“Welcome to Harga, and happy midsummer! It has been ninety years since our last great feast, and it will be ninety years before our next.”Gunnel Fred, Midsommar
Release Date: July 3rd, 2019 | Director: Ari Aster
Midsommar follows the story of Dani after the death of her family. Struggling with her emotional response to their gruesome deaths, Dani leans heavily on her boyfriend, Christian. Christian, uncomfortable with the emotional burden that Dani constantly puts on him, plans a trip to Sweden with his friends, who all seem to hold Dani at an arm’s length. Dani’s emotional struggles eventually force Christian to bring her on the trip with them. As their trip to Sweden begins as a beautiful place with quaint traditions, the days’ activities begin to grow more and more violent, resulting in a competition that can only end in bloodshed.
I must preface anything that I say in this review with the fact that Florence Pugh is a phenomenal actress with the most incredible ability to truly become that character. I couldn’t imagine another actress playing Dani with the amount of fervor and emotional instability that Pugh did and for that, this movie truly belongs to her. I really did think that this movie couldn’t have been as successful without a character who provided depth and understanding to Dani’s character because this is essentially a movie that looks into her emotional state and relies heavily on her motivations especially when it comes to the ending.
This is an extremely beautiful movie. I don’t necessarily mean because of the script or because of the themes but I mean that it is a technically perfect movie. The cinematography is beautiful and there were so many stunning shots. For a horror movie, the fact that this movie is so bright doesn’t take away from the terror and the discomfort that the events in the story cause. In fact, I almost think that the bright color palette and picturesque shots serve to lure the view into a sense of false security. Instead of being aware that something gruesome is going on, the viewer might almost think that the main characters are all safe and will make it out alive. I also find that it contributes to a great theme that appearances can be deceiving which is prominent in not just the cinematography but also in the plot itself. Dani’s character is emotionally drained, she is forced to hold in all her feelings after she experiences countless traumas because she is afraid of losing her boyfriend, Christian. The movie is meant to expose Christian’s shortcomings as a boyfriend and even though the film does a great job of this, it does an even better job of building up Dani’s frustration at having a boyfriend who forces her to suffer in silence. Though Dani’s voice manifests itself in a different way, the development of her ability to express her devastation and truly be heard. While the ending might seem extreme, the theme of deceiving appearances is supported by her character development because Dani is shown to be a “cool girl”, someone who doesn’t get too mad at her boyfriend for not being perfect. It almost seems as though Dani would never hold anything Christian does against him. Spoiler alert: She does.
Another truly stunning thing about this film is the story itself. I’ve read many reviews of this movie that call it a revenge fantasy and while it’s hard to disagree with that, I find that I don’t agree with that label completely. I think that while most of this movie does contribute to the ending being an acted out revenge fantasy, the rest of the movie is a stunning commentary on the importance of emotional expression. Since Dani is forced to suffer most of her traumas in silence, her emotions leave her in a vulnerable state. This vulnerable state makes her more susceptible to the advances of Pelle’s commune. I believe that the director wanted to create a commentary on the importance of dealing with trauma instead of letting it fester. Dani’s character was so emotionally suppressed that when she was given the opportunity to be around people who accepted her emotional state, she wanted nothing more than to be part of that. While the revenge aspects of this story are pretty entertaining, the emotional aspects of the story are probably the most important.
Overall, this isn’t a typical horror movie. While this can be seen as an extreme version of what happens when people are constantly forced to repress their traumas, the message of the movie does manage to stand tall. The movie also employs some of the best and subtle foreshadowing that I have seen in a movie. Florence Pugh’s acting is phenomenal and the story itself doesn’t feel the need to rely on jump scares to be truly terrifying. Instead, the story twists the conventions of typical horror stories to create something that deserves far more accolades than it got. I would recommend this movie for the viewer that hates jump scares.