Light Can't Hide The Darkness - Midsommar
Ari Aster isn’t afraid of you. But you should be afraid of him. The nightmares he brings to the screen are as inventive as the horror medium has ever seen, and with Midsommar in particular, it is clear that he is interested in unflinching and uncompromised visions. The setup—a horror film that takes place entirely in broad daylight—undersells just how peculiar this experience is. Whether you hate it or love it is an open question, but it is undeniable that Aster took it there.
The basic outline of the film is that a young couple and their friends decide to attend a Swedish religious festival. The woman, Dani (played by Florence Pugh), has recently suffered severe emotional trauma when her entire immediate family dies. The man, Christian (Jack Reynor), is hopeful that the trip will lift her spirits. The trip was meant to give the friends an anthropological look at the traditions of their friend, Pelle (played by Vilhelm Blomgren). But as the rituals grow more and more strange, the friend group wonders whether they should even be there.
There are deaths, there is sex, and there are an infinite number of slowly unfurled mysteries. The film is careful to answer questions only when it intends to and the result is an experience that is equal parts maddening and dizzying. Couple that with the fact that our protagonists are taking hallucinogens and it’s hard to make heads or tails out of what you’re watching for most of the movie’s nearly two and a half hour runtime. But what is unmistakable is that it is unsettling.
Excuse the tautology, but Midsommar is what it is. It is the full embodiment of what it aims to be—a fully realized meditation on breakups masquerading as a horror romp. You have seen nothing like it, in part because if anyone tried, it is unlikely they would have the stomach to take it all the way. But Aster does. Like Hereditary before it, this is an extension of his brand of making every frame exquisitely excruciating. In Midsommar, this takes the form of immense pain and a harrowing journey through the stages of grief.
Will you enjoy Midsommar? That is an incredibly difficult question. On the one hand, it is an ambitious piece of genre-pulp that should be admired for its craft if nothing else. Aster knows how to get exactly the reaction he wants—even when the audience doesn’t always enjoy the journey. It is entirely possible that, for you, this particular trip will try to take you too far; that it will all be too much. But no matter what, you can’t say Aster didn’t try.
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