Midsommar Review

SPOILERS for Midsommar

In my opinion, one of the most anticipated movies of the year. When the first details of the film came out, I was instantly hooked. Everything looked promising for Ari Aster’s sophomore effort. Here we are, it’s been 12 hours since I’ve seen the film, and I can’t get it out of my head.

Based off of Hereditary, I expected some kind of family tragedy. That seems to be a theme in Aster’s films. If you don’t believe me, watch his short films: https://vimeo.com/showcase/5231170. The murder suicide of Dani’s (Florence Pugh) family gave us a beginning which we won’t forget. I feel Aster’s confidence as a filmmaker really showed during this scene. He tested the audience in Hereditary, and realized people loved it. Like Jordan Peele, Aster knows what he wants to do, and what will make the audience cringe. The image of Dani’s sister with vomit all over herself has stuck with me. There’s such a realism factor to the reveal, which makes it hard to watch.

We meet Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends and immediately hate them. They seem like typical bros, that only care about getting laid. We get the impression that Christian wants to break up with Dani but can’t, seeing what just happened to her family. Christian invites Dani on their trip to Sweden to visit one of their friends, Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren) home. We get a real sense of what the comedic tone is going to be like here. Yes there are funny moments, but it’s almost as if we’re laughing at them for being so ridiculous. Dani is a little reluctant to go, but needs to be with familiar faces because of her tragedy.

Cut to Sweden. This is where the acid hits. Right away, the lighting and the cinematography have brought us into a fairytale. The gang’s first stop is at this campsite. Shrooms are taken immediately, and from here on out, the whole movie is like a pulsating dream. Dani is pressured by Mark (Will Poulter), after saying she wants to settle in before taking the drugs. She ends up having a bad trip, and has flashbacks of her family. The acting here is incredible, just want to point that out.

Florence Pugh; Jack Reynor DSCF2781.JPG

Dani passes out, and wakes up hours later. They take a hike to the village, where they will be taking refuge. They are greeted with music, berries, and hope of a relaxing week. At this point in the film, Aster really takes his time. To me, the pacing is perfect here. The slow build up is like a slow come up before an acid trip. When it finally hits you, that’s where the climax of the film happens.

We learn more about the characters. Christian is struggling to break up with Dani. Mark is there to be a nuisance, and Josh (William Jackson Harper) is there to write a thesis. None of the characters are really there to experience the festivities, except Dani. She genuinely cares about these people’s traditions. They meet two people from London, who have come with Pelle’s brother, Ingemar (Hampus Hallberg).

The first event is a attestupa ritual, where two of the communal elders commit suicides by jumping off of a cliff. The older man doesn’t die, so they bash his head in with a large mallet. All of the non-residents start to freak out, and some attempt to leave. That night, Dani experiences nightmares that her group will abandon her. Like in Hereditary, the dream sequence has some kind of foreshadowing to it.

Mark urinates on an ancient tree, and is lured away by one of the women. Christian really begins to shine when he decides to copy Josh’s thesis. They learn about an oracle, a product of incest, who paints ancient practices. Josh then sneaks into the temple to take photos of their text. He is then hit over the head with an axe, by a naked man who is wearing Mark’s face. This string of events happens so fast, and it where the change from fairytale, to nightmare begins. One thing I do love about this film, is the seamless transition of tone. At one point, everyone’s enjoying themselves, and the next minute people are terrified.

The next day Dani participates in a maypole dance competition, in which the “May Queen” will be crowned the winner. This scene was shot in a way, where you I feel you connect with Dani the most. We follow her, as she dances with the others. Her feelings go back and forth, as she seems scared, but then smiles. The audience can relate, because the array of emotions are the same as what she’s feeling. Dani becomes the “May Queen” of the cult.

Christian is then groomed to participate in a ritual, where he has to impregnate a commune member. While this is happening, Dani is going through some more rituals, now that she is the “May Queen”. Dani quickly sees what Christian is doing, and has a panic attack. The cult women follow her, and sympathize by wailing with her. How they cut these two scenes together was like riding a roller coaster. The maypole dance was the incline. The very top of the roller coaster was Dani getting crowned “May Queen’, and Christian being lured away. Finally, the drop was Dani finding Christian having sex with one of the members.

From here on out, the film unravels the true nature of the cult. Christian finds Joshs’ leg sticking out of the ground, and Simon’s body ritually torn apart and hung like an eagle. This disturbing imagery is what Aster succeeds at. He’s there for the shock factor, and it works so well here. Christian is then paralyzed, and knocked out.

Christian wakes up, where Dani, now the “May Queen” is in control. Dani is told that one of their rituals, is to provide nine human sacrifices. They need one more victim, so she picks Christian. Christian is stuffed into a disemboweled bear, and placed in a temple with the other eight sacrifices. The imagery here is intense and effective. We see Marks body stuffed with hay, and crowned a Jester. The other sacrifices are shown with steaks impaled through their mouths. They light the temple on fire, and everyone starts to celebrate and dance around. The cult members mimic the screams of the human sacrifices. Dani begins to sob in complete fright. She then gradually begins to smile, realizing she has a family again.

I can’t wait to see Midsommar again. It was the fairytale I’ve been looking for, for a long time!

RATING – 9.5/10

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