Midsommar – With a friend like Ari
Couple crisis and sectarian drift…
After Hereditary, Ari Aster explores human nature again
with this cruelty that became his trademark.
By Perrine Quennesson
Reading time 4 min.
We left Ari Aster in June 2018 with Hereditary, his family traumatized by an accidental death and by the sectarian drift that followed. This summer, the young American director (31 years) comes back with Midsommar. Always mistreating his characters and embracing them into cults, this time on the borders of Scandinavia. If he doesn’t try to rub the viewer up the right way, Ari Aster has at least the merit of being consistent.
another sensation, underlying in his first film and developed here : discomfort.
In Midsommar, Dani and Christian are on the verge of breaking up. But when a terrible tragedy affects the family of the young woman, Christian can’t leave her and offers to go with him and his friends in Sweden, to discover a strange festival that takes place only once every 90 years. On paper, the idea is pretty good. Once arrived in this remote corner of the country where the event takes place, the atmosphere is more and more oppressive.
Midsommar extends the questions asked by Hereditary, that is to say how to recover from a trauma. What do you have to go through ? What are the stages and consequences of shock on the body and mind ? No easy answer is given, just more or less chaotic tracks. But this is not the only subject treated, it’s also a question of the American superiority complex. When Christian and his two friends, all anthropologists, land in this small village with ancestral pagan rites, they arrive with all their academic background and this fake openness to others and start to observe this univers like they would observe an animal in his environment natural. Finally, the couple is the third topic in Midsommar. Pivotal point of the film, source of conflicts and awkwardness : what is the right attitude towards the other ? How can you forgive him/her for not understanding and sharing what is happening inside you ? Why is not suffering transmissible ?
These three very different themes, Ari Aster manages to interweave them with a talent of narrator but especially of director. If Hereditary was builded upon terror, he develops here another sensation, underlying in his first film : discomfort.
Obviously the questions of the collective, the enlisting and the sectarian drift are evoked, but in a peripheral way to the three other themes that they feed. And that’s what we can blame Midsommar for : a desire to overdo, a catch-all aspect where certain elements, very little needed, come to dissolve the attention. But it doesn’t matter, faced with the maestria of the filmmaking, falsely warm and truly millimetered, which makes every minute grow a reflexive inconvenience, and therefore salutary. Horror is dead, long live the discomfort. Amen Aster.
- Ara Aster