We are talking about Midsummer, Ari Aster's horror film that uses sunlight, Nordic traditions and the isolation of an idyllic community to disturb the viewer.

Midosmar by Ari Aster was released in theaters a month ago now, so we talk about it a bit late. However, we hope this short review will convince horror lovers who haven't seen this movie yet to get it back!

Popular traditions, Norse religion and history are issues dear to many of our favorite works. From role-playing games (Journey to Ragnarok), to the books (Vikings: Between History and Legend), even down to manga (Vinland saga), we have often spoken of works derived from Nordic culture. So let's see how Midsummer develop the theme of light and traditions of the passage of midsummer.

Left to right: William Jackson Harper (Josh), Will Poulter (Mark), Florence Pugh (Dani) and Jack Reynor (Christian)
Left to right: William Jackson Harper (Josh), Will Poulter (Mark), Florence Pugh (Dani) and Jack Reynor (Christian)

The plot of Midsummer

A beginning that does not seem very relevant, but that has its why

In the first scenes of the film, Dani (Florence Pugh) loses her entire family due to a bipolar sister's murder-suicide. This introduction to the character, apparently unrelated to the rest of the story, is instead deeply congruent with the development of subsequent events. The departure, in Dani's story, is the loss of what is dearest, the family in fact, and the script of the whole film will be able to lead the protagonist through the search for what she lost at the beginning.

The girl has a boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), student of anthropology, who, however, appears immediately vaguely detached from her. Dani seeks support from him after the traumatic event and this is heavy for the boy, who confesses with friends that the relationship has become too demanding. Dani is aware of all this and strives to stem his malaise while maintaining an attitude as rational and discreet as possible towards Christian.

When Leather (Vilhelm Blomgren), Christian's Swedish university colleague, invites him and their friends Mark (Will Poulter) e Josh (William Jackson Harper) to attend a midsummer party in his homeland, Dani is not invited. After the girl has found out, however, Christian finds himself obliged to invite her and she unexpectedly accepts.

You don't need dark and dark clothes when doing good horror
You don't need dark and dark clothes when doing good horror

The arrival in Hårga and the ritual suicide

The group then leaves for Scandinavia, headed to Harga, the commune of origin of Pelle, immersed in the nature of the Hälsingland region. The purpose of the holiday is not just recreational as the midsummer party has a anthropological interest, especially for Josh who wants to make it the subject of his thesis. Immediately before arriving in Hårga, they meet Pelle's brother, Ingend, which in turn brought two guests, Simon and Connie and who offers the group a hallucinogenic drug.

When they arrive at the town hall, the locals welcome everyone dressed in white, with floral decorations, and make them sit in a large wooden structure decorated with sexual themes.

The atmosphere of the place gradually becomes disturbing because the natives have a kindness to the new arrivals that hides other intentions.

After a collective meal, Dani, Christian and the other boys are brought to attend the suicide of an elderly couple that throw themselves off a cliff going to smash against a stone several meters below. The community does nothing to stop what is happening, rather it actively participates by reproducing the individual's moods. This attitude will prove to be a constant; the wound of one causes the lament of all, the first sexual intercourse of a girl implies the presence of other women, the death of an elderly person is for everyone a liberation from the sