Is it just me or is the horror genre going through a kind of renaissance period? It used to be the only way you would hear about a horror film being critically and commercially successful is if it was an unlikely success story. You have to look back to Saw and Paranormal Activity to find suitable candidates. However, horror success stories are all over the place thanks to fresh, passionate directors with some coming from the unlikeliest places. Although we can’t pinpoint where it all started, we certainly know the names and Ari Aster was possibly the quickest to arrive on the scene. After his debut success Hereditary, I was curious to see how he would solidify himself into the horror genre, hence we get Midsommar where not only has he solidified himself, he may have just crowned himself king.
Midsommar can only be described as beautiful bizarreness with the bulk of the beauty coming from some of the most gorgeous cinematography this year. There are so many mesmerizing shots in this film you find yourself in some sort of hypnotic trance. There are so many perspectives the film gives to us, with impressive attention on making the audience feel part of this pagan ritual. There are instances in the film where characters will sit down to which the camera will follow in a sitting down motion. Pawel Pogorzelski does a fantastic job in making you feel involved with the festivities. I also must applaud a fantastic colour palette, proving Ari Aster can work with both moody and bright colours and lighting.
Let’s move on towards the story of Midsommar itself which is going to differ from expectations. This is not a horror film in the traditional sense, this is more of a dark drama centered around Dani (Florence Pugh) whose anxiety is thrown overboard by a family tragedy and her rocky relationship with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). In short, Midsommar does follow in Hereditary’s footsteps on its central focus of grief but throw in a break-up story and you have new avenues to explore, which Midsommar chooses to tackle with a lot of ambitious imagery.
I have a huge admiration for Florence Pugh’s performance in Midsommar, she is impeccable as displaying a character who has reached the lowest of lows who is put in a position where understanding her mindset is taken to an extreme level. She was terrific in Fighting with My Family and is even more spectacular here, especially considering that she needs to expel more heavier emotions into this performance.
Some people have noticed that this film shares a lot of similarities with other films that feature pagan cult, specifically people have instantly associated this film with both The Wicker Man films (yes I’m including the Nicolas Cage one) and there are a lot of similarities from both those films shown here which I don’t want to reveal. There is even a 2003 Danish film called Midsummer which shares an eerily similar plot to Midsommar. I have no idea if these similarities are coincidences, references or just rip-offs, however it is what Midsommar does differently with these elements that add to the whole viewing experience which is something to behold.
For a film of this magnitude and bizarreness, there are a few precautions you must take before you can begin to comprehend the events of Midsommar. An open mind is required more than anything. The story is not exactly what you would call conventional in terms of its pacing. You have a solid build-up before the bulk of the film’s events and then it can seem like nothing of interest in happening, but there is more going on than you might think. You can learn a lot about the pagan cult just by looking at the beautiful set design this film has to offer.
The complexity of this film however may be too much for some people to take. At times there are certain things that are never fully explained that you wish could have carried on becoming a major part of the film. It requires a lot of thinking to put the pieces together with Midsommar not willing to provide clues.
As I’ve already mentioned this is one of the most beautiful looking films of this year, I would like to say this is one of the most beautiful shot films I’ve ever seen, but there is one thing stopping me for saying this. Remember when the teaser trailer for Midsommar where it included white aspect ratio bars? I so wish they would have kept that in. I think it would have elevated the style and highlighted the bizarreness.
From someone who only made his feature film debut last year, Ari Aster has become one of the most exciting directors in cinema. The limits of what he can accomplish are unimaginable. I have to stress this again, beautiful bizarreness, that’s what Midsommar is. The unsettling experience is well worth the ticket price, but you are also rewarded with an amazing presentation and a powerful lead performance, it will certainly take your breath away, much like the pagan cult members.
Final Result: 10/10 – Masterpiece
Have you seen Midsommar? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: The Dead Don’t Die