Friday 9 August 2019

Film Review: Midsommar

Whatever you do, never drink the Kool-Aid. Here’s our review of Ari Aster’s shockingly gruesome sophomore feature, Midsommar.

A troubled twentysomething recovering from a devastating tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) chooses to put some distance between her and her deeply personal loss by tagging along on a trip her apathetic boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) is taking to Sweden with three of his mates – Josh (William Jackson Harper), Mark (Will Poulter) and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren).

The trip sees the quintet visit Pelle’s humble hometown, which is essentially a rural community populated by dozens of peculiar Scandinavian hippies. Decked out in white robes, floral crowns and perfectly trimmed facial hair, the commune sits in what appears to be an idyllic haven – flowers sprout from the ground, vegetable gardens are dotted across the clearing, and children frolic merrily in the fields. It’s nice – almost too nice.

It’s the height of summer, which means the sun only sets on the village for a couple of hours during the night. The rest of the day is filled with dancing, dining and psychedelic drinks that make you dizzy – and Dani and Christian’s already fractured relationship is put to the test when a series of ceremonies culminates in the scariest thing to come out of Sweden since Saturday mornings at Ikea.

Writer/director Ari Aster’s debut feature Hereditary was something of a dark horse last year; spurred on by a powerhouse performance from Toni Collette, it was a suffocatingly dark piece of counter-programming to your regular studio horror film. Midsommar shares a lot of the same DNA, with Aster’s passion for pagan ritual and myth even more evident here, and reoccurring themes around family, loss and depression making for an intriguing double feature.

However, the rustic aesthetic of Midsommar’s sunny Swedish glade couldn’t be further from the oppressive gloom of Hereditary. There are no dark corners where evil can lurk in Midsommar; everything is bathed in warm sunshine, illuminating every drop of blood and chunk of gore in piercing light. There is quite literally nowhere to hide, which makes the beauty and horror that lies within all the more arresting and confronting. This isn’t for the squeamish, that’s for sure. 

From a technical perspective, Midsommar is a triumph; Pawel Pogorzelski’s cinematography gives the sunny setting an eerily welcoming glow, while frantic lutes and flutes from composer The Haxan Cloak float in and out, mixing diegetic music with non-diegetic noise that puts your nerves on edge. 

Aster amplifies the sensation of uncertainty by smearing the edges of the frame with a trippy heat haze effect – it could be the magic mushrooms or it could be unrelenting sunlight. After several days without sleep, who knows where, what or who we’re seeing anymore?

If you can stomach the punishing punches of violence and the perplexing pagan rituals, Midsommar reveals itself to be a compelling and layered examination of pain, grief, doubt and fear. Personifying all four at once is Pugh, who runs the gamut of emotions – from frailty and fright to fiery anger. 

Reynor’s performance is more quietly impressive, while Poulter adds some levity as the loud American who speaks before he thinks. In fact, Midsommar offers plenty of laughs – although most of them will be out of discomfort or disbelief at what’s unfolding. 

The Verdict: 8.5/10

A more impactful and efficient film to Hereditary in almost every regard, Midsommar sees Aster continuing to hone his craft, creating some indelible imagery and spinning a yarn of stomach-churning horror in the process.

Midsommar is in cinemas across Australia now.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite movies of the year. I'm glad you liked it too!



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