Friday, July 26, 2019

Midsommar (2019)

Okay, so just a couple of warnings.
1) 🚨Spoilers🚨
2) It's about to get real fucking feminal* up in here.

*"relating to a woman". It's archaic but I kind of love it.

I have been processing this film for a while. Letting it sink in and then rise to the surface of my thoughts over and over. Usually, I try to bang out reviews fast but this one needed time. Honestly, I still don't quite know how I'm going to approach it. I'm writing and hoping my thoughts align, somehow!

To begin, I'll say that Midsommar was a balm on the wounds still smarting from my terrible viewing experience of Hereditary. There is much here linking the two: the theme of grief/trauma, the  bordering on (and sometimes tipping into) comedic melodrama, Aster's delicious visual style, and the symbolism (triangles: the shape of choice for the horror genre).

I now definitely count myself among those excited for his next film and how these explorations and links may continue.

Christian (Jack Reynor) and Dani (Florence Pugh)

In his Fangoria interview with Jordan Peele, Aster calls this a "breakup movie dressed in the clothes of a folk horror film". And ponders - as this chat took place before Midsommar hit our screens - how people may feel as they leave the theater after.
"I hope people walk out feeling elated and happy, despite the fact they just watched a small massacre".
Mission accomplished, Ari. I felt like standing up and applauding at the film's end. That smile on Dani's face... I felt invigorated.

What's fantastic about Midsommar is not only the juxtaposition of horrible imagery, stunning tableau-like shots and bizarre glimpses into the idiosyncrasies of HÃ¥rga - though those aspects are wonderful, of course - it's that we witness Dani and Christian on this journey of the slow implosion of their relationship, to the point where one partner makes a decision to have the other murdered in a ritual sacrifice and it doesn't feel at all excessive. It's a "horrific" breakup quite literally.

Perhaps it's because I identified with Dani so much... but really, who hasn't wanted to burn a shitty boyfriend alive?!

Aster draws these characters with care; many of the smaller moments feel so real and they work to build an understanding of the emotional chasm between many of the men and women we meet. Dani's stream-of-consciousness phone call to her friend about her relationship; bringing an issue to a partner only to find yourself apologising by the end of the conversation; the way Ingemar (Hampus Hallberg) and Connie (Ellora Torchia) interpret a past situation so differently ("we dated" / "...we had a drink"), Dani's breathing when she's trying to hold off a panic attack, and how Christian silently, awkwardly holds her as she screams her loss during the opening scenes, compared to the women of HÃ¥rga who emote along with her later on.

Over the past year or so, a number of films have been made that have resulted in me sitting back, exhaling, and realising what a sense of power and strength they conveyed to a female audience. This is a feeling that pop culture has been handing men since the dawn of cinema, but now it feels like new things are playing in front of my eyes that strike something deep in my being. Something I didn't know I was missing until relatively recently.

Stacie Ponder on Gaylords of Darkness called it a "power fantasy paradigm" and that's such an awesome way to phrase it.

There's the connection, sisterhood and female leaders of Suspiria; of being enough and not having to prove anything (especially to men) from Captain Marvel*. And now with this, again a feeling of female connection (the dancing, the breathing/primal screaming, the sex scene) and finding a strength you always had within yourself. Her smile at the end broke me and rebuilt me all at once. I felt my own face reflecting Dani's. It was art!

*Yes, not a genre film and yes I was suprised I felt so empowered by that movie. But I did!

This film brought me such joy in so many ways. It also made me want to a) watch it again, immediately, and b) rewatch Aster's debut feature with a renewed appreciation for this writer/director's unique vision and voice. It is MIND-BLOWING that this is only his second feature film.

It also brought to mind several others that beg to be revisited - or at least included, as I mentally curate my Midsommar-inspired film festival...

  • The Wicker Man - ...obviously
  • Kill List - Cults, symbols
  • A Field In England - Outdoors; hallucinogenic visuals, mysticism
  • Apostle - A small community with shocking traditions; becoming one with the earth
  • The Endless - Cult/commune; clueless newcomers
  • Suspiria (2018) - Sisterhood; female leader; dancing as a powerful energy

I'm definitely going to be seeking some of these out again as I ponder "folk horror" for the remainder of the summer, wait impatiently for Midsommar's Blu-ray release and work on a flower crown.

This is a beautiful, perfectly woven tapestry of humour, heartbreak, and death. I cannot recommend it highly enough.