Pros: Florence Pugh’s performance; attempt to film a horror film in daylight Cons: close-ups of mutilated bodies; most often while watching it is not scary, but disgusting “Midsommar” / Midsommar
Directed by Ari Aster
Cast: Florence Pugh (Dani Ardor), Jack Reynor (Christian Hughes), Will Poulter (Mark), William Jackson Harper (Josh), Vilhelm Blomgren (Pelle), Ellora Torchia (Connie), Archie Madekwe (Simon), Liv Myenes ( Ulla), Anna Ostrem (Karin), etc.
B-Reel Films, Square Peg, A24
Year of release 2019
Midsommar was called one of the most anticipated horror films of 2019, although this is only the second full-length work for American director Ari Aster. His debut horror film “Reincarnation” (Hereditary) starring Toni Collette received positive reviews from film critics. The picture was really different from other horror films – for two hours it slowly involved the characters in the family problems, and then shocked the final action.
Although Astaire risked transferring his concept of a nightmare to the screen, in “Reincarnation” he still relied on an old and proven technique for years – shooting in twilight. In Solstice, the director became bolder, showing the main events of the film in the blinding light of day.
The beginning of Solstice introduces a heroine named Dani, who is trying to cope with a great tragedy that happened to her loved ones. She demands support from her boyfriend Christian, and he, in turn, is torn between her and university friends who have long been planning a trip to Sweden. Leaving his girlfriend, who is depressed, is somehow awkward, so Christian, out of pity, invites Dani with him. The group goes to a nine-day solstice celebration, which is organized by the tribal community. At first, students watch with interest the rituals of the local residents, but over time the atmosphere becomes strange, to put it mildly.
“Solstice” is a folk horror film that is not intended for a wide audience at all. Not at all because of complex subtexts. Not because of the pompous allegories. Not because of differences in cultural customs. Not because it is too magnificent to be understood by ordinary people. All this does not exist. But what the film does have is a mocking attitude towards the viewer, who is trying to be stunned by an unexpected splash of bloody mess. Unfortunately, literally.
Ari Aster is so fascinated by human insides that he enthusiastically builds a replica of them on set and asks the cameraman to hold the camera as long as possible. Spectacles with mutilated bodies are to be expected from films in the trash genre, but Midsommar takes a slightly different bent (at least due to the fact that it is being released in large quantities). In truth, it’s worth knowing about such unpleasant images before going to the cinema. Especially if instead of traditional horror effects (say, the unexpected appearance of otherworldly creatures) they use a bright image of a crushed head. Now Ari Aster’s style is more than clear, although in “Reincarnation” it seemed that the director could be original and replace the heads with something else by the next film. But no, not at all.
It is clear that Ari Aster, who personally wrote the script for Midsommar, was trying to make his new film the most memorable of the summer film season. He took the traditions of pagan holidays as a basis, adding hallucinogenic substances to them and illuminating it all with sunlight, which were designed to intensify the situation much more than the mysterious darkness.
The director forgot about something. For example, that watching wild rituals for two and a half hours can be tiring. Even if they shock you with their ingredients. After all, there is a difference between wanting to reveal a character who commits murders (Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built is a good example) and simply killing for the sake of spectacle.
Aster also completely distracted himself from the semantic load of what was happening, making one of the main characters illogical and controversial in order to solemnly use it for the finale. This and other moves by Ari Aster at the end of the film cause laughter – a completely natural reaction to the absurd. Moreover, it becomes funny not at all in those scenes where the director deliberately leaves jokes. By the way, in order to pronounce them, there is a special character played by Will Poulter – alas, the actor got a character consisting of the cliche “an indifferent guy who just wants to hang out.” I even feel a little bad for him.
Florence Pugh has a more complex role, she plays an emotionally unstable heroine who cannot move on from the trauma caused by the loss of loved ones. Solstice opened up space for Florence to show her character’s metamorphosis. With this, everything worked out quite well for the actress, although the script did not provide adequate space for acting.
“Midsummer” will disappoint those who would like to go to the cinema to see a horror film. It won’t be scary. But it will become disgusting, you need to be prepared for this (if anyone needs it at all). Perhaps someone will count on a beautiful picture as a result of the work of skillful cameraman Pavel Pogorzhelsky – here, too, without encouraging forecasts. All the beauty is quickly erased by repulsive shots.
“Solstice” is a very bloody spectacle, taken to the point of absurdity. This can hardly be called a manifestation of the genius that was expected from Ari Aster.