When Medieval practices are brought into the 21st century, you get films like Midsommar.
Last summer, writer/director Ari Aster’s feature length debut Hereditary hit theaters. This summer, he’s back at it again, stupefying audiences with his second feature film Midsommar.
I did not enjoy Hereditary last year. In fact, Hereditary made me so angry, that I listed it second on my list of most disappointing films of 2018 list (never finished or published). I had no intention of ever rewatching this film–until I watched Midsommar.
Much like Hereditary, the trailers for this film gave away virtually nothing about the plot. In some trailers, it almost seemed like Midsommar would be a supernatural thriller. Instead, the film weaves Scandinavian, Viking, and pagan folklore into a frenetic tapestry (literally) that explores Medieval practices in the modern era and the fragility of the human psyche. The amazing cinematography captures a variety of interesting angles and reflective shots (e.g., in mirrors, windows, etc.) that lends itself very well to the intensity of the film.
The artistry of this film along with the subtle advertising gave me a new appreciation for Hereditary and a desire to rewatch that film through a new lens.
Midsommar stars Florence Pugh (Fighting with My Family) as Dani Ardor, a grad student who is dealing with some family issues. Her sister has been causing problems and scaring their family with her erratic, attention-seeking behavior and disappearances. Dani’s boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle) is preparing to break up with her (with encouragement from his friends) to escape her family “drama”–until tragedy strikes. Dani’s sister commits a gruesome murder-suicide by killing their parents and herself with car exhaust.
Months after the trauma, Christian and his friends Josh (William Jackson Harper, They Remain) and Mark (Will Poulter, The Little Stranger) make plans to visit their friend Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren, American film debut) home in Sweden to conduct some research for their anthropology theses. Pelle invites everyone to his village for the opportunity to witness their midsommar celebration and rituals. Dani is still processing her grief and is in an incredibly vulnerable state. She and Christian argue over the fact that he made these plans without telling her, and to make up for it, he invites Dani to go along as well.
What should have been an enlightening summer trip quickly turns into a waking nightmare. The hosts welcome the Americans with open arms and invite them to participate in day-to-day activities, meals, and rituals for the midsommar festivities. The group soon begins to realize that the idyllic little village they’ve been welcomed into has a long and dark history behind it.
Midsommar doesn’t rely on jumpscares for effect, but it doesn’t need to. It transcends the typical horror movie formula; the ghastly special effects and chilling performances from the actors give the film an especially sinister vibe. If you’re looking for a strange, gory, intensely disturbing psychological thriller, then look no further. This film will leave you shocked and puzzled–and with a new appreciation for other films of its kind.