Cults and flowers and bears and heartbreak - these are a few of director Ari Aster's favourite things when it comes to this folk horror film.
Following a recent tragedy surrounding her parents and sister, Midsommar, tells the story of couple Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) who go alongside Christian's friends (PhD students) to experience a once in a lifetime event that takes place in the Summer in Stockholm, Sweden. The film continues at the festival with Dani and Christian's relationship clearly deteriorating. This is very much done with the expressions on their faces rather than anything that's actually said. Dani notices that Christian is less concerned on the things she is concerned with and the two drift apart.
But where I think Midsommar triumphs is the fact that it is more about the breaking down of someone in an almost one-sided relationship and the silent transformation of one's self. Dani experiences different things in the film and we are left to understand its significance. It is interesting that for a film that follows a group of young adults studying for their PhD that the film itself is a study into what could be a realistic depiction of Swedish Folk culture. Its majestical, engaging yet hallucinogenic camera shots give the audience a sense of experiencing and bearing witness to the festival as an outsider just as Dani and co are through new eyes. This is also true of the music which either uses an ominous and acoustic sounding score or through people onscreen playing instruments.
One of its main strengths, however, is the belief in the actors playing the characters. Honourable mentions to Will Poulter and Jack Reynor, but without question, this film is dominated by Florence Pugh's central performance of Dani. Through her, we are able to understand and feel the suffering she has gone through after the tragedy, and what she is going through now in terms of her faltering relationship. Her performance also has similarities to that of Anya Taylor-Joy's performance in The Witch (2015) or even Sissy Spacek's performance in Carrie (1976). And the film also finds its inspiration from the Wicker Man (1973) too.
Whilst it does go into scenes that perhaps do fall into absurdity in its third act and whilst it is also a little too overlong when it comes to its runtime, I believe it works as an experiential break-up film with horror elements attached to it. Along with Dani and the group, we are able to experience a carnivalesque-like event taking place in front of us, and I think the final shot of the film is where it will leave a long-lasting impression on you after viewing, as not everything in the light can be as bright as it seems.
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