Starring Florence Pugh (Little Women, The Little Drummer Girl), Jack Reynor (On the Basis of Sex), William Jackson Harper (The Good Place), Will Poulter (Black Mirror, The Little Stranger)
There’s a scene in Midsommar, Ari Aster's follow-up to the grief-stricken Hereditary, when five travellers drive through a Swedish forest and their world bends upside down. Approaching Hårga, the cultic commune they’ve come to research, Aster’s camera twists around until the road is at the top – levelling out again as they arrive.
This is more than just divine imagery. The characters cross to a different world: one that doesn’t obey the laws of nature or civility, where the sun is constantly in the sky, where the locals dress in white frocks and live in black houses, a world that’s hidden with nowhere to hide.
Dani (Florence Pugh), Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), and Christian (Jake Reynor) arrive in Hårga
Four of the travellers are PhD students who, for the most part, want to study Hårga's rituals for their theses. The one leftover is Dani, whose relationship with the student Christian is on the brink of breaking.
The other travellers, Christian’s mates, know this and hate that she’s there. The misogynistic Mark - played by Will Poulter, with his signature eyebrows of evil - is especially hostile. Only the softly spoken Pelle, who comes from the commune, has any desire for her to join.
Like Hereditary, Midsommar uses mental torment to hook the oncoming horror - but with an isolated, malevolent setting worthy of The Wicker Man. It’s no surprise that Aster wrote the script after a bad break-up, showing the familiar and pungent tensions of a failing relationship: the awkward silences, the intense frowns, the passive-aggressive comments, the tongue-biting misery.
Florence Pugh plays Dani with simmering, upsetting anxiety
Dani, played with simmering, upsetting anxiety by Florence Pugh, resents Christian for not caring about her emotional issues and often tortures herself for bothering him. Christian is the pinnacle of bad boyfriends, manipulating his way out of any unwanted drama.
Aster takes his time, and slowly builds Dani's fears and anxieties. Her paranoia of being laughed at, of being left behind, unfolds in dark dreams and heat hazed illusions. Much of Pawel Pogorzelski’s bright and patient cinematography consists of long takes - providing a sharp, psychological realism to the drama. Aster keeps close to Dani, feeling every intense emotion.
This eventually builds to the film's first shocking push into madness - involving a cliff, a stone tablet, and a massive hammer. The event is as expected as the infinite sunlight, but Aster unravels a painful, unpredictable experience. He creates something familiar, cuts it to bloody pieces, and rearranges the parts into a twisted tapestry.
Dani and Christian witness the first shocking push into madness
The insanity kicks off, gradually worsens, and culminates to a terrifying, nightmarish, and funny finale - pulled as if from the depths of a troubled soul. Aster makes it possible to cry, laugh, and scream in the same moment – a floral dance of disquiet that steps in time long after the credits roll and reality returns.
Midsommar may be the most disturbing break-up movie ever made. It's not for everyone, and comparisons to Hereditary are annoyingly inevitable – but for this critic, it’s a sun-soaked hell of emotional trauma and unknowable terrors. This is not a pleasant walk around the Maypole. Once entering this world, it’s not possible to leave.
|What||Midsommar film review|
05 Jul 19 – 05 Jul 20, TIMES VARY
|Price||£determined by cinemas|
|Website||Click here for more information|