Midsommar, Ari Aster’s latest horror film, takes place during Midsummer festivities in northern Sweden. Its fusion of serene beauty and dark humour makes it an intriguing watch…
The horror of Midsommar is at the expense of the Swedish tourist board. Not only was it filmed in Hungary, but its reimagination of Sweden’s summer festivities left gullible Americans concerned and perplexed. Without giving too much away: human sacrifices do not form part of most family celebrations. Like Hereditary, Ari Aster’s directorial debut, Midsommar is a horror story with its feet in the real world. Even when our heroine, Dani (Florence Pugh), is drugged, we never descend to a world of supernatural illusions. The horror is always human. And almost exclusively in daylight.
Florence Pugh is exceptional, her talent hardly dented by a forced American accent. She is the film’s driving force, turning tragedy into black comedy. Her trauma is horrific, but also morbidly amusing. Equally impressive is Jack Reynor as Dani’s boyfriend-cum-counsellor, Christian. When disaster strikes, Christian is forced to turn a skin-deep relationship into a life-long commitment. He must both support a broken Dani and look for an exit, leaving her behind to spend more time with his friends (who accompany them on the trip): Mark (Will Poulter), Josh (William Jackson Harper) and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren).
Florence Pugh as Dani and Jack Reynor as Christian
The group descend on Sweden at the invitation of Pelle, a native of Hårga, but for wildly different reasons. Josh is researching Midsummer traditions, Dani is shaking off demons, Christian is supporting Dani and, as far as we can tell, Mark needs a holiday. They’re met by two Londoners, Connie and Simon, who have joined in the celebrations because … well, just because. The set-up is absurd. So too, obviously, are the traditions. Nevertheless, an impressive splattering of Swedish talent grounds them in false reality. Aster described Midsommar as being “a Wizard of Oz for perverts.” It’s an excellent description. Dani is Dorothy; her companions the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man. Both stories feature storms, witchcraft and hallucinogenic plants. The group even walk into Hårga down a path strewn with yellow flowers – an analogue Yellow Brick Road.
Bobby Krlic’s sensual soundtrack blends effortlessly with Aster’s direction and Pawel Pogorzelski’s cinematography, soothing us, too, into Dani’s drug-fuelled, transparent paradise. The fusion of serene beauty and dark humour is what makes Midsommar’s horror so intriguing. It is amusing, certainly, but equally disturbing. You may leave the cinema chuckling, but deep down you’re a troubled wreck.
Midsommar is in cinemas now.
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This article has also been published in Nordic Style Magazine.