Midsommar is a folk horror film set during a Pagan festival in Sweden. A dysfunctional American couple, Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) travel with a group of “friends” to a Swedish festival where they fall into the clutches of a sinister cult. The themes of this film commonly revolve around loss, toxic relationships, strange rituals, psychedelic experiences & the concept of gaslighting. Dani is frequently being gaslighted throughout the film, if not by Christian & their travelling companions, then by the cult itself. You will likely never trust anyone ever again after watching this film, especially those kindly smiling, seemingly helpful isolated communities in the middle of nowhere. Midsommar continually hammers home, that the worst horrors & atrocities are committed by people not ghosts & ghouls.
Midsommar is an intriguing thriller that combines Sweden’s traditional pagan culture with modern-day horror elements. It’s use of suspenseful music by electronic artist, Bobby Krlic (The Haxen Cloak) & realistic psychedelic visuals provide an equally weird and spine-tingling experience. Midsommar’s creepy story & strong characters make for interesting & tense viewing. The psychedelic visuals are spot on, trees, flowers & farmhouses beautifully warp & swirl as if made of liquid, hidden faces morph from the light & shadows of the undergrowth. Every aspect of this film seems to be designed to simulate a “bad trip” within the viewer’s psyche. This effect is achieved through the music, skewed camera angles, tense character interactions & of course the psychedelic visuals, all these elements combined really maximise the anxiety & unease of the viewer. Much like the psychedelic mushroom effects portrayed in the film, Ari Aster manages to make the viewer feel disorientated, fearful & vulnerable throughout. I know it is a cliched term, but Midsommar is literally the Wicker Man on acid.
Like the previous film I covered, (Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover), Midsommar is another visual treat (or assault) depending on your perspective. Midsommar plays heavily on it’s stylised cinematography. The bleak & tragic opening sequence is drearily lit with cold colours, thus conjuring up the feeling of winter. This is a visual juxtaposition to the bright sunshine of the film’s main event. The transition from winter to summer is orchestrated by some clever editing; Dani runs sobbing from a dimly lit living room to the bathroom, the door slams shut, and the viewer is transported seamlessly to Dani in a brightly lit airplane bathroom. From this point onwards each scene is framed by Sweden’s luscious fields & bright blue skies, summer has arrived. With the arrival of the summer you may be lured into a false sense of security; the bright lighting & scenes of nature making you think that everything is going to get better, however, everything gets worse, much worse. The majority of the film takes place in daylight, for a horror film this is very ambitious & Ari Aster achieves it masterfully, proving bright open spaces can be as terrifying as claustrophobic darkness. The fact most of the scenes are bathed in the Swedish sun means that any depictions of murder, mutilation or sex are amplified tenfold, because of this Midsommar will likely be very graphic & uncomfortable viewing for many people.
One could argue, Misommar is also a horror rendition of the Disney Princess movie troupe. The film starts with a family tragedy, progresses to a, (darkly), comical journey with some major, rather than mild peril; and then concludes with a good for her (kind of) ending. Midsommar is also a break up movie, it is clear from the start of the film Dani & Christian’s relationship should have ended long ago. Their relationship has only endured because of Dani’s co-dependency & Christians cowardly inability to end a relationship he doesn’t want to be in. Instead of ending the relationship he gaslights, emotionally & intellectually rejects Dani, likely in the hope she will end the relationship herself. Had the couple split before planning the trip to Sweden things would have turned out very differently. Aster clearly wants Midsommar to become our favourite break-up movie. And, while it’s a bitter pill to swallow, the lessons packed within it are guaranteed to sit with you long after the credits roll. The most important lesson being that you should never hold on to someone who doesn’t deserve you, or stay in a place that causes you more pain than joy. Once you have seen this film I think you’ll all agree it’s also far better to date someone who actually listens when you point out that the wide-eyed cultists around you are probably plotting your doom.
A heart wrenching, intelligent psychedelic feast. I cannot recommend this film enough.