Midsommar is a 2019 folk psychological horror film written and directed by Ari Aster and starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, and Will Poulter. It follows a group of friends who travel to Sweden for a festival that occurs once every ninety years and find themselves in the clutches of a pagan cult.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ari Aster|
|Written by||Ari Aster|
|Music by||Bobby Krlic|
|Edited by||Lucian Johnston|
|Box office||$41.1 million|
A co-production between the United States and Sweden, the film was initially pitched as a straightforward slasher film set amongst Swedish cultists. Aster devised a screenplay using elements of the concept but made a deteriorating relationship the central conflict after he had experienced a difficult breakup. The film was shot on location in Budapest in the summer and autumn of 2018.
Midsommar was theatrically released in the United States on July 3, 2019, by A24 and in Sweden on July 10, 2019, by Nordisk Film. The film received positive reviews from critics, with many praising Aster's direction and Pugh's performance.
College student Dani Ardor is traumatized after her sister Terri kills herself and their parents by filling their home with carbon monoxide. The incident strains Dani's relationship with her emotionally distant boyfriend, Christian Hughes, an anthropology graduate student. The following summer, Dani learns that Christian and his friends, Mark and Josh, have been invited by their Swedish friend, Pelle, to attend a midsummer celebration at Pelle's ancestral commune, the Hårga, in Hälsingland. Pelle explains that this iteration of the celebration only occurs every ninety years. Christian had not told Dani about the trip, and the two argue. In an attempt to patch things up, Christian reluctantly invites Dani to come along.
The group flies to Sweden and arrives at the commune, where they meet Simon and Connie, an English couple invited by Pelle's communal brother Ingemar. He offers the group psilocybin, and under the influence of the drug, Dani has hallucinations of Terri. Tensions rise after the group witnesses an ättestupa where two commune elders commit senicide by leaping from a clifftop. When the male elder survives the fall, the cult mimics his wails of agony and crushes his skull with a mallet. Cult elder Siv explains that this is a perfectly normal expression of Hårga's views on death, stating that every member must do the same at the age of seventy-two. The scene deeply disturbs the group, particularly Dani, but they decide to stay, both at the behest of Pelle and because midsummer traditions are the subject of Josh's thesis. Simon and Connie, however, decide to leave. As Connie is gathering her things, an elder tells her that Simon has already left for the train station without her. Confused and frustrated, Connie decides to leave on her own. Later, a woman's scream is heard in the distance.
Christian decides to also do his thesis on the Hårga, creating a rift between him and Josh. Josh attempts to solicit more information on the commune's ancient runic practices, which are based on paintings made by a member conceived through incest, whom they consider an oracle. After Mark unwittingly urinates on an ancestral tree and incites the fury of the cult, he is lured away by a female member to whom he had previously mentioned he was attracted. That night, Josh sneaks into a temple to photograph the cult's sacred runic text. He is distracted by a partially nude man wearing Mark's skinned face and legs, and is hit over the head with a mallet, after which his body is dragged out of the temple.
The next day, Dani is coerced into taking more psychedelics and participates in a maypole dancing competition. She wins and is crowned May Queen, an esteemed title in the cult. At the same time, Christian is drugged and participates in a sex ritual in which he attempts to impregnate one of the cultists, Maja, while other female cultists watch and interact. After discovering Christian and Maja having sex, Dani has a panic attack and several of the Hårga women wail with her empathetically. After the ritual, a nude and disoriented Christian discovers Josh's buried leg and finds Simon, who has been ritually dismembered as a blood eagle. Christian is then paralyzed by an elder.
The cult gathers together with the paralyzed Christian, and explains to Dani that, to purge the commune of its evil, nine human sacrifices must be offered. The first four victims are outsiders — Josh, Mark, Connie, and Simon — lured to them by Pelle and Ingemar. The next four victims are cult members — two sacrificed elders and two volunteers: Ingemar and Ulf. Dani, as May Queen, has to choose the ninth and final victim: either Christian or a villager, Torbjörn. Angry over his betrayal, she chooses to sacrifice Christian. Still paralyzed, he is stuffed into a disemboweled bear and placed in a temple alongside the other sacrifices. The temple is set on fire and as it burns Ulf begins to scream in agony. Outside, the cult wails with him. At first Dani sobs in anguish and horror, but gradually begins to smile.
