I’ll give hot horror director Ari Aster this much: He really knows how to set the stage for his twisty mischief. Like his earlier potboiler, Hereditary, Midsommar opens with a deceptively bleak slice of melodrama. Dani (Frances Pugh), a grad student, has to cope with the tragedy of a bipolar sister in a set piece that would have made an exceptionally interesting film by itself. The trauma eats away at her already disintegrating relationship with her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), who seems more beholden to his chums, a toxic crew of privileged maleness. The one exception is Swedish softie Pelle, (Vilhelm Blomgren), an exchange student who invites Christian and his pals to his home village in Scandanavia, a kind of primitive hippie commune. Since two in this crew are studying anthropology, they are eager to go to experience the village midsummer festival. Dani’s part in this is not really clear, though Christian seems to want to patch up their relationship, and she really could use a change of scene.
As with Hereditary, from a certain point Midsommar winds itself so tight that the plot can seem impenetrable, but in any case, the village isn’t quite what these Americans envisioned. The first thing they do when they arrive is consume herbal hallucinogenics, a move that freaks Dani out given her already delicate psychological condition. The guys dig it, however, and not just because of their scholarly curiosity. The commune seems to practice its own form of free sex, though the newcomers may have to wait to participate. Predictably, the warm hospitality masks something much more sinister, and while it becomes obvious early on that our travelers are trapped—the commune is very far from what you would call civilization—it’s Dani, of course, who gets hip to the ways things are done around here before her pals do; and that plot point is central to what Aster has under his hat.
The scares are rather mild compared to Hereditary, and the gimmick is that everything happens in either broad daylight or during extremely well lit nighttime activities. It’s the movie’s suggestions that are meant to be upsetting, and while the feminist subtext is acutely felt, it doesn’t feel particularly original. Dani is the only character the viewer will likely care about, so one’s emotional investment is paid back without much in the way of dividends. In fact, the Swedes are so blankly uniform in manner and appearance, it’s surprising Aster hasn’t been accused of stereotyping.
In English and Swedish. Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Human Trust Cinema Shibuya (03-5468-5551), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024).
Midsommar home page in Japanese.
photo (c) 2019 A24 Films LLC