MIDSOMMAR wrecked me. Don’t get me wrong there’s catharsis in this film and even that isn’t entirely fulfilling. It’s the journey to get there that’s excruciating and exhausting. This is very much a superior “horror” film one I may rank up there with Lars Van Trier’s ANTICHRIST. Yeah, that one wrecked me too. There’s just some imagery you can never shake or erase from your memory ever and this is the power in Ari Aster’s films. I saw that in HEREDITARY and I should have known that going into MIDSOMMAR. Oh, silly me. There’s so much psychological warfare it nearly blurs the line at times where you question your own sanity and moments where you begin to recalibrate your own dating history. Ughh! Did anyone else get flashbacks of your own personal demons you battled in the past? They like to slowly creep in except this time, I attempted to mentally combat them with an imaginary constructed house of defense just like Jami Lee Curtis did in the HALLOWEEN reboot. She was armed and ready for Michael Meyers’ return. Silliness aside, I can’t think of a better film I’ll see this year. (I’m talking about MIDSOMMAR not HALLOWEEN) I guess that’s what happens when Hollywood is on a superhero bender and Disney hooking its greedy mouse claws in owning every major studio that ever was. (I’m still in shock they bought 20th Century Fox) Yeah, its seriously sad times in the entertainment industry. Aside from the gloom, I’m grateful A24 exists. In fact, I’ll probably only watch A24 distributed films from here on out because they know how to satisfy their particular audiences. Well, that and the Criterion Collection obviously. Cinephile mecca!
So the epitome of hell in MIDSOMMAR is that its a two-and-a-half-hour journey of taking mushrooms, while enduring the death of a relationship, all sprinkled on top with a commune celebrating its festival that occurs every 90 years in Sweden. Oh and your friends are invited to partake in this as well. I’m sure this makes the Swedes roll their eyes and laugh at Americans overdramatizing their sacred pagan rituals into a horror story when in reality the true horror resides in how our characters’ treat each other. That’s right I went into full over analytical mode and found when I separated the whole religious denominator divided by the emotional/rational bandwidth of these characters minus the actions they took, I came to the conclusion (with the exception of Dani’s character) that most of the male characters are self-absorbed aided by their own selfishness which equates to their own demise. Guess it never pays to be selfish.
MIDSOMMAR is magical in a sense of delighting its audience into the wonder beyond a community that wholeheartedly believes in sacrifice. After the film, I read Aster’s script and there is so much left out of the actual movie that a particular dialogue tied it all together quite nicely for me. Which made me wonder why he removed it or if it was even filmed? Perhaps it was too on the nose? Either way, hopefully it will be in the director’s cut which I assume will be four hours of hell. But essentially, and obviously sacrifice is the biggest theme aside from loss and grief and also the realization Dani’s dating an asshole.
In the immensely dreadful, disturbing, first act, Dani (Florence Pugh) undergoes a tremendous loss and that’s a sufferable horror within itself. Several months later her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his anthropology college bros are leaving to Sweden for a month to a small village known as Harga where the week long festivities begin. Dani also tags along with them, although everyone is reluctant of her being there. She tries to put on a brave face but internally she’s emotionally breaking down which is often shown in her a series of panic attacks. Once they arrive to Haga things obviously go array slowly and then catapults into pure insanity. And through that insanity you’re watching the breakdown of Dani and Christian’s relationship slowly and painfully coming to an end. Dani is vulnerable and Christian’s only concern are for his own needs. Anyone who’s been in this type of relationship will see this. I almost feel like this is a fable of sorts, like the tortoise and the hare? What happens to the vulnerable and what happens to the selfish ones? I won’t spoil it. But look at the mural below!! Now take deep exaggerated breaths.
Now, the precursor to the impetuous breakdown is heartbreaking and distressing, especially from Dani’s eyes and its captured in a sequence that’ll I’ll say is my favorite part of the whole film. It’s the moment Dani comes back from blessing the crops as the community’s new May Queen. She curiously wants to know what going on in one of the barns. Naturally, one of the girls warns her not to, but again human nature and curiosity can’t always be resisted. Dani witnesses another horrific image that cuts her to the core AGAIN and suffers. And you feel for this girl. Breakdown after breakdown, and you know this particular one is the final nail in the coffin. But what’s beautiful about this sequence is how the group of women collectively surround her with their empathy. Like genuine empathy. Her pain is their pain. And as they embrace in this little circle of a cathartic cry session of wailing women, it becomes a domino effect of recycling emotion. It’s terrifyingly haunting to watch on screen and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a filmmaker capture that before well without the regards to Toni Collete’s heavy breakdown in HEREDITARY. I’m still in awe one moment, terrified another, and then exhausted by the onslaught of heavy emotional that hits you like an avalanche. That’s a ton of energy. I’m sure all the guys in the theater were gripping their armchair because its never easy seeing anyone displaying that level of pain especially if it’s someone you deeply love.
I was at odds after watching MIDSOMMAR and my first reaction (which is never my final reaction) was it’s a glorified version of the original WICKER MAN but with a sharp focus from a female’s perspective. Ultimately, its a portrayal of a twisted fairy tale laced in suffering, rebirth, betrayal and acceptance and what’s so parallel is the timeline of the festival’s customs and traditions coincide with what the characters represent in a lifecycle of their own journey. Obviously the ending of a relationship is never easy albeit, Ari Aster makes this grand gesture dazzled in allegory for something tumultuous that should be recognizable by every human being with a soul. It’s a mind-boggling feat. Impressive, glorious, disturbing, and tantalizes the brain! The ending of a relationship is like a death. You ache, you grieve and eventually you accept and sometimes do batshit, crazy things. This is all illustrated in the very first shot of the film. Remember that elaborate mural? The entire story is in that mural which seems like a series of Tarot cards. It feels creepy because it’s meant to. Elaborate with color that doesn’t seem harmful but playful and that’s the real kicker to this whole film as its infused with flowers, dancing, singing, a celebration that mirrors many things in life. Yet beneath the surface there is a true omen to sacrifice. Something people do every day and even though this is a graphically disturbing film it demonstrates humanity’s demeanor. Are we all monsters of our own devices? Not necessarily. But all the newcomers who came to Harga had their own agendas whether it being a thesis or looking to get laid and from that point, there was very much a disconnect between them and in being within their environment. This draws the ferocious line of being selfish or accepting sacrifice which is a fundamental aspect of being in a relationship with someone.
MIDSOMMAR by any means isn’t an easy film to stomach, emotionally and perhaps physically for the average viewer but if you’re strong and willing, go for it! I can’t say enough conflicting good things about this flick. Its discombobulating, clever, deeply and thrillingly like an aphordisac for the confused soul to contempt life’s greatest misadventures. If you can handle blatant imagery of the trauma that’s bestowed upon the human body, which in essence represents the symbolic means of ritualistic sacrifice then by all means please watch this film, and if not well you can read the script which is even grittier than what was shown in theaters. The performance of Florence Pugh, who plays Dani comes off natural and doesn’t even feel like she’s acting. Actually all of the performances were incredible, nothing didn’t feel overplayed but almost as if you felt like you knew these characters to some degree. Sound design, cinematography, creepy musical moments, special effects make up, even how movement is conveyed was intrinsically hypnotic. An incredible haunting tale that will never be forgotten but probably herald as one of the top horror films for decades to come. It even comes with a “moral to the story”. So if you’re dating an arrogant, selfish asshole, well do yourself a favor and dump the person, because yourself worth as a human being deserves better.