Ari Aster’s second film, Midsommar, is all but ordinary in this gripping pagan folk horror. Midsommar brings with it an all too utopian visual aesthetic that few films can match, any sane person would be ashamed to have not appreciated the artistic value.
Ari Aster has created films since 2011, but it was only in 2018 his feature-length directorial debut aired – Hereditary. It was within Hereditary we were given an insight into the motions within Ari Arister’s mind, and what he was capable of producing within the genre of horror. A slow build-up, increasing minaciousness, and a jaw-dropping final act.
Midsommar is the tale of a group of friends visiting a virtually unknown community of Swedish pagans to observe and partake in their ‘Midsommar’ festival, one that only occurs every 90 years. Within this group there’s the bipolar and grief-stricken Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh), the girlfriend of the distant anthropology postgraduate Christian Hughes (Jack Reynor), their two friends and classmates Josh (William Harper) and Mark (Will Poulter), and finally, their friend who invited them to this auspicious event, Pelle (Vilhelm Blogren).
In this latest instalment of Ari Arister’s work the audience is first greeted with a dying relationship and death, a poetic macabre-esque prelude to the actual plot. All but Dani is invited to go away to Sweden to witness this staggering festival, until she tags along unknowingly unwanted by the rest of the group.
There are few better ways to be introduced to the idyllic rural scenery and dazzling, if not blinding, daylight, than with magic mushrooms and hallucinogenic teas (apparently). The near perplexing sunshine is juxtaposed with the ominous, yet welcoming, Swedish natives. Who, in their olde traditional white robes and floral embroidery, seduce the cast and the audience into their strange community with their aberrant traditions. Ari Aster, as well as his production team, have managed to tap into the ordinary person’s psyche and present them with things many so desperately want but either cannot admit to or cannot obtain, namely a tight-knit community with strong unquestioning traditions, a life close to nature, and autarkic self-reliance.
Things are not quite what they seem though, within their heavenly, though manifestly Aryan-esque, coterie. The traditions non-linearly revert back and forth from the uncanny to grotesque, from a love ritual where a man’s pie is spiked with pubic hair to enacting execution via a ritual known as ‘The Blood Eagle’. Nothing is off the table for Ari Aster, including a hilarious (though likely not intentionally hilarious) choreographed adulterous sex scene watched upon and verbally encouraged by the middle-aged and elderly pagan women.
However, this review is not a praise of glory, there are obvious pitfalls, many of which should have been snuffed out before the cinematic release. Namely the dialogue, rough acting of the still largely unknown main cast, the slightly-off editing, and unnecessary protracted length (2 hours, 27 minutes). It is with this that many will find it difficult to discern whether this film is just very good, or great. But nonetheless, it’s one of 2019’s best movies. Perhaps one day even a cult classic.