Dani and Christian are a young American couple with a relationship on the brink of falling apart. But after a family tragedy keeps them together, a grieving Dani invites herself to join Christian and his friends on a trip to a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. The carefree summer holiday in a land of eternal sunlight takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that are increasingly disturbing.
Plot: What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.
Director: Ari Aster
Aspect Ratio: 2.00.1
Runtime: 140 min
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Ambitious, impressively crafted, and above all unsettling, Midsommar further proves writer-director Ari Aster is a horror auteur to be reckoned with.
Online Ratings: (Scores may vary while in theater)
“Midsommar wasn’t meant to scare you, it’s here to scar you… in broad daylight.”
Review: Please note I’m trying very hard to formulate this without spoilers!
Midsommar was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. Ari Aster came out with a bang in one of my favorite movies of last year, Hereditary. As you could imagine, as soon as I saw the trailer for this movie, I was all in. On paper you’re walking into a folk-horror movie with Ari Aster at the helm, this is the definition of a perfect situation.
Walking out the theater last night I tweeted this out, “I’m lost for words. I don’t know if I like it, I don’t know if I can recommend it. It’s not a horror movie, it’s real life — that’s what messes with your head. The film sucks you into their world and it won’t let you go.” After letting this film brew in my head overnight, I’m going to have to stick to these words until I see it again.
So, let’s break this down.
Something we’ve been groomed to expect is a build to the climatic point — even if the plot is jumbled, confusing or being pieced together out of order, there’s always THAT MOMENT. You know, the moment where everything is explained and all of a sudden, even if it’s only one split second, the entire movie makes sense? The bigger the moment, the bigger the after-shock becomes as you leave the theater. Midsommar isn’t that. While there is an ominous and continuous build, it’s really the gathering knowledge that heightens the disturbance of this festival. The movie unfolds and it ends in a spectacle. The explanation was right there the entire time.
You will still leave the theater confused, but that’s okay — that’s the point.
The most disturbing thing from my perspective is that I started to accept the ways of this cult as the movie carried on. Matter of fact, I’d say I went in thinking ‘cult’ and left thinking ‘family.’ You’ll gradually learn the traditions of this community, and while they are mostly ‘out of this world’ alarming, it’s their world and you accepted the invitation. If anything, it’s your fault you bought it. This isn’t a bland story with nominal references either, it’s really rich with information — this easily fells like a real place where people live today. That’s why it’s scary “It’s not a horror movie, it’s real life.” The fact that the majority of the movie takes place under the sun solidifies this conclusion. Nothing was meant to scare you because nothing about it is scary to this community. You are looking through the glass at their traditions and way of life.
Make sure you try to pay attention to everything around them, especially the walls — there’s a lot of clues.
I found myself (through the majority of the movie) trying to figure out who I was supposed to root for. Who’s the bad guy? Is this wrong? What would I do in this situation? I continuously put myself in the shoes of multiple characters to try to understand their point of view. Now that I’ve had the chance to think about it, everything unfolded with precise judgement, nothing was by chance — everything was by design. As this two and a half hour movie continued to stretch out and hold its own, it wasn’t until the third act when I fully made up my mind. I knew who I was rooting for, who the villain was and why this ‘twisted community’ was acceptable.
Closing out, I have to note how beautiful Midsommar is on screen — it’s masterfully shot and directed by Ari Aster. Every frame is like a painting, there’s nothing to change, nothing to point out — it’s masterclass film-making. Sit back and enjoy.
Unfortunately, you’re going to have to see Midsommar to even start the conversation. There’s no way around it. As audiences leave the theater this week and weekend — many will love it, many will hate it, most will be confused. One thing’s for sure, the dust will settle and this community will carry on.
Follow below for some spoiler talk.
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
I have one theory and I can guarantee it’s strange, but I’ll throw it out there anyways. This film ultimately becomes a revenge story on a struggling relationship. They clue us in that Dani has been coping with her ‘crazy’ sister her entire life and the fact that she really needs Christian to be there for her while she’s going through a tough time. I mean… this is her boyfriend? They’ve been together for four years, her sister not only kills herself, but their parents too — he could care less about her feelings, he barley seems to like her at all.
We don’t ever get too deep of a dive with Christian, it’s mostly a shell — a shell of a douchebag. Not only does he barley like his girlfriend while she’s going through hell, he cheats on her (under a spell) and steals his friends thesis… enough said. We don’t know enough of his story to push anything otherwise, so we will have to go with this conclusion.
When everything comes to a close Dani loses her family (sister, parents and boyfriend) and essentially picks up a new one. But… just like that?
Maybe her rage was at a boiling point, but to condemn Christian to death and smile while he’s burning alive? That’s very intense and a huge dramatic turn of events. Any chance that she was the crazy one? Any chance that she drove her sister crazy and that’s why she killed herself? The movie does showcase Dani constantly calling Christian (multiple times) in a panic stress — so much so his friends say that she’s actually “abusing him.” Is there any chance this random trip brought out something inside her that was there all along?
I’m not trying to push the ‘crazy girlfriend’ plot, but these ducks do line up in a row and at the very least, there is a chance this could be a tested theory. That sinister smile was the only reason I thought something could have been wrong from the start.
I could be wrong too! Completely wrong! Next time I watch this I’ll see if this theory can hold. What I really need is to see the beginning again, if the backstory can hold this theory, there’s a shot. If this theory is backwards and it’s actually really simple, she just got her revenge — let’s roll on with that, it still holds the shock value.
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