Midsommar is an art film/folk horror flick that mostly takes place in Sweden
even though much of it was shot in Hungary. I was tempted to write it plays out
like modernized Ingmar Bergman directed version of the pagan fright flick, The
Wicker Man , but that is probably a little too generous (To see a real classic
quasi horror film directed by the Swedish master check out the classic Hour of
The first three plus hour cut of the film was originally rated NC17, so it was
recut into a shorter less explicit version. One of the complaints was frequent
full male nudity. The MPAA board has much less of a problem with female nudity
which shows their peculiar gender double standard. The longer version is set to
be released on DVD. It is safe to say neither cut of the film still would make
ideal Christmas viewing for most families.
Ari Aster, whose debut feature was the suspenseful satanic themed horror flick,
Hereditary, served as the film’s director. Midsommar is solid, stylish and
decently done effort, but it never quite reaches that crazed creative heights of
its predecessor, and it contains less surprises. Like that film, Midsummer
explores the concept of extreme grief caused by death and both films suggest
that the nuclear families can be more horrific than vampires or serial killers.
Midsommar stars Florence Hugh who looked totally different playing a wrestler in
this year’s earlier comedy film Fighting with the Family, which I also
recommend. Her performance in Midsommar is unlabored, confident and convincing.
Her co-lead Jack Reynor of the web series, Strange Angels is rather restrained
and he makes less of a big impression.
The main character of the film, Dani (well played by Hugh) is a troubled college
student who constantly gets frantic, panicked texts from her mentally disturbed
sister, which serve to disrupt her life.
She in turn depends heavily on her not terribly committed boyfriend, Christian
(Jack Reynor), but he does not always give her the emotional support she needs.
She does not know this, but he constantly complains to his friends about her,
but he cannot quite find the strength to dump her.
This situation gets even more desperate when her unbalanced sister kills
herself, along with Dani’s parents. Now Christian is all she has left in the
world. He feels so bad for her that when some friends ask him to go to a pagan
festival in Sweden, he asks her along knowing that she might drag him down with
When Dani, Christian and some of his college friends arrive most of them accept
an offer to trip on psychedelic mushrooms. Mushrooms have long been seen as
mystical pathways to knowledge in many cultures. The late Emperor Nero called
mushrooms “a gateway to paradise” or knowledge, and I recently ran into an
artist who believed that taking magic mushrooms could connect you to ancestral
memory or cross-cultural archetypes (for more on that see the film Altered
However, the mushroom sequence, which is quite memorable, is mostly an excuse to
display some fancy, experimental camera work. After hesitantly taking mushrooms
Dani imagines plants growing out of her hands which indirectly foreshadows the
ending. This reminded me somewhat of Vegetarian Vampires, the evocative painting
by Remedios Varo which depicted men with orange plants growing out of them (The
director has even admitted he was influenced by the work of Varo.)
One of the Swedish men, the shaggy haired Josh definitely has eyes for Dani, and
he starts ingratiating himself to her, and subtly suggesting that he would be a
better Romantic partner than Christian (in a way he might also be proposing that
she pick paganism over Christianity.) However, on the other side there is also a
pale pagan woman who tries to drug and bewitch Christian into falling for her.
Will Dani and Christian’s relationship survive? In the end, I cared, but I was
not quite as emotionally invested in the characters, as I should have been.
Perhaps the characters are too distant, and overall the film was more successful
on an intellectual than an emotional level.