• Follow us

Movies

Review: In the unsettling ‘Midsommar,’ the nightmare unfolds in broad daylight

The setting of “Midsommar,” a luxuriant deep-tissue freakout from writer-director Ari Aster, is a picturesque commune in Hälsingland, Sweden, that is holding a nine-day celebration in observation of the summer solstice. Along for the trip is a young American, Dani (Florence Pugh), who has recently endured an unspeakable tragedy and seems doomed to endure another if the rules of genre and the playful, punishing sensibility of her creator are any indication.

It is no spoiler to note that the festivities begin in beauty and end in horror — and indeed, the picture’s most ingenious and intuitive stroke is to blur the boundaries between the two. Unlike Aster’s terrifying 2018 debut feature, “Hereditary,” a haunted-house tale bathed in nighttime shadows, “Midsommar” is a nightmare that unfolds in broad daylight. The spell that it casts is bright, dreamy and absorbing, but it is also in no particular hurry to come into focus, which makes its aftereffects all the harder to shake.

Aster’s admirers will recognize his shivery command of pace and tone here, as well as a few signature formal gestures: elegantly jarring transitions, eerie dream sequences, a camera that remains alert even when it stands at a remove from the action. “Midsommar” is as deliberate and drawn-out a picture as “Hereditary,” if also, ultimately, a less overtly frightening one. That may sound like a letdown, but it is also a sign of Aster’s growing confidence, his willingness to push his austere, slow-burning showmanship beyond the traditional grammar of cinematic horror.

RELATED: Disturbed and confused by ‘Midsommar’? Let the filmmakers explain »

Advertisement

What truly binds “Midsommar” to “Hereditary,” beyond their spasms of dark comedy and their fascination with intricate pagan subcultures, is a commitment to the subject of human grief. In each story the emotional and psychological contours of trauma, loss and abandonment are explored so ruthlessly that basic, bloodcurdling shocks seem almost a relief by comparison.

The story begins with Dani in a panic at home, as a personal emergency swiftly spirals toward its worst possible outcome. She seeks solace in the aftermath from her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), and is perhaps too shaken to realize that he was on the verge of ending their four-year relationship. That he feels obliged to stay with her, at least for now, is the only shred of decency Aster is willing to grant Christian, whose handsome face and reserved demeanor conceal a selfishness that can easily be mistaken for sensitivity. (His name, too, turns out to be no coincidence.)

DSCF3726.JPG

Vilhelm Blomgren and Florence Pugh in the movie "Midsommar."

(Gabor Kotschy / A24)

Christian looks like optimal boyfriend material next to his unsympathetic grad-school buddies Josh (William Jackson Harper), who’s focused on writing his dissertation on ancient folklore, and Mark (Will Poulter), who seems to be pursuing a degree in advanced douchebaggery. The three of them have made plans to travel with a Swedish-born friend, Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), to his ancestral village for a midsummer festival that occurs once every 90 years — a trippy European jaunt and an academic retreat rolled into one. Christian, feeling a sense of guilt and obligation to Dani, invites her along, to Mark and Josh’s barely concealed irritation.

Advertisement

If you think you can guess what’s coming next — various logistical nightmares, tetchy “bros before hos” arguments that erupt into screaming matches — you are in for the first of a few carefully doled-out surprises. In Pugh’s quietly astonishing performance, the sheer intensity of Dani’s grief, even when hidden behind a reassuring “I’m fine” smile, is palpable enough to keep the others on relatively good behavior. And the tense group dynamics are suspended, at least at first, by the weird splendor of the gathering that awaits them — a spectacle that cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski captures in a succession of breathtakingly composed and choreographed images.

The midnight sun bears down on a green landscape dotted with man-made structures — a pyramid-like yellow house, a Norse fertility symbol — that are at once charming and faintly sinister. Their hosts, known as the Hårga, wear flowers and white robes embroidered with mysterious symbols, and they go about their tasks with a ritualistic devotion that feels more serene than severe. All-natural hallucinogens are consumed, long silences are observed and only after a while is there any shedding of blood, in a moment whose terror is held in check — and also strangely intensified — by an unmistakable sense of awe.

