Leaving the theater after seeing Midsommar, you would have thought that I just went five rounds with Mike Tyson. I was sweating, out of breath, and exhausted. My head was spinning and my heart-rate was jacked. Writer/director Ari Aster has created yet another incredible feature film. It is a film that you cannot shake and one of the best movies of 2019.
After a horrific event, Dani (Florence Pugh) is empty and alone in this world, with only her unsupportive boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), at her side. When Christian and his friends, Mark (Will Poulter) and Josh (William Jackson Harper), are invited to a Swedish Midsummer festival by their friend Pelle (Wilhelm Blomgren), Dani joins them last minute, even though she is still dealing with the traumatizing event. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.
Midsommar is not your typical horror film. There are no ghosts, jump scares, or masked murderers who stalk teens around a neighborhood. This is a horror movie that stays with you long after you leave the theater and makes you think about the characters, the plot, the themes, and the events that took place in front of you. This is the scariest kind of horror because it is horror that you cannot escape. You are constantly thinking about the film and will catch yourself randomly thinking one of the many grisly images or haunting shots of the film. Aster’s last film, Hereditary, had a similar effect. Aster makes movies that stay with you, which is the true mark of a horror master.
But Midsommar isn’t all scares. Aster has crafted a dark, twisted relationship drama with themes of grief and freedom. After Dani’s horrific ordeal, she is left alone in the world. She only has Christian, whom she loves, but Christian doesn’t feel the same, especially with peer pressure from his friends, namely Mark. Even if she sees that Christian may not be the best, she stays with him because she has nowhere else to go. This movie is Dani’s journey in growing the strength, power and independence to take action and become her own woman without Christian and for her to break free from the grief that she is dealing with. A lot of the film’s credit goes to Pugh, who takes on this journey and takes us on through this bizarre Swedish ritual brilliantly. It is one of the best performances of the year.
Midsommar is a movie that needs to be seen twice, though it isn’t the easiest film to sit through. Aster does an incredible job immersing us in this culture and this ritual. Set on a beautiful Swedish mountainside that is draped in sunlight, Aster gives us a luscious, beautiful movie to look at. This is some of the best cinematography and production design of the year, with great color pops and striking images that you won’t soon forget. But Aster also takes his time in the movie. With a runtime of almost two-and-a-half-hours, Aster makes sure we are fully immersed in this culture and this ritual. Constant long, unnerving shots of the activities that take place during this ritual, from making pies and eating lunch to some scenes that will haunt your dreams really put us front and center of this horrific movie.
Trying to describe Midsommar is tough because I don’t want to give anything away. You cannot prepare yourself for a film like Midsommar. What Ari Aster has crafted is unlike any movie made this decade. A relationship drama seeped in a ritualistic horror movie with deep themes that is oddly funny and gorgeous to look at. Ari Aster makes movies that make you feel and makes movies that stay with you, which is something that is very rare in today’s cinema.
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