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‘Midsommar’ (review)

Produced by Lars Knudsen, Patrik Andersson
Written and Directed by Ari Aster
Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter,
William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren

 

In his film Hereditary, Ari Aster established himself as a director who makes unsettling films that just skirt the horror genre.

His latest film, Midsommar, continues his fascination in using the horror genre to examine the dark side of relationships.

Midsommar takes a fairly familary plot, a group of young people just out of school go on a summer adventure and things go horribly wrong, and tries to shock the audience with gore, nudity, and taboo relationships.

Dani is a young woman who has suffered a family tragedy that shakes her world.

To get away from her problems and in an attempt to cling to her wishy-washy boyfriend Christian, Dani tags along with Christian and his guy friends on a summer adventure to visit the foreign student Pelle’s “family” celebration of Mid-Summer in rural Sweden.

The trip starts out tense as it becomes apparent that it was supposed to be a boy’s only trip, and turns dark as the idealistic getaway becomes more then the group bargained for.

Midsommar’s strength is in its film-craft. Ari Aster and  his cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski have created a beautiful looking film. Aster uses the tool box he constructed while filming Hereditary and refines his visual lexicon.

Much of the framing is pure art-house aesthetic.  The camera’s movement is often used to disorient and unsettle the viewer without losing its attention to the beauty of the setting.  The use of these techniques may lack subtlety, but it is refreshing to watch after a season of Hollywood bombarding the theaters with the standard CGI blockbusters. Even though there is a fair amount of CGI in Midsommar, it’s the salt added to bring out the flavor of the dish, not the base of the meal.

While the craft of the film is interesting, the story is not.  Beyond a few gory details there are no surprises.  The people you don’t trust, you shouldn’t. The people you think are doing bad things are.  The people you think will get hurt do get hurt.

The script lends itself to characters that are barely two dimensional.  None of the characters garnered my sympathy.  Each is a self involved, American stereotype that I found myself quickly losing patience with.  When most of Dani’s group meet their demise (No, that’s not a spoiler. It’s a horror film. Character death is an expectation), I feel very little about their end.

The lack of character development made me mistake Jack Reynor (Macbeth) and Will Poulter(The Maze Runner) for being incredibly bland actors, especially next to Florence Pugh’s (Outlaw King) performance of Dani, whose character was written with the most emotional range.  Having discovered that Reynor is actual Irish and Poulter is English made me reevaluate my take on their performances.  They masterfully played bland American perfectly.

As beautiful as Midsommer is it is also a 2+ hour slog of discomfort.  Everything about the film has been chosen to make the viewer uncomfortable.  By the time the filmmakers hit me with the gore and “surprises”, I was too fatigued to have it make a powerful impact.

If you enjoy watching a movie to see the craft of filmmaking, then you will enjoy Midsommar. If you are looking for a horror movie to scare and entertain you, you may want to pass.

 

 

 

 

 

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