The Hårga welcome their American visitors with more politeness than warmth, allowing them to join in their celebrations but offering little warning about what each new day will bring. Their customs and artifacts are of great scholarly interest to Josh and Christian, and Aster and his production designer, Henrik Svensson, approach this fictional cult with their own anthropological obsessiveness. The visual scheme isn’t big on explanations — what’s with the bear in the cage? — but as you study the exquisite runes and paintings, the lavish feasts and maypole dances, some of them set to Bobby Krlic’s ecstatically dissonant score, you feel swept up into a world that exists outside time.

The sunlight, disorienting and ever-present, could be a metaphor for Dani’s grief, which would be unyielding even if Christian were genuinely interested in consoling her. But in a more literal and provocative sense it suggests a kind of illumination, a new way of seeing.

Dani is a creature of the modern world who suddenly finds herself lost in a pagan, pre-technological one, an unsettling change of scenery that is also, in some ways, an improvement. Life here is predicated on selflessness, and individual woes seem happily nonexistent. Sex and death, sources of so much pain and anxiety elsewhere, are here tamed into collective submission.

DSCF8772.RAF

Isabelle Grill in the movie "Midsommar."

(Csaba Aknay / A24)

This stands in stark contrast to Mark’s testosterone-fueled idiocy and a peevish academic rivalry that develops between Christian and Josh, all of which amount to a withering assessment of contemporary American masculinity. These are in some ways the least interesting aspects of “Midsommar,” partly because they feel like plot triggers from a more conventional horror movie. (One point that bears closer scrutiny: Josh is pointedly one of three people of color in the story, and his willful immersion in this land of white robes and faces at times brings to mind a rural Scandinavian version of “Get Out.”) Think of these beats as easily digestible bread crumbs on the narrative trail, forging a path into the darker, more difficult heart of the material.

Aster has said that he wrote “Midsommar” years ago following a very bad breakup — an impishly sincere admission that reminded me of the Danish auteur Lars von Trier, who has credited some of his wilder movies to his own epic bouts of depression. There is a whiff of Von Trier’s “Antichrist” to this movie’s gender politics, and there are also strong echoes of Alex Garland’s “Annihilation,” Ben Wheatley’s “Kill List” and especially Robin Hardy’s 1973 pagan-cult classic, “The Wicker Man.” The weight of all this self-conscious auteurism undoubtedly hangs over “Midsommar,” but crucially, it doesn’t leach the movie of its feverish intensity or its strange, searching emotional power.

Advertisement

Amid scenes of revelry, ritual sacrifice and very bizarre sex, what you remember most is the extraordinary commingling of terror and exultation in Dani’s eyes as she beholds the fate that awaits her and her companions. Aster’s control is startling: With diabolical suggestiveness he keeps widening the chasm between Dani and Christian, placing visual and emotional space between two people whose souls have long since drifted apart.

These spaces stretch toward eternity in “Midsommar,” and they speak powerfully to how distant we all are, how little we truly know about each other’s intimate experience — and how, in the end, the not knowing may be for the best.

------------

‘Midsommar’

Rated: R, for disturbing ritualistic violence and grisly images, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language

Running time: 2 hours, 26 minutes

Playing: Opens July 3 in general release

justin.chang@latimes.com | Twitter: @JustinCChang

Read More



Leave A Comment

More News

L.A. Times - Movie News

Review: In the unsettling ‘Midsommar,’ the nightmare unfolds 2019-07-01 18:25:00The setting of “Midsommar,” a luxuriant deep-tissue freakout from writer-director Ari Aster, is a picturesque commune in Hälsingland,

CAA becomes third agency to take Writers Guild 2019-07-01 15:15:00CAA has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Writers Guild of America, becoming the third Hollywood talent agency to take the union to court over th

Film academy invites more women than men to 2019-07-01 14:45:00As of Monday, there are a whole lot more people in Hollywood who’d like to thank the academy. In its latest step toward diversifying its histori

Taylor Swift rages on the news of Scooter 2019-06-30 17:20:00Taylor Swift took to Tumblr on Sunday to express her frustration over news that her master recordings had been acquired by music manager Scooter Braun

‘Toy Story’ remains on top, ‘Annabelle 3’ and 2019-06-30 13:50:00Toys continued to dominate the box office for a second consecutive weekend with "Toy Story 4" maintaining its position at the top of the charts and

Meet ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’ 2019-06-29 10:00:00Like the pastors and storytellers in his life he credits with igniting his early artistic spark, Jonathan Majors is given to spinning bright bursts of

Writers Guild sends cease and desist letter to 2019-06-28 20:20:00After being slapped this week with lawsuits from two of Hollywood’s biggest talent agencies, the Writers Guild of America fired back on Friday,

Indie Focus: Climb on board with 'Maiden' 2019-06-28 17:00:00Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies. Anyone looking to celebrate the up

The captain of the Maiden talks about how 2019-06-28 16:10:00Thirty years ago, Tracy Edwards and her female crew made history when they entered the male-dominated world of the Whitbread Round the World yacht rac

New video: ‘Transit’ is another provocative thriller from 2019-06-28 08:00:00New on Blu-ray “Transit” (Music Box DVD, $29.95; Blu-ray, $34.95; also available on VOD) German director Christian Petzold has made some o

Review: Carlos Reygadas’ ‘Our Time’ opens up a 2019-06-27 15:55:00In the most resonant sequence in Carlos Reygadas’ “Our Time,” the camera soars over a mist-shrouded landscape while a woman, Esther

Review: ‘Blue Note Records: Beyond The Notes’ celebrates 2019-06-27 15:55:00Jazz may be a quintessentially American art form, but it is Europeans who make some of the best jazz documentaries, with the captivating “Blue N

Movie News

Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade Returns to Disneyland 2019-07-03 19:38:43Disneyland is bringing back the iconic Main Street Electrical Parade this summer for a short run starting in August.

Why Jeremy Renner Absolutely Had to Say No 2019-07-03 19:11:18Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy nearly featured Jeremy Renner in the lead role, according to the actor.

What's Really Going on with the Death Star 2019-07-03 18:10:27Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn comes out at the end of the month and it could hold the key to some Rise of Skywalker mysteries.

Colin Trevorrow's Canceled Star Wars 9 Was Very 2019-07-03 17:58:12Colin Trevorrow's conclusion to the Skywalker saga would have differed greatly from J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Will Spider-Man Ever Fight Dinosaurs in the MCU? 2019-07-03 17:13:56Peter Parker actor Tom Holland would like to see his character fight dinosaurs in a sequel to Spider-Man: Far From Home, if indeed one gets made.

Halle Bailey Is Ariel in Disney's The Little 2019-07-03 16:45:33Halle Bailey has been officially announced by Disney to portray Ariel in The Little Mermaid.

Driven Trailer: The Crazy True Story Behind The 2019-07-03 16:17:45Jason Sudeikis and Lee Pace topline the cast of the first trailer for Driven, a new biopic about John DeLorean.

Rami Malek Refused to Let His Bond 25 2019-07-03 15:57:45Director Cary Fukunaga has a vision for Rami Malek's James Bond 25 that doesn't include religion or any other specific ideology.

The Farwell Review: Break Out the Oscars and 2019-07-03 15:22:57Director Lulu Wang delivers a beautiful and original dramedy with an outstanding performance from Awkwafina.

Elm Street Star Heather Langenkamp Would Love to 2019-07-03 14:12:44A Nightmare on Elm Street star Heather Langenkamp would love the chance to star in a movie set within James Wan's The Conjuring Universe.

Disney Cuts Toy Story 2 Stinky Pete Scene 2019-07-03 13:43:33The Toy Story 2 gag where Stinky Pete pulls a Harvey Weinstein won't be seen in the movie's re-release.

Spider-Man: Far from Home May Have the Best 2019-07-03 13:27:30Spider-Man: Far From Home features quite possibly the most amazing cameo in the history of the MCU.

Manchettes cinéma

Yesterday: des ressemblances entre le film et une 2019-07-02 06:00:00Le nouveau film de Danny Boyle, inspiré de la musique des Beatles, ressemble étrangement à une bande dessinée du m&ec

Les nouvelles recrues de l'Académie des Oscars à 2019-07-01 17:02:00Régulièrement accusée d'être trop masculine et trop blanche, l'Académie des Oscars a publié lundi la liste

Toy Story 4 s'accroche à la tête du box office 2019-06-30 14:30:00Toy Story 4 a maintenu sa pole position au box-office nord-américain pour le deuxième weekend consécutif, empochant 57,9&nbs

Souterrain : tourner sous terre à Val-D'or 2019-06-30 07:00:00La réalisatrice Sophie Dupuis est montée à 500 km au nord de Montréal pour descendre des centaines de mèt

Plus de 250 réalisateurs protestent contre l'ONF et son 2019-06-29 12:00:00L'annonce du renouvellement du mandat de Claude Joli-Coeur à la tête de l'Office national du film du Canada (ONF) a incité plus

Nathan Ambrosioni, le prodige 2019-06-29 09:00:00Sans formation en cinéma, Nathan Ambrosioni a écrit, tourné et monté son premier long métrage à seulement 18

Un été de comédies à la Cinémathèque 2019-06-29 05:00:00Si l'été est aussi moche que le printemps, mieux vaudra en rire en plongeant dans le cycle Comédies ! présenté &ag

La politique de l'enfant unique selon Wang Xiaoshuai 2019-06-28 18:00:00Avec So Long, my Son, primé à Berlin, le réalisateur de Beijing Bicycle Wang Xiaoshuai aborde la politique de l'enfant unique da

Le cinéma à la force des mollets 2019-06-28 16:00:00Une toile de tente blanche tendue entre des arbres, des volontaires qui pédalent : ce soir, la projection se fait à la force des mo

Star Wars et ses effets spéciaux vus par 2019-06-28 15:42:00Vous souvenez-vous de la scène de Star Wars où Luke Skywalker ressort de l'Étoile de la mort après avoir échou&eac

Les drapeaux de papier: un début très prometteur 2019-06-28 14:00:00Charlie, 23 ans, rêve de devenir artiste. Son univers est profondément bouleversé lorsque son frère aîné

Harvey Weinstein embauche deux nouveaux avocats, dont une 2019-06-28 13:14:00À un peu plus de deux mois de son procès, Harvey Weinstein a recruté deux nouveaux avocats dont une femme, son troisième c

Cinéma

Un vidéoclip tourné au iPhone pour «Fabuleuses» 2019-07-02 04:00:00La réalisatrice Mélanie Charbonneau a décidé de tourner le vidéoclip de la chanson-thème de son premier long

Un Spider-Man sans prétention 2019-07-01 21:43:38Deux mois après la sortie du très sombre et déchirant dernier chapitre de la saga Avengers, le nouveau Spider-Man renoue avec l&r

15 faits méconnus pour les 15 ans des 2019-06-30 17:49:25«Les pages de notre amour» réunit les Canadiens Ryan Gosling et Rachel McAdams devant la caméra de Nick Cassavetes.

«Toy Story 4» s’accroche en tête du box 2019-06-30 14:26:33«Toy Story 4» a conservé sa première place au box-office nord-américain, empochant 59,7 millions de dollars au cours

Solstice macabre 2019-06-29 01:00:00À pareille date l’an dernier, Ari Aster faisait sensation dans le monde du cinéma d’épouvante avec Hereditary, une pr

Premier long métrage: Juliette Gosselin se penchera sur 2019-06-28 18:49:45Comédienne, mais aussi réalisatrice, Juliette Gosselin vient d’obtenir le soutien financier de la SODEC pour l’écritu

Décès de Billy Drago, un méchant du film 2019-06-27 12:12:18Associé à des personnages méchants depuis plusieurs décennies à Hollywood, l'acteur Billy Drago est mort lundi &ag

Bon démarrage en France pour «La femme de 2019-06-26 21:25:22Lancé mercredi sur environ 130 écrans en France, le film La femme de mon frère de la Québécoise Monia Chokri a fait

L’acteur Cuba Gooding Jr, inculpé pour attouchements, demande 2019-06-26 19:35:02Cuba Gooding Jr, inculpé à New York pour attouchements non sollicités, a demandé ordonnance de protection.

