another long-overdue review by the Crow.
WARNING: This section contains MINOR spoilers.
Hereditary is a movie I genuinely liked. Barring the incredible silliness of the final act, I found the movie to be a very well put together production. Toni Colette was immense in her role, and the movie’s overall composition earned it a very special nod from the us at the 1st Annual Oscine Awards. I made no secret of the fact that I was looking forward to the next feature that director Ari Aster had been announced to helm at the time, and now that it’s finally here, I’m happy to report that Midsommar is a continuation of the good form we first spotted in Hereditary. If anything, it’s a definite improvement upon that form.
Midsommar, like Hereditary before it, is a movie that doesn’t entirely fit into the usual frame of modern horror movies, whilst still being a work of horror. I’m still half-tempted to call Hereditary a work of terror, but where Hereditary scratches at that door and falls into the trap of horror once it’s shown its hand, Midsommar can entirely be called a work of terror.
The movie centres around a young woman who — along with her boyfriend and his friends — visits a midsummer festival in Sweden. Upon spending some time amongst the locals, it becomes obvious that there is something not-quite “right” going on behind the linen and the flowers of the festival. It’s all very Wicker Man (the punching of women by “bears” in the summer of 2007 notwithstanding) and doesn’t attempt to distance itself from the tall shadows of the original; however, it can be argued that Midsommar might not have been as direct an attempt at calling back to movies such as The Wicker Man. I’d wager that Midsommar warrants more than enough originality stand on its own (bears withal).
Our main character, Dani (Florence Pugh), is working through the loss of her family, following an incident in which her sister — who has bipolar disorder — kills both her parents, and herself. Although the movie allows Dani time, by skipping to the future after the murder-suicide, Dani fails to move past the incident. Add to the mix her wary — and weary — boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), who feels trapped in the relationship, yet has been unwilling to leave Dani due to her circumstances so far, and her issues are compounded.
Dani is a relatable character, but I won’t go as far as calling her likeable, and I certainly won’t call her unlikeable. She’s a character who floats in the large gray area that the movie’s plot fences. Over time, she does start to become a little more likeable, but the most important takeaway from her character being so “neutral” is the power of Ms Pugh’s performance. She is excellent in this movie, and everyone else in the cast delivers good performances. Based off his performance in this movie, I wouldn’t mind watching a movie based solely on Mark (Will Poulter) under the influence of psychedelics.
Christian, Josh (William Jackson Harper), and Mark are students of Anthropology, and they decide to go to Sweden with their friend Pelle (Vilhem Blomgren), whose home commune — the Hårga — is hosting a special midsummer festival which takes place once every ninety years. Josh is writing a thesis based around the Hårga, and he intends to study the commune in person. Therefore, the first thing the group naturally does after arriving at the location is take psychedelics. And no, this isn’t the only time they do so, either.
The village elders don’t seem to care, and the group later arrives at the village at the heart of the commune, after meeting some other travellers and Pelle’s brother. They are introduced to the who’s-who of the village, and everything looks picture-perfect. The people are kind, welcoming, and generous. The village is lush with greenery, flowers are in full bloom, and everything is awash with sunlight. The team responsible for the visuals on this movie do such a good job of celebrating the happy, prosperous village look that I would argue they should make a few documentaries based on real villages. This movie looks fantastic, overall, and it knows when to stop itself from going too far with the aesthetics (until the very end, but due to the context of the scene in question, it still works).
One of the things that Midsommar handles quite well is balancing Dani’s personal journey with the celebration she is attending. It feels almost like she was meant for this festival — and she for it, as she works through the layers of grief her character experiences. There are runes scattered throughout the movie which add another layer of fun to the movie once you start picking them out and finding out what they mean. The story is a little vague, yes — but it arms with the tools you need to patch together an interpretation of what you just watched on screen (whatever screen that may be).
There are quite a number of themes explored within the movie, with Dani — of course — taking the fore-front. Some have said that the movie’s final scenes confused them in regards to her character, but I have to disagree. I think what we see is rather clear. One way of interpreting the movie might be to employ the events within the story as allegories for the Kübler-Ross model. While I can certainly see that connection, and think it’s quite apt, the mechanics of the movie also fit the final scenes.
There is a tight narrative, here, with ample space for our minds to wander. If you look closely, there is a possibility that the incident which sparks Dani’s slip into depression and isolation is not as black-and-white as we’re supposed to think. There is a line in the movie shortly following the group’s arrival at the commune which instantly denotes one of our characters is not as mundane as we might have thought. The midsummer festival is not entirely prepared within the commune grounds, there is an element of consuming resources from the world outside to the festivities, and although we are told these points at face value, a second thought will reveal a much larger play being made behind the dialogue. And yet, there are a few scenes which stand out as being rather pointless (one of Mark’s final scenes, for example). On the whole, however, the salt-and-pepper story elements of the movie work very well together.
Overall, I think MidSommar is a triumph. Since it’s been a while between my viewings of the movie, it’s hard for me to recommend one version over the other, but to be safe, I’ll recommend the extended cut in case there was more than a few extra seconds of snowfall which were not included in the original version.
Be prepared for daylight, cheer, food and drink (amongst other things). MidSommar comes highly recommended by us at The Corvid Review.
— Crow out.
THE CROW: 7.5/10
THE RAVEN: 8/10
THE SPOTTED NUTCRACKER: 8/10
Here’s the official poster: