After taking audiences by storm with his breakout masterpiece Hereditary, Ari Aster returns with Midsommar, which tells the most disturbing cinematic breakup tale.
Aster’s sophomore feature depicts a ruthless and unnerving descent into madness between two people that don’t deserve a happily ever after. Written and directed by Aster, the film stars Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, and Vilhelm Blomgren. Midsommar follows a group of graduate students that travel to Sweden for a festival that occurs every ninety years, but they find themselves caught in the ritualistic practices of a pagan cult.
Dani and Christian are a couple on the verge of disintegration, and as shown in the trailer, no one wants out more than Christian. However, once a tragic event occurs, he decides to stay with Dani out of guilt. This then leads to Christian inviting Dani to join him and his friends on the trip to Sweden. Similar to Hereditary, Midsommar gives an intense look into grief and features a tour de force performance from its female lead.
Pugh stars as Dani, the film’s heroine who is trying to recover from a tragic event. While her co-stars do what they can, Pugh shines as the distraught protagonist, as she goes through almost every emotion during the film. It’s made clear very early on that this character suffers anxiety due to the events going on in her life, and that factors into why Christian wants to leave her. Reynor stars as Christian, the boyfriend of Dani who has been trying to break away for a while. His plan’s only reinforced by his friends Josh (Harper), Pelle (Blomgren), and Mark (Poulter), who don’t seem too fond of Dani either for the most part. Midsommar may feature a pagan cult performing raw, bone-chilling practices, but it’s still a gruesome breakup story at its core.
As soon as the group arrives in the Swedish village, they are mesmerized by its scenery and the attire of the festival participants, better known as the Harga. Dani and her distant friends are invited to participate in the daily festivities, which include maypole dancing, meditation, feasting, and consuming mind-altering drugs. At first, the villagers seem harmless but certain practices will lead to the group of friends reconsidering their decision to come, but by then it’s too late.
Aster has crafted a visually stunning film that will cause disgust just as much as it will leave viewers in awe at how beautifully shot it is. Midsommar isn’t as frightening as the trailers make it seem, but it is very unsettling to watch and will leave audiences pondering on what they just witnessed. The film’s cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski is stellar and a visually satisfying component that brings the horrific imagery to life. The Haxan Cloak’s score accompanies the disturbing two-hour experience so immaculately and will stick with you once the credits roll. Yet, despite its horrific nature, certain lines and sequences in Midsommar will undoubtedly spark laughter.
Midsommar is a successful sophomore feature from Aster, who is leaving his mark on modern horror. The film isn’t as coherent as his debut film, but it is more bizarre. Midway through the film, it feels like Aster becomes focused on sparking a reaction with graphic imagery rather than finishing a coherent narrative. The film does manage to end on a high note, but along the way, the story becomes a bit muddled in its attempt to be visually discomforting.
Regardless of that, after leaving audiences floored with Hereditary, many wondered how Aster would follow it up. Well, he has crafted a dark romantic film about a toxic relationship that can’t be saved. By the time Midsommar reaches its bonkers finale, the relationship between Dani and Christian has been shattered. Not only do they go through a traumatic experience, but the audience suffers right along with them.
Once the credits roll, the viewers are left with a sense of catharsis. Aster has a knack for putting his audience through the wringer, and he doesn’t switch up for this latest outing. There is no way to prepare for Midsommar and the bizarre activities that ensue, but expect to be left emotionally drained.
A24 will be releasing Midsommar in theaters on July 3rd.