«The Death and Life of John F. Donovan» 2019-06-26 10:18:13Dévoilé au Festival international du film de Toronto l'an dernier et proposé sur les écrans des salles obscures en France

Le film Spinning Gold sera tourné à Montréal 2019-06-25 20:38:25Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Monaghan, Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Jordan, Caitlin Fitzgerald et Neil Patrick Harris font partie des nombreuses vedettes am&ea

Une Québécoise affronte Chucky 2019-06-25 18:31:22Une Québécoise a subi les foudres de la célèbre poupée Chucky sur le plateau de tournage de Jeu d’enfant.

Movies stories

Toronto warms up to a cold one 2019-07-03 20:04:58It has taken four years, but Toronto Councillor Mike Layton says the city is finally making it much easier for entrepreneurs to tap into the growing l

LILLEY: Canadians are voting Scheer with their wallets 2019-07-03 19:48:30There are polls which gauge voter support and try to predict which way an election might go, and then there are the ways people vote with their wallet

LILLEY: Trudeau government slips on ethics again 2019-07-03 19:37:33We have an ethically challenged federal government, no one can deny that. Our prime minister has been found in violation of ethics law violations as h

EDITORIAL: The Liberals have problems with judicial independence 2019-07-03 19:31:45It’s not enough that politicians be clear of actual wrongdoing when it comes to misdeeds, such as corruption or improperly interfering with the

MANDEL: Court criticizes Toronto JP for waiving victim 2019-07-03 19:26:50The Robin Hood of Toronto East court has had his knuckles rapped — and so Justice of the Peace Patrick Marum won’t be waiving the victim f

Netherlands get past Sweden in listless semifinal at 2019-07-03 19:12:29LYON — Sweden and the Netherlands was never going to live up to United States and England, but at least they could have tried to put on a better

GOLDSTEIN: Canadians want fewer refugees, while Liberals want 2019-07-03 19:06:37A slew of recent public opinion polls on Canadian attitudes toward immigrants and refugees — the latest one commissioned by the CBC — sugg

Roxodus Music Festival cancelled due to ‘rainy weather’ 2019-07-03 18:57:02Provincial police are reportedly investigating the company behind the now-cancelled Roxodus Festival. The four-day rock fest was set for July 11-14 at

FUREY: China just laughed in Canada’s face – 2019-07-03 18:47:41The Chinese government has now delivered what the kids today would call a “sick burn” against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Af

Coyotes will get their Phil 2019-07-03 18:22:31Rick Tocchet, nicknamed ‘the Phil Kessel Whisperer’ for his unique relationship with the quirky star, says the winger is going to be fine

Letters to the Editor for Wednesday, July 3 2019-07-03 00:30:22TWO IDEAS AND TWO ADDICTIONS Since 1974 I have been endorsing two ideas 1) profit sharing with any American citizen that works for a living and 2) Ran

Drake ‘mounting recruiting campaign’ to keep Kawhi Leonard 2019-07-03 00:09:04With #KawhiUpdate and #KawhitotheLakers both trending on social media all day Tuesday, it seems the Raptors are playing their biggest trump card in th

TORONTO STAR | ENTERTAINMENT

Florence Pugh goes down a dark rabbit hole 2019-07-01 00:00:00In Midsommar, Pugh stars as Dani Ardor, a grief-stricken college student who, shortly after her family is killed in a grisly manner, joins her long-te

Nine things to do in Toronto this week 2019-06-30 12:00:00From Shakespeare to trap-rap to Dog River.

Director Roland Emmerich learns lesson of Pearl Harbor 2019-06-29 16:00:002001 cinema dud taught filmmaker to concentrate on dive bomber.

Movie Spider-Man Tom Holland amused that Gwyneth Paltrow 2019-06-28 13:52:08Star amused that co-star seems to misplace her memories of him.

