to Aster’s formula: a group of relatively normal people find themselves in an ever-escalating set of surreal circumstances that culminates in a shocking twist ending where most everyone is screwed. Family problems with a helping of relationship issues are what start the ball rolling. And it is all supernatural to some extent. A basic framework where the elements of his stories get plugged in for each film.
M. Night Shyamalan fell into the trap of having a basic framework and it worked for a bit. It was what audiences came to expect from him. Bizarre events with a shocking twist. There was no way after two or three films he could get a studio to let him do a more standard movie with a more standard ending no matter how well-crafted it might be. I could see the same thing happening here. He always needed to deliver a shocking twist and when he could not deliver them bigger than the last audiences and critics got pissy. Do something different next.
I really cannot say anything bad about Midsommar. The cinematography is fantastic, and the story is solid. The performances are all great. The direction is amazing. There is nothing awful or mildly irritating about this film. Already in his career Ari Aster is a master filmmaker and this movie is definitely worth viewing.