Tag: Martha Tennent

Movie Review: Midsommar (2019)

Posted August 5, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Movie-Horror / 2 Comments

Title: Midsommar
Ari Aster
StarsFlorence Pugh, Jack Reynor
Genre: Folk Horror

I have spent a large amount of time lately thinking about Ari Aster’s film Midsommar; it has been awhile since I first saw it and it won’t leave my head. The basic premise follows a group of anthropology students that make their way to Hårga, in Hälsingland for the midsummer festival. Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh) was reluctantly invited along by her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) after the sudden death of her sister and parents. The festival turns out to be unlike anything, completely unimaginable. An outsider may call it inhuman, but to an anthropology student, a gold mine of a topic for their thesis.

This community we see in Midsommar continually plays with these ideals we have in how people should act by spiralling deeper and deeper into the bizarre. While there is no real evidence of some of these rituals existing, Ari Aster has blended a lot of old Swedish and Norse mythology to create the Hårga commune. Breaking down the iconology alone would offer some interesting insights into this film; if I was a more skilled critic, I would go into those details but instead I will refer you to an interesting video on the topic by Wisecrack.

What I want to focus on, is what Midsommar is saying about personal relationships. At the start of the film we find out that Dani’s sister Terri has killed herself along with their parents. We don’t know much as to why, but it is implied that it may be due to a lack of a support network. We know Dani’s support network is lacking as well, as she relies heavily on her emotionally distant boyfriend. In fact, he had planned to break up with Dani before the trip but she was invited by one of his friends in a moment of sympathy. On the other hand, we have this cult-like community that supports each other in everything. The elderly willingly throw themselves off a cliff when they have outgrown their use and there are multiple examples of them sharing in each other’s pleasure and pain. When an old man doesn’t die on impact after throwing himself off the cliff, the community join in on his anguish. During a weird mating ritual, the woman moan in unison with Maja. This commune becomes increasingly more appealing to Dani as a source of comfort and support.

The fact that Dani’s boyfriend is named Christian should not be a surprise either. While Christianity is meant to be about community and a deep personal relationship with God, many don’t have that kind of experience. Christianity can feel like a dysfunctional relationship with an emotionally distant partner, especially when they are going through something so tragic as the loss of an entire family. In that moment we would all crave love and support like Dani. She received everything she craved from the Hårga commune.

I have heard that the genesis of this film was that Ari Aster was commission by the Swedish film industry to develop a horror film, but he was in the middle of a bad breakup and wanted to write about that. So, he combined the two and come up with Midsommar. His anger really comes through in the film and I think the way he blended the two will benefit his writing in the future, in the sense that he has stumbled across a winning formula. It is obvious that he sees himself as the character Dani Ardor, I mean the similarities to his own name feels like he didn’t even try to hide this fact. Also makes me wonder how his ex feels about being portrayed as a character like Christian. Knowing this fact, I think really helped me understand the ending of the film.

I don’t know much about the technical style of cinema, but I have to say this is a beautiful film. The way Pawel Pogorzelski did the cinematography was breathtaking. There are a few scenes that really stand out to me but the one that comes to mind is the transition in which Dani runs to the bathroom crying and it cuts to the bathroom in an airplane. The transition really stuck with me, it also was a great way to show that Dani’s grief is still affecting her in the same way a few weeks later.

I love this film and I wish I had the skills to analyse it further. I might write more about Midsommar in the future, but I am feeling a need to write about great cinema, possibly with a focus on world cinema as it ties in nicely with my translated literature obsession, but this film demanded an essay. I probably will not be watching Ari Aster’s other film Hereditary, but I am curious to see what he comes up with next. Also, I am a big fan of Florence Pugh and will follow her career closely; if you haven’t seen her in anything else, I highly recommend Lady Macbeth. Let me know what you thought of Midsommar, and if you have any recommendations similar to this film.

For a book recommendation to pair with Midsommar, I suggest Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda (translated from the Catalan by Martha Tennent), it has a similar style of weird traditions and nature.