Ludicrous. It’s time for the IKEA flat-pack Wicker Man, as assembled by 33 year old New Yorker Ari Aster. After all Europe is a continent full of strange ancient rites and rituals. I mean you have to include Glastonbury on your European Grand Tour, it’s the ley lines and crop circles maaan that give it all such a ‘freakin’-weird-shit’ vibe. Umm. If you look at some of the Native American rituals they are pretty harrowing in comparison but anyway… Here we have a film that wants to make you think about Wiccan/Pagan religious beliefs, what it means to suffer loss, the need for family and how dumbass Uni students can be, especially when they are tripping their nuts off on a European summer vacation.
There are two standout ‘Grand Guignol’ moments, one comedic sex scene and some nice white woven cotton garments, not to mention Dani’s (Florence Pugh) Björk-like May Queen costume. The idea of a pre-ordained end to your life is not new (e.g. ‘Carrousel’ at 30 in Logan’s Run) but is rendered here in a scene of pure 80s schlock-horror. The “Ättestupan”, awaiting everyone once they hit 72, is an end to your life cycle, a ‘great joy’ and long observed custom. It’s also a total gore-fest that loves getting close up to the damage a 200 foot fall, and then a massive wooden hammer can have on a human body. The reaction of the students present- the British couple seem more outraged than the Americans, is an early indicator that they do not belong here. Sure enough the students will soon be whittled down to our leading duo- Dani and Christian (Jack Reynor). British student Simon is found near the end by Christian in the hen house. He has been opened up and is being used as chicken feed. The scene is Clive Barker-esque in its bizarre, masochistic setting, but the way the camera follows Christian’s view swoop drunkenly under the body undermines any pure horror there may be.
The relationship issues between Christian and Dani are signposted early on- this is set out as: she is ‘needy’ due to her family dying in a suicide mission concocted by her Bi-polar sister- and he would like a way out, in order to be free to make the most of ‘all the Swedish women you can impregnate’. At the end Dani, the newly crowned May Queen –after winning a drug-pepped dance-off- sentences Christian to a fiery death. The way in which the ‘Sacred House’ at the end burns and collapses is almost as pleasingly well-ordered as if it had come from the IKEA catalogue. Is this sacrificial death revenge for Christian’s infidelity and his inability to represent a replacement family for Dani? Christian has been caught in his birthday suit in the middle of ‘a one-night offer to mate with Maja’- with whom he is apparently ‘an ideal astrological match’- I suppose that makes it alright then? Maja had primed this mating by including some unsanitary personal extra’s in Christian’s meat pie-
CHRISTIAN I think I ate one of her pubic hairs.
SIV That sounds probably right.
(You even think to yourself- are these pies made from the same ‘meat’ as Sweeny Todd’s were?)
At one point during the ‘mating’ an older, naked, woman even helps Christian get the job done by shoving him backwards and forwards from behind- a moment of pure ‘Carry On…’ slapstick comedy. The scene is what Eyes Wide Shut didn’t show you. Jack Reynor ‘tackles’ the whole thing with a wide a wide-eyed incredulity that is so one dimensional you want to laugh. This ‘Christian’- deliberately named to contrast with the Pagan villagers- must die, along with the other ‘non-believers’, but not until he has brought some outsider ‘stock’ to this restricted gene-pool. Ruben, a young looking Elephant Man, is a mentally disabled boy who is ‘unclouded by normal cognition’ and thus used as a conduit for the voices of nature. We learn that Ruben was a product of deliberate inbreeding, and therefore we can understand the need for new blood, especially as ‘the bloodlines are very well preserved’, and all the mates have to be approved by the elders. Ruben ‘communicates’ by way of scrappy coloured washes of coloured paint which are then ‘interpreted’…in other words his abstract paintings can be interpreted however the elders what to use them.
Only Pelle, the Swedish student who invited his friends over, seems to understand Dani- in contrast to the distracted, emotionally distant Christian. Pelle has also lost his family, but how can she rely on him now she knows about the community he comes from? Dani is the broken heart of the film, and this hallucinogenic trip- both literally and chemically, will not be enough to help her come to terms with what has happened. Indeed- ‘The drugs don’t work, they just make it worse’. Escapism is momentary, and in the end you have to confront reality. Dani hasn’t done so and this trip, on which she invited herself, has not worked, it’s made things worse.
Verdict: 4/10. It’s just lucky that the reality in Midsommar is so far removed from any actual reality, even in the current state of virus-induced lockdown and global economic paralysis, that we can laugh it off as a piece of ridiculous silliness.
You can purchase Midsommar HERE.