Ari Aster’s sophomore film is much more inventive than Hereditary and has undertones of grief in all forms. People often associate grief with death, but it can also be applied to any loss and the emotional journey in which that takes you on.
Florence Pugh delivers a very honest, innocent and internal performance that is very beautiful to sit through. Her energy is just so pure that from the very beginning of the film you just want to protect her at all costs.
This being said, Ari Aster is a wonderful filmmaker, the camerawork and cinematography were absolutely stunning, for a film that is so eerie and graphic to take place in an open field in broad daylight was very different and I commend him for that. Most horror films (I do not consider this a horror in any sense whatsoever but it’s still classified as one and marketed as one) have such a dark setting that it’s almost impossible to understand what is happening at certain moments. In Midsommar everything was laid out in front of the camera allowing audiences to vividly see the gore and deaths. He tried to do something different and I respect the way he told the story visually.
The issue I have with Hereditary and Midsommar is that the cult symbolism in both films do not directly correlate to the thematic undertones. Both films started with themes of family dysfunction and grief but ended in a very different place. At least with Midsommar it was more cohesive as a narrative because Dani and Christian’s relationship was already on the rocks, so the ending somewhat made sense. There is very little explanation as to why these characters end up in these cult situations and I just think that he can elaborate more when trying to come up with a shocking third act finale.
I also feel that the lead characters do not get the chance to ever build on their repressed emotions. It was hard to watch Dani take what Christian was giving her and she was just very nonchalant about how he was treating her. The smirk she gave at the end of the film was too subtle considering the action that she was forced to do.
I also understand that Ari also chose to show the 5 stages of grief throughout the film:
Denial – the initial reaction after her parents and sister die, she was screaming and she did not want to believe that it was true.
Anger – the shrooms trip that she got the first day in Sweden, she was extremely angry
Bargaining – I would say that weighing the pros and cons of her relationship with Christian would fit this and the fact that she wanted to leave.
Depression – They showed her emotional state throughout
Acceptance – the third act is her processing the concept of death and then allowing herself to move forward from her old life and Christian was the last thing that tied her to her past self.
I could definitely analyze the film scene by scene, especially considering Dani and Christian’s relationship and how the major family death forcefully pushed them together and then the trip to Sweden was positioned to salvage it. There were a series of tests for Christian and he continued to fail her on an emotional level. They were disjointed from the start and she could feel him distancing himself from her. He was also very selfish and he manipulated her into thinking that he was the victim in majority of their arguments.
This film is aesthetically pleasing, the sound design is lovely and the story was better than Hereditary. Ari just has to create some sort of balance in his third act in order to bring everything together.