Ari Aster, whom we came to know through “Hereditary,” a 2018 film that was classified as horror for the audience and a family drama for the cast, presents his second feature film. Starting his career under the A24 umbrella, Ari Aster is already considered by some as one of the future’s best directors and the new master of horror cinema. In my opinion, he’s fortunate. Such a blessing doesn’t come to everyone. “Hereditary” was nothing more than high-decibel horror music played in an empty corridor. His new film, “Midsommar,” can’t surpass the level of a Scandinavian folklore documentary.
Let’s briefly touch on the plot… Dani is struggling with serious psychological issues after losing her family in an accident. Her boyfriend, Christian, tries to comfort her and be there for her, but it doesn’t help. Going away becomes their last resort. Christian and his friends plan to spend time at a commune in Sweden, and Dani joins them. They set off for a commune that follows Scandinavian myths, where the already interesting beliefs of the commune start to become extreme day by day. The young Americans on vacation also experience the consequences of this extremism.
Ari Aster has a strong interest in mythological stories. He also has a severe obsession with fire, distorted faces, and death dramas. We can see these elements in both of his films. Similarly, he uses the same cinematic technique in both films: making something out of nothing. Ari Aster has made art out of visual aesthetics. Both of the films he directed have exciting camera work and framing. He pays great attention to cinematography and enjoys choreography that can appeal to the eye or ear. When he made “Hereditary” for $10 million, and it grossed over $70 million globally, the producers opened their wallets and gave him opportunities. Ari Aster has made the most of it. I must give him credit for being a good director. However, I have complaints about his stories.
Set design, costume design, and especially Florence Pugh’s acting is fantastic. The choreography is intriguing. But… the director has forgotten to tell a story again. Ari Aster attempted to depict a family drama in “Hereditary” and shot a Scandinavian mythology documentary with “Midsommar.” We learn interesting things about Scandinavian folklore in a lush green setting. Honestly, if I looked at the film as a documentary, I would have left the theater happy. However, if we consider the film as a horror movie, which it claims to be, it is one of the worst films I’ve seen in a long time. Calling “Midsommar” a horror film is a bit of a stretch for me.
Ari Aster is someone who can create aesthetic scenes from situations. But he can’t go beyond depicting a situation. Because both of his films have no story; they don’t tell anything, and I don’t think he intends to. The horror element is already weak in the film, and it gets lost in folklore without adding much in terms of an engaging plot. As I mentioned, he doesn’t seem to have any concern for this. The director sets up a scene and invites you to solve a puzzle within it. The chosen name Christian, Viking death penalty, Pagan beliefs, wordplay, the bear image in the middle of the film, and more. On top of that, there are beautifully shot scenes, and there you have a film that everyone will enjoy.
I watched the film with people behind me constantly sighing and puffing. Some gave up the struggle and left the film halfway through. In the 2-hour and 27-minute film, I found myself as a fool who paid to watch a Scandinavian documentary. Tastes and colors vary. No matter how aesthetically a film is shot, I can’t enjoy it if it doesn’t tell me a story. A camera approaching a window heavily or high-decibel music played over a running character doesn’t affect me. “Midsommar” couldn’t even become a film, let alone a cult. It’s culturally satisfying but cinematically quite mediocre. Throughout the film, I kept shouting in my mind, “Come on, do something,” and the film did nothing. Most of the existing elements don’t even have an apparent reason for being there.
In conclusion, “Midsommar” is fulfilling as a documentary but senseless as a fictional film, and it’s pretty dull under the guise of horror. My last words to you, Ari… You’re a very lucky man.
Cast & Crew
director: Ari Aster
writers: Ari Aster
starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter
USA – SWEDEN | 2019 | 147 MINUTES |