Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019, USA/Sweden/Hungary)

               Midsommar, Ari Aster’s follow up to last year’s incredible Hereditary, is a film that defies description. The film has been marketed as a horror film, but it is much more comical than terrifying – especially in comparison to Aster’s previous effort. The horrific sequences in the film are often quite beautiful, masking the sense of dread with a feeling of psychedelic euphoria. Aster has described Midsommar as a breakup film and a “fairytale for adults” – both descriptions are accurate. More than anything else, the film reflects the horror of a relationship in which both parties want to separate, but neither knows how.
               The film starts with an audacious set piece involving a murder-suicide that is strikingly brutal compared to the tone of the rest of the film. When Dani joins her boyfriend Christian and his friends on a PhD dissertation journey to an isolated pagan commune in Sweden, the mood of Midsommar becomes increasingly bizarre. Perhaps fittingly for a film set in Sweden, there is something of Aster’s style that recalls Roy Andersson. The frames are incredibly busy, and it always seems as if the characters are lost amidst the community they’ve entered. There is also a deadpan quality to much of the proceedings – Aster knows that we know things are not going to end well for our interlopers, and he plays this up.
               Cheekiness aside, there is an emotional core at the heart of Midsommar. Bolstered by Bobby Krlic’s incredibly beautiful score, Aster does manage to capture the pain and brutality of lost love. The film’s final set piece is truly something that won’t leave my mind for some time. While some will undoubtedly critique the film as championing style over substance, I left Midsommar feeling engaged emotionally and intellectually. The mistake is to go into Aster’s latest expecting a horror film.



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