I’ve waited a long time to see Midsommar, not for any particular reason, it just bypassed me at the cinema and ended up turning into one of those movies I wanted to see but never got around to, until now.
Midsommar is from Ari Aster who both wrote and directed the movie, which comes off the back of his debut feature, Hereditary.
Firstly, there’s the issue of how to describe Midsommar? Well, it’s kind of a horror, but not quite. It’s Hitchcokian at times but borrows the most from Anthony Schaffer’s The Wicker Man.
Both are bizarre, both borrow directly, or indirectly, from Paganism and the idea of cults, and both involve fire, big fires.
Midsommar begins with Dani, Florence Pugh (“Fighting With My Family“, “The Commuter“), who comes across as a ‘needy’ girlfriend with a bipolar sister who likes to ‘stir things up a little’ over email.
As her sister appears to be saying goodbye to the (cruel) world, over email, Dani is understandably upset and so phones her boyfriend Christian, Jack Reynor (“Free Fire“, “On The Basis Of Sex“), who’s out with his mates discussing, amongst other things, an upcoming trip to Sweden that Pelle, Vilhelm Blomgren (“Gosta (TV)”, “The Days The Flowers Bloom (TV)”), has invited them on, them being: Josh, William Jackson Harper (“They Remain“, “Paterson”), and Mark, Will Poulter (“The Revenant“, “War Machine“), as well.
It’s fair to see that Christian’s friends aren’t fans of Dani and encourage him to go through with leaving her, something they say he’s been planning for a while. This doesn’t happen, particularly when Dani’s parents and sister are found dead.
What does happen is that Christian ends up inviting Dani to Sweden with the boys, something that seems to excite Pelle inordinately. What comes next is where things begin to get really mad.
Upon arriving in Sweden, the gang are taken to a beautiful green spot, nestled between woodland, where Pelle’s ‘family’ live. Think of the family, and setting, like a Mormon town, but with everyone dressed in white, and you aren’t far off.
With some mind altering drugs on board, the group, joined by two other outsiders, begin enjoying the festivities in the never ending sunshine. There’s drinking, mind altering drugs, eating, mind altering drugs, dancing, mind altering drugs, sex, mind altering drugs, suicide, mind altering drugs, disappearances, and, did we mention mind altering drugs?
We mention that a lot because, not only is it key to the story, it’s key to how Aster elects to handle what we see. There are subtle, and not so subtle, parts of scenes waving and weaving, a-la Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, almost throughout, it becomes fun to spot them.
Aster is in complete control of not only what we see, flipping the camera, panning across tapestries, focussing in on a reaction, but also what we hear, not always electing to provide subtitles for the Swedish that is spoken, meaning we can feel as alienated and disoriented as the group, though not as much.
Midsommar is bizarre, but in the best way. Aster directs with aplomb and gets some brilliant performances from his group. It’s mad and I’m still not fully convinced I’ve seen all there is to see after watching it, but I’m glad I have.
3rd July 2019
THE QUICK SELL
A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown's fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.