If there is one A24 film that will live in the minds of horror fans far past its release date, that would be the incredibly creepy "Midsommar." Ari Aster's follow-up to "Hereditary" was a slam-dunk combination of his previous fascination with cults and a revelatory performance by Florence Pugh. The film followed Pugh as Dani, who ventures on a trip to Sweden with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends, where they encounter a very, very scary cult. The vacation is short-lived, as the host cultists slowly but surely divide and conquer the group through means of violence and intense coercion. But "Midsommar" is not just a horror film — it's an epic breakup opera, too.
The initial reaction to an Aster-directed project is usually one of awe at the high level of filmmaking and pure terror when something disturbing happens on screen (which is often). "Midsommar" may be the best example of that, a showcase for Aster to prioritize meaningful storytelling while still producing some seriously messed up imagery. The story element that grounds "Midsommar" is the inevitable breakup that occurs between Dani and Christian, which is set up from the very start and acts as the vehicle for the entire premise. According to the director, the drama created by the central relationship is a big part of the film's execution.
'I Love Melodrama'
In a 2019 interview with Vox, Ari Aster discussed the dramatic side of "Midsommar," going as far as to declare it "a breakup opera." The film is not a literal opera, of course, but the shared sense of melodrama is apparent to Aster:
"I've been to the opera a few times. I think my way into the concept of what an opera is, is that I love melodrama in film. That's what I'm drawn to, in movies. I love melodrama — the operative word being 'melos,' right? Like, finding the music in the drama. Treating it as music."
As Aster implied, "Midsommar" sings when it centers the overarching narrative on a doomed romance tale. The folk mythology surrounding their hosts serves as the catalysts for the relationship's demise, a breakup tale that does not break the mold but embraces the tropes of the genre. It's clear that things won't work out for Dani and Christian, but that does not stop "Midsommar" from playing into expectations. The combination of different genres is what makes the film a worthy exploration of an overdone topic.
Having Fun With It
A horrifying image can elicit a specific response from the audience, but it would be a fleeting moment if not grounded by an emotional connection to the drama. "Midsommar" understands this and embraces its genre hybridization to the fullest, from start to finish. In a 2019 discussion with The Atlantic, Ari Aster emphasized the breakup aspect of the movie as a means to combine some very different genres:
"I would say this was, for me, a way of making a breakup movie and having fun with clichés and tropes that are inherent to two different genres, doing something that's simultaneously absurdist and nakedly vulnerable. It's folk horror, but being given to you with the trajectory of a high-school comedy. It's about a girl who everyone knows is with the wrong guy, and the right guy is under her nose."
For someone who creates some pretty terrifying imagery, Aster sure does know how to break down his work to an almost comedic level of simplicity. But that's part of what makes "Midsommar" unique. He uses the molds given to him from other films to create a new, twisted version, boasting his staple penchant for psychological horror. In "Midsommar," Aster made his intentions clear from the very opening, creating the groundwork for a dark fairy tale featuring an orphan that was intentionally meant to feel familiar. In other words, Aster seeks to reinvent the wheel not by destroying it, but by finding another side to it — or, if not found, then created through his specific vision.
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