Greetings my Movie Geeks!
Beware Minor Spoilers!
The 1973 Classic ‘The Wicker Man’ was an early film from my adolescence that was able to shift my expectations for the better. It also became one of the films that affected me in a way that made me mull over the outcome. There are many other films that stay with me in this way, invading my mind in moments of quiet peace to stir up those emotions created by the film. After seeing Ari Aster’s most recent movie ‘Midsommar’ I find myself affected in that same way.
Midsommar follows Dani played by Florence Pugh, who has suffered a family tragedy. She is in a clingy, failing relationship with Christian (take note) played by Jack Reynor. As Dani is plunged into depression, she and Christian’s relationship is prolonged as Dani needs help to heal. To the chagrin of his friends apart from Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) Christian invites Dani on their trip to Sweden to visit Pelle’s home. They are going to witness a Midsommar feast that will not be seen again for 90 years, at the same time as the May Queen is picked.
Miles from civilisation in a clearing in the forest the community is secluded and appears to follow Pagan rituals which Christian and his friends are writing their doctoral thesis about. Moments of drug use in an open field highlight both the freedom of the community, but also show that Dani is still struggling with her loss.
What’s interesting from the outset is how the imagery within the film hint at what is to come. Dani has many pieces of artwork in her apartment that look as though they are telling the story in picture form. By going through her family tragedy, we know that Dani is at her weakest. She is also being held at arm’s length from Christian and his friends. They invite her on the trip almost out of pity, but it begins to appear that the trip will benefit her most.
The cinematography goes out of its way to make us feel that we have taken the ‘shrooms the characters have taken. Some shots inducing a feeling of vertigo and unease, even before we arrive at the community. It all builds towards the sense of uneasiness and discomfort, but on the face of it, everything seems nice and happy. The community are welcoming, dressed in funny robes that even they think look silly. Whereas the islanders from the Wicker Man go out of their way to alienate Edward Woodward’s Sargent Howie, the members of the commune welcome every outsider with open arms. It does build the tension as the trailers hint at what’s going to happen, and yet you get the sense that everything that happens could be in their heads.
The film quickly shows us that the community are fully into their pagan rituals and don’t shy away from showing us everything. Utilising quick cuts from scene to scene before the group get to the community shows how life can get away from you. But the moment they reach the community everything slows down and makes you yearn for a simpler life.
Midsommar subverts your expectations to the point that it stays with you. It sets everything up in the way you imagine, having Dani compete in the May Queen dance whilst high, your expectations are that it’s been set up by the community to have her become May Queen. But it does seem that everything that happens to Dani is all mostly random.
What really stood out was how it dealt with grief. Pugh stands out here by vocalising her suffering. She is ignored by Christian to the point where she’s apologising for herself to him. But once she’s at the community she is able to share her grief and begin to heal properly. Scenes of mutual outpourings of grief and chorally assisted ritual sex show how the community gives more emotional stability to Dani than Christian does. I wonder why Aster called the character Christian!
Midsommar is a well-crafted, entertaining piece of film. It shows you don’t have to spend $100 million dollars to make a good film. At a meagre $9 million it has tripled that already. It won’t be to the taste of every filmgoer. There are scenes of gore, but it has an underlying humour that catches you off guard at points. There are also moments that are slightly on the nose with the large crucifix covered in flowers at the centre of the clearing.
Midsommar is a superb film that shifted my expectations and left me thinking about it afterwards. I highly recommend it.
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