by Rob DiCristino
Midsommar, writer/director Ari Aster’s follow-up to Hereditary, is a pitch-black comedy that, in its own twisted way, celebrates the end of a toxic relationship and promises hope for a brighter future. It’s a film about life cycles and seasonal renewal. It will invite comparisons to folk horror classics like The Wicker Man, and that’s okay. It’s fitting. We’ll spend the summer debating whether or not it’s a worthy successor to Hereditary. That’s what we do. That’s fine. However, surface aesthetics and ranking debates aside, Midsommar is the sort of film best approached in a kind of spiritual vacuum. Befitting its running motif of mind-altering potions and herbs, it’s best to clear your mind and be open to suggestion. Midsommar asks a lot of its audience. It asks for your patience and vulnerability. It demands your attention and understanding. Ultimately, like in all relationships, it’s up to you to decide exactly how much of that you’re willing to give.
And yet, here she is, on a plane to Sweden. The group soon find themselves in a remote clearing dotted with a few small buildings and a handful of white-robed Scandinavians. Their traditions seem quaint and odd at first, but Pelle and Josh (Harper) — who hopes to write his thesis on their midsummer festival — encourage them to buy the ticket and take the ride. From elders and acolytes, they learn that this small community worships the harmony of nature above all else. Agriculture and animal husbandry are sacred du-ties. Collective achievement is prioritized over individual glory. And, as Pelle explains, a human life is composed of four phases that align with the seasons: Born in spring, shaped in summer, reflecting in autumn, and ascending in winter. This last phase is strictly — even violently — enforced. The more Dani and the others learn about these traditions, the more frightening their experience becomes.
The Witch and Suspiria (2018). It’s a song for the wounded heart inside of each of us. If you’re not singing along by the final frame, then hell, I don’t want to know you.