Directed and written by Ari Aster (Hereditary, The Lodge), we dive head first into the movie focusing on college student Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh) as she suffers through a family trauma. Burdened by the event, she goes through a cycle of emotional breakdowns leading her boyfriend, Christian Hughes (Jack Reynor), to stay in their relationship—delaying his decision to ask for a break. Aster was inspired to write the movie after a breakup of his own, stating that it’s a sort of “perverse, wish-fulfillment fantasy”. He also says the film “offers catharsis at the end” and hopes “people can get into it, but will also have to wrestle with it later.”
Drawn in by the beautiful scenery and music used by Aster, I think many viewers were tricked into believing they were in for a calming story line. However, a sinister twist is hiding around the corner. With their relationship in trouble, the young American couple travel to Sweden after being invited to participate in a traditional midsummer festival. Dani and Christian, along with Christian’s friends—Josh (William Jackson Harper), Mark (Will Poulter) and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), experience many things first hand: beautiful white outfits, serenity, the sharing of communal meals and the ritual suicides of two elderly commune members.
With events and emotions calming down after a sleeping pill or two, Dani decides to stay at the commune with Christian, eating pie and beverages filled with body hair and excretion. Not only did she join the maypole dancing competition, where the last dancer standing wins, she is also crowned the May Queen of the Year. She is dragged along to perform her ‘Queenly’ duties, as Christian is dragged away to perform his ‘fertility’ duty.
Meat and rice are buried underground while sexual acts are performed surrounded by a group of elderly women singing songs. The pain and hatred Dani feels is also echoed and mirrored by her ‘handmaidens’ who scream and shout along with her during her panic attack. These actions make her feel a sense of belonging to the commune.
Midsommar throws the viewers mind into a chaotic dance, with questions being left unanswered and many minds disturbed. Did the outsiders know what they were getting into?
We see an emotionally vulnerable girl being controlled and forced to make certain decisions, with the others being manipulated by beauty, curiosity or drugs into performing many cultish biddings.
Aster did well to portray the vulnerability of an individual’s mind; he could not have done that without the help of Florence Pugh, who so cleverly showed us the raw emotions felt by Dani—they were engraved into our minds even after we left the cinema hall. On the down side however, the film was overwhelmed with information and implications that made it difficult for the viewers to keep track of what was going on.
On the other hand, the settings of the film were very minimalist, with only a few wooden buildings and change of sceneries. It is amazing how Aster pulled off such feat with the simple locations and dialogues used.
To lovers of film or gore, or those just wanting a new experience, I strongly encouraged you to watch this. However, if you prefer mainstream movies without chaotic plots or foreign ideas, divert your eyes!
Midsommar is in cinemas now!