For the Girls
Honoring all of the Women and Girls in Film
When I first saw the trailer for Midsommar, I was enthusiastic, and honestly, for good reason. I had already seen Hereditary, and I was convinced that Ari Aster was a genius writer and director. The emotion he provokes out of his audience, the visuals he presents, and the bone-chilling stories he imagines are a force to be reckoned with.
To start off, Midsommar was the most brightly lit horror film I have ever seen. I had never experienced a film like this, because all of the horrors that happen in the dark of the usual scary movie were brought to light in this film, with nowhere to hide and nowhere for the audience to look away to.
Florence Pugh plays Dani, a girl who has obviously had a lot of family troubles, and is emotionally dependent on her manipulative and emotionally unavailable boyfriend- Christian. The film starts with Christian and his friends ragging on Dani and how he wants to leave her, whilst Dani is literally going through hell with her sister- who is apparently bipolar and sending cryptic messages. The way Christian blows off his relationship, and the way Dani vents to her friend that she knows he wants to leave her is already enough cringe-worthy content for me, but Aster takes the knife of emotional dependency and manipulation and drives it deeper into our sides. Although the relationship is clearly failing, they are almost forced to stay together after Dani experiences the tragic loss of her family.
After Dani is ~very awkwardly~ invited onto a Swedish trip with Chris and his friends to Halsingland, she is forced to face the reality of the toxicity of her doomed relationship.
Halsingland is possibly one of the most beautiful places on earth. It stays daylight for unnatural amounts of time throughout the day, the buildings and huts are beautifully decorated with cult art and scribes, and the greenery around them is blossoming and never-dying. The villagers of Halsingland act as a unit- like a single cell working together to make the body work. Everything that is done is never done by just one person; they do things in pairs and groups. Almost all of the time, there's some drug being administered- from the moment they arrive to the very end. It enhances the experiences of watching the film and the characters being watched. When our main characters take a trip on shrooms, the visions of moving trees, becoming one with nature, and the pulsing of everything around them- like they're all in an enclosed womb- is mesmerizing. The connection between the villagers is just a never ending LSD experience.
In this sense, Florence Pugh delivers the most believable performance of grief, anxiety, and heartbreak while also offering the legitimate feeling of isolation, hallucination, and eventually, dissipation. When the group of Americans slowly start disappearing and dying throughout their stay at the secluded village, it is a clear and outstanding contradiction to Dani's gradual integration.
Midsommar lets the images tell the story throughout the film rather than the dialogue. Much is foreshadowed if you just pay attention to what the writer is showing you. The disturbing images, which I believe makes Ari Aster so unique and memorable in modern day horror film making, include some of the most descriptive death and skull crushing scenes. His use of carnage in his film gives me mad nostalgia for some of my favorite, classic horror movies, but Aster portrays it with a modern twist. The viking references, the witch craft, the cult ideals, the stunning scenery, the hilarity, the spine tingling gore, and the outstanding performance by Pugh put this movie over the edge for me. It wasn't scary in the traditional sense, because the true horror lied within the social story line, rather than the supernatural one. Once again, Ari Aster is able to create a horror film that tackles the faults in the human experience, while also creating a supernatural scenario that the audience can't escape from. As Dani's shroomed-out May Queen experience concludes with her taking out the best revenge on her old, self-entitled, cis-white beau and taking off on a high that she will never come down from, the audience is pulled into abyss with her, never leaving the Halsingland experience.
Jacindable Rating: ★★★★½
starring. Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Vilhelm Blomgren, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe, Henrik Norlen, Gunnel Fred, Isabelle Grill, and more
written and directed by, Ari Aster