'Midsommar' has many elements in common with 'Hereditary', the first film by Ari Aster, but many more that differ. They are evil, almost playful differences, raised as poison pills for the preconceived ideas that the viewer could bring after that masterly opera cousin. After all, when 'Hereditary' was greeted as one of the great genre films of recent times, Aster claimed that it was a family drama that turned into a nightmare, without even hanging the little cool label of "terror."
Therefore, when Aster announced that his second film would be a piece of rural horror set in the Norwegian summer solstice, and began to show images and pieces that inevitably reminded one of the most respected classics of folk horror, 'The Man Wicker ', many approach cautiously to' Midsommar '. Regardless of how Aster himself categorized his first film, 'Hereditary' had been a very divergent piece of trends and fashions of the genre.
'Midsommar', finally, turns out to be a movie that fiddles with the conventions of a horror movie while at the same time seems to enjoy frustrating the expectations of whoever goes to watch it believing that it can anticipate Aster's intentions. Not because the film raises radical turns to conventions of folk horror or even the films of handsome and civilized young men vs. rural monsters / country bastards, but because of the placid, anti-climatic form of the action.
A form that owes something to the style of 'Hereditary' in its treatment of time, to that viscous elasticity typical of a nightmare. But it also works as a reverence to the oppressive atmosphere of the inevitable 'The Man Wicker', where Sergeant Howie's first steps on Summerisle Island are, starting, muddy and unstable, and also the start of a direct slide to the total disconnection with the civilized world.
As in 'Hereditary', Aster injects black omens into the story about what is going to happen. The emotional baggage of the protagonist, full of skin from the first bars, is extraordinarily well narrated, with the superb dosage of pure impact and ominous atmosphere of Aster. These first minutes display some designs that the viewer understands and assimilates, although if it were a known one under normal circumstances, the movie would not hesitate to qualify as superstitious... Which is brilliantly suitable for what we are going to see.
The young Dani (Florence Pugh, whom we also saw spectacular in 'Lady Macbeth') decides to try to overcome a traumatic experience by going in the company of her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and a group of his friends to experience summer parties of pagan root in the native Sweden of one of them. Despite a warm initial reception, the ancestral customs of the place will soon become terrifying.
If the viewer overcomes the demanding rhythm that Aster imposes - which has nothing arbitrary and capricious, rather the opposite: it obeys an implacable inquiry into the possibilities of narrative tempo as a destabilizing tool -, you will get a film that uses certain codes of terror to talk about the need and dangers of belonging to a community (a country, a family, a loving relationship). Or in the case of our heroine, the deep unease caused by not perceiving that belonging. Aster wants to talk about a love break, but also the direct passport to chaos that is the break with all kinds of emotional ties.
'Midsommar' runs a couple in perpetual, huge gesture of surprise, dread and childish joy - all at once - of the radiant Pugh, and pretends to be the horror movie with less darkness of all time. A purpose that permeates each and every one of its aspects: from its rhythm that seems crushed by the heat to its outbursts of gore and unhealthy violence (which have something revealing and festive), going through its inexhaustible themes (there is only something more canicular than a summer love: a summer break).