The latest from director Ari Aster – Midsommar – lands in theaters this week. Many stood in awe at his freshman effort, last years hit Hereditary – I was not one of them.
As you might guess – I’ve been approaching Midsommar with more than a fair share of trepidation, while others in my small circle of horror film fans salivated in anticipation of the next tasty morsel from their new found hero – I stood back, waiting patently, very much with a “we’ll see” attitude.
Last night I was invited to sit in on a screening of the film and have spent the better part of today thinking about, mulling over, and attempting to figure out just exactly what the hell it was I witnessed.
No spoilers – which is going to be tough but, in a quick capsule – the film deals with Dani – a young woman who within the first five minutes of the film must deal with a tremendous tragedy- she relies heavily on her boyfriend of a few years – Christian – we quickly learn that there is concern on that front as well.
Through a series of events – Dani, Christian, and a small group of friends end up on a three-week vacation to Sweden – to bear witness to a summer festival first hand. This all unfolds very, almost painfully slowly – slow burn does not give this pacing anywhere near the credit it deserves. This is a 100-year-old man with two broken legs trying to dig his way to the top of a 500-foot vertical mountain of mud – slow – I’m talking slow.
With that being said though – Aster does manage to continually keep the beat on a chord of dread that he masterfully plucks throughout each and every scene like some evil bass player – keeping time and slowly, oh so slowly building the tempo to its inevitable conclusion.
There is no question that Aster is a visual master – he pulls off some shots that are honestly – nothing short of breathtaking and he uses this skill to add to that underlying bass line of dread – dragging us deeper and deeper into this waking nightmare.
I’ve read a lot of other reviews and they all seem impressed by the fact that pretty much 95% of the film takes place in the daylight – honestly, until I noticed others mentioning this fact – it didn’t occur to me that that fact was such a feat – the fact that the film takes place in the “land of the midnight sun” is interesting and certainly proves to feed the storyline as our travelers become more and more disoriented by their surroundings, not knowing what time of day it is – not even knowing what actual day it is and coupled with other factors ( some special tea, anyone) leads to the hypnotic, fever dream effect of all the scenes at the compound.
Trees breath – food pulsates with a heartbeat – nothing is as it seems – or is it?
Aster also seems to have gone out of his way to pay homage to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining – not in story or character arcs but – in little Easter eggs that for me – jumped off the screen. Again – for the sake of not spoiling the film for anyone – I will keep my thoughts and observations to myself but – if after reading this and then seeing the film – let me know if you noticed the same.
The film is long – too long – excruciatingly long but at the end of the day – when you take it all in as many segments of a F*#ked up fairy tale – it’s actually all needed and when the payoff finally shows up – it’s one you’ll be talking about for a while.
While I certainly found fault with Midsommar – I have to be honest and admit – I haven’t been able to stop thinking and talking about it since I left the theater – my mind has been busy rolling over the scenes – the subtle nuances of character development and the small visual flares that litter the film. The film has made me think – and impressed my senses and at the end of the day – can you really ask anything more from a filmmaker?
Midsommar demands to be viewed – and it’s certainly not going to be enjoyed nor understood by all who view it but that’s the wonderful thing about art – it is indeed in the eye of the beholder.
3.5 of 5 Stars