When filmmaker, Ari Aster, of the movie “Hereditary” tried his hand at a summer thriller – what he released became unique to horror cinematics. With “Midsommar” he takes the viewers through the manipulations and rituals of a bizarre German village.
The movie’s premise involves a group of friends traveling from New York to the rural Swedish countryside to witness a rare celebration. One of which, unbeknownst to them, involves ritualistic drugs, sex, and murder. When actor Jack Reynor received the script for the film he found it more “ambitious” than anything.
Reynor felt like the film could not be made, especially with a director who only produced a handful of short films beforehand. In fact, it was the potential failure of this movie that motivated Reynor to work on this film. A risky move considering he had never seen much of the director’s previous films until after he signed.
When shooting scenes, the long camera takes accompanied by the brightness of sunlit fields managed to capture a terror in broad daylight. Reynor found it, “A testament to the skill of the filmmaker to be able to find that depth of darkness in blistering sunlight.”
Even Jordan Peele, renowned director of “Us” and “Get Out”, remarked that “Midsommar” was to the point “iconic.” After the screening of the film, Peele texted Aster “I think you’ve made the most idyllic horror film of all time.”
The amount of commitment and new experiences that came with filming “Midsommar” was hard for Reynor. Having to shoot in Hungary instead of Germany due to the budget, there were several crew members who did not fully understand English. When filming, the crew was split up between German, Swedish, and English speakers, leading to confusion.
In regards to communicating, there were only two people on the set that spoke all three languages.”Just to communicate what was going on, so that everyone was on the same page at all times, that was really difficult,” said Reynor.
As Aster talked about writing “Midsommar” he expressed it as more of a breakup movie, seeing it “-as big, consuming, and cataclysmic as breakups tend to feel.”
The main characters Christian and Dani, the star couple, at the verge of breaking up decide to travel to Sweden after a family tragedy. The relationship portrayed between the two characters is strained at best. With Christian forced to stay with his girlfriend due to her traumatic experiences, and Dani being codependent on her boyfriend, their relationship is dysfunctional. The couple’s unhealthy reliance on each other serves to make the ending of the film much more impactful upon their separation.
Upon arrival, the unusual structures and runes give no pause to the unlucky group of friends. As the rituals continue the event becomes more disturbing, with an elderly man and woman willingly throwing themselves off a cliff in front of the villagers. This leads to one of the Swedish villagers smashing a giant hammer against the man’s skull when he survived impact upon the ground that left him screaming in pain with broken legs.
This is not the only disturbing image that comes up, increasing as each visitor slowly disappears from the group one by one. Even the sex scene that takes place around the end of the film is more representative of a twisted mating, with Reynor’s character drugged and bewildered at what is taking place.
Aster’s take on a summer horror film has made over $10 million, receiving an 83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes by critics. Audiences on the other hand, were not as receptive to the vivid gore and ritualistic manipulations of the cult-like village.
Psychological traumatization is a recurring theme in Asters films. Shorts like “The Strange Thing About the Johnsons,” a dark melodrama of an incestuous relationship forced upon a married man by his own son, explores the possibility of “what if”. The film is but one of his several shorts that portrayed a dark horror within a family.
Written by Brielle R. Buford. Edited by Kimberley Spinney.
YAHOO!: Midsommar star wasn’t sure director could actually complete horror film
Chicago Tribune: Why Jack Reynor revealed all for ‘Midsommar’
The New York Times: Ari Aster on the Bright and Dark Sides of ‘Midsommar’
Vice: Ari Aster Wants ‘Midsommar’ to Be Your Favorite Breakup Movie
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of David Lebech’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License