Peter Howell: My top 10 films from the 2019-06-27 18:00:00Too often, great films from the early part of the year get forgotten amid the rush of summer blockbusters and fall Oscar contenders. Peter Howell join

Max Wright, who played Willie Tanner on TV’s 2019-06-27 15:36:53Actor died at his California home after lengthy battle with cancer.

Peter Howell: Spider-Man: Far From Home finds Homecoming’s 2019-06-27 14:10:52Boyish Spidey has a new setting but keeps amusing characters and grounded adventures of his last film, Homecoming.

Justice League fans push anew for Zack Snyder’s 2019-06-27 12:55:57Film that disappointed many critics might exist in a superior form in studio’s hands

Yesterday has Beatles songs, but it needs drama 2019-06-27 11:30:00They should have known better: Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle’s movie about a world that forgets the Fab Four needs higher stakes and a more pla

Annabelle Comes Home finds some new life in 2019-06-25 11:30:00The Warrens’ family business is now daughter Judy’s problem in a competent film that could use one or two more spooky surprises.

How Child’s Play remake gave killer doll Chucky 2019-06-24 12:32:36Rethought Chucky can show needfulness and despair as he learns his wicked lessons from those around him.

Even a hit like Toy Story 4 suffers 2019-06-24 11:07:33Latest movie in Pixar/Disney franchise has a big opening weekend — just not quite as big as expected.

LEXPRESS.fr - Culture - A la

Le projet de loi Notre-Dame adopté en nouvelle 2019-07-03 04:56:09Paris - Création d'un établissement public, dérogations à des règles du droit commun: l'Assemblée a adopt&

Milton Nascimento: une icône de la musique brésilienne 2019-07-03 04:19:02Paris - Milton Nascimento, une icône de la "MPB" (musique populaire brésilienne), revient à Paris où il n'a pas chant&ea

À Aix, une nouvelle ère pour attirer les 2019-07-03 01:57:13Aix-en-Provence - Il est né dans un pays où l'opéra n'existe pas avant de devenir une pointure du monde lyrique. Le Franco-liba

Dompter sa voix, un "challenge" qui "amuse beaucoup" 2019-07-03 01:12:27New York - Elle qualifie sa voix d'"étrange", résultat d'"une malformation des cordes vocales": pour accompagner son troisiè

1981 - Poésie contemporaine : Orphée pas mort 2019-07-03 01:00:00La vie entière est entrée en poésie comme jamais depuis Villon et Rutebeuf. Mais qui lit les poètes, aujourd'hui ?

Scène de sexe dans "Mektoub my Love": le 2019-07-02 14:47:36Paris - Une concession rare qui trahit un profond malaise: le réalisateur Abdelatif Kechiche, dont le film "Mektoub My Love: Intermezzo" n'a

"Mektoub my Love: Intermezzo": Kechiche prêt à supprimer 2019-07-02 13:14:23Paris - Cinq semaines après la polémique cannoise autour de "Mektoub My Love: Intermezzo" et de sa fameuse scène de cunnilingus

Woody Allen en metteur en scène d'opéra à 2019-07-02 12:14:55Milan - Woody Allen en metteur en scène d'opéra : la Scala accueille du 6 au 19 juillet "Gianni Schicci", dans une version cré

Notre-Dame de la désinvolture 2019-07-02 11:00:00Une cathédrale qui brûle sous l'assaut d'une cigarette mal éteinte ou d'un câble mal branché, c'est un monde qui

La basilique de la Nativité retirée de la 2019-07-02 10:52:03Bethléem (Territoires palestiniens) - La basilique de la Nativité, érigée au IVe siècle sur le lieu où selon

Palmarès des livres : de Michel Serres à 2019-07-02 10:00:00"C'était mieux avant !" Oui, c'était mieux avant que le philosophe meure et que Notre-Dame s'enflamme. Hommage et reconnaissance de

Garde-robe de Claudia Cardinale aux enchères: un chapitre 2019-07-02 09:44:13Paris - La garde-robe de Claudia Cardinale, exposée jusqu'à jeudi chez Sotheby's pour être vendue aux enchères d'ici au


Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.