- Florence Pugh as Dani Ardor
- Jack Reynor as Christian Hughes
- William Jackson Harper as Josh
- Vilhelm Blomgren as Pelle
- Will Poulter as Mark
- Ellora Torchia as Connie
- Archie Madekwe as Simon
- Henrik Norlén as Ulf
- Gunnel Fred as Siv
- Isabelle Grill as Maja
- Agnes Rase as Dagny
- Julia Ragnarsson as Inga
- Mats Blomgren as Odd
- Lars Väringer as Sten
- Anna Åström as Karin
- Hampus Hallberg as Ingemar
- Liv Mjönes as Ulla
- Louise Peterhoff as Hanna
- Katarina Weidhagen as Ylva
- Björn Andrésen as Dan
- Tomas Engström as Jarl
- Dag Andersson as Sven
- Lennart R. Svensson as Mats
- Anders Beckman as Arne
- Rebecka Johnston as Ulrika
- Tove Skeidsvoll as Majvor
- Anders Back as Valentin
- Anki Larsson as Irma
- Levente Puczkó-Smith as Ruben
- Gabriella Fón as Dani’s mother
- Zsolt Bojári as Dani’s father
- Klaudia Csányi as Terri Ardor
In May 2018, it was announced Ari Aster would write and direct the film, with Lars Knudsen serving as producer. B-Reel Films, a Swedish company, produced the film alongside Square Peg, with A24 distributing. According to Aster, he had been approached by B-Reel executives to helm a slasher film set in Sweden, an idea which he initially rejected as he felt he "had no way into the story." Aster ultimately devised a plot in which the two central characters are experiencing relationship tensions verging on a breakup, and wrote the surrounding screenplay around this theme. He described the result as "a breakup movie dressed in the clothes of a folk horror film."
In July 2018, Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, Vilhem Blomgren, William Jackson Harper, Ellora Torchia, and Archie Madekwe joined the cast. Principal photography began on July 30, 2018, in Budapest, Hungary, and wrapped in October 2018.
Midsommar had a pre-release screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in New York City, on June 18, 2019. The film was theatrically released in the United States on July 3, 2019, and in the United Kingdom on July 5, 2019. It was released in Sweden on July 10, 2019.
Aster's original 171-minute cut of the film, which A24 asked Aster to trim down for a wide theatrical release, had its world premiere at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City as part of its Scary Movies XII lineup on August 20, 2019. It was released nationwide in theaters on August 29, 2019, bundled with the digital release as an Apple TV exclusive on September 24, 2019, and on DVD and Blu-ray on October 28, 2019.
Midsommar was released on Digital HD on September 24, 2019 and on DVD and Blu-ray on October 8, 2019.
In the United States and Canada, the film was projected to gross $8–10 million from 2,707 theaters over its first five days. It made $3 million on its first day, including $1.1 million from Tuesday night previews, which Deadline Hollywood called a "smashing start." It went on to debut to $10.9 million, finishing sixth at the box office; IndieWire said it was "just decent" given its estimated $8 million budget, but the film would likely find success in home media. In its second weekend, the film dropped 44% to $3.7 million, finishing in eighth, and then made $1.6 million in its third weekend, finishing in ninth.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 83% based on 342 reviews, with an average rating of 7.53/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Ambitious, impressively crafted, and above all unsettling, Midsommar further proves writer-director Ari Aster is a horror auteur to be reckoned with." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 54 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 3 out of 5 stars and a 50% "definite recommend."
John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter described the film as the "horror equivalent of a destination wedding", and "more unsettling than frightening, [but] still a trip worth taking." Writing for Variety, Andrew Barker noted that it is "neither the masterpiece nor the disaster that the film's most vocal viewers are bound to claim. Rather, it's an admirably strange, thematically muddled curiosity from a talented filmmaker who allows his ambitions to outpace his execution." David Edelstein of Vulture praised Pugh's performance as "amazingly vivid" and noted that Aster "paces Midsommar more like an opera (Wagner, not Puccini) than a scare picture," but concluded that the film "doesn't jell because its impulses are so bifurcated. It's a parable of a woman's religious awakening—that's also a woman's fantasy of revenge against a man who didn't meet her emotional needs—that's also a male director's masochistic fantasy of emasculation at the hands of a matriarchal cult."
Eric Kohn of IndieWire summarized the film as a "perverse breakup movie," adding that "Aster doesn't always sink the biggest surprises, but he excels at twisting the knife. After a deflowering that makes Ken Russell's The Devils look tame, Aster finds his way to a startling reality check." Time Out's Joshua Rothkopf awarded the film a 5/5 star-rating, writing, "A savage yet evolved slice of Swedish folk-horror, Ari Aster's hallucinatory follow-up to Hereditary proves him a horror director with no peer."
For The A.V. Club, A. A. Dowd stated that the film "rivals Hereditary in the cruel shock department", and labeled it a "B+ effort". Writing for Inverse, Eric Francisco commented that the film feels "like a victory lap after Hereditary", and that Aster "takes his sweet time to lull viewers into his clutches... But like how the characters experience time, its passage is a vague notion." He described the film as "a sharp portrayal of gaslighting". Richard Brody of The New Yorker said that the film "is built on such a void of insight and experience, such a void of character and relationships, that even the first level of the house of narrative cards can't stand." He added, "In the end, the subject of Midsommar is as simple as it is regressive: lucky Americans, stay home."
Nicolas Cage said that the film "was exciting" and said it had "Bergmanesque shots". Jordan Peele said the film was an iconic pagan movie with "the most atrociously disturbing imagery I've ever seen on film".
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|29th Gotham Independent Film Awards||December 2, 2019||Best Actress||Florence Pugh||Pending|
|Best Screenplay||Ari Aster||Pending|
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