Let us talk about Midsommar Part 1

This is the first part in a series of articles about Midsommar.

Let's talk about Ari Aster's follow up to Hereditary,  Midsommar. This isn't a review,  as such, and it will be absolutely drenched in spoilers so count this as your warning.

Aster plays a marvelous trick with the first thirteen minutes of this film. It opens at night.  In winter.  We meet Dani, played by Florence Pugh. She is sad and frightened and that isn't going to get better.

We quickly learn that her sister is suicidal and that Dani fears the worst. We also learn that her boyfriend, Christian,  is maybe going to dump her and that his friends (especially Will Poulter as Mark) are pretty terrible.

Then the unthinkable happens.  Dani's parents are murdered by her sister who also commits suicide.  It has gotten darker and the snow is flying.

As Dani weeps and screams the camera pushes in to the blizzard outside the window and we see simple white lettering buried in the driving snow playing out the credits in the night sky.

Then cut to bright, glorious , summer sun and we feel released.  Aster is telling us that the horror is over

He is lying.

This respite is a cold, cool trick. It is the killer stroking your hair and whispering that every thing will be all right just before he plunges the blade in.

We learn that Christian and his mates are going to Sweden and Dani didn't know about it.  We watch as Dani does something that she does over and over.  She gives away all of her power out of fear of being left, abandoned.  For much of the film this will be her primary character trait.

That trait, and how she gets over it are what this film is about.  It's an empowerment story, really.

The next trick Aster plays comes when the group arrives in Sweden. It is important to talk about how Aster uses the camera.  He fools you with it by playing a lot of scenes slowly with a sedentary,  or nearly sedentary camera. We get static shots and gentle push-ins and we feel safe, then he does this

We get the now iconic The Shining style helicopter shot of a car traveling down a tree lined highway,  then the camera betrays us. We see the car slowly drive upwards across the screen until it is upside down and then, oh my god, we get the car's POV and unsettling isn't the word. This is wrong.  Like non-euclidean angles in a dining room or eyes in teeth. It fucks your understanding and how do you recover from that? Even worse, the road curves into upside down trees. This is terrorism.

We enter the village off our feet and feeling slightly drunk.

-Nathan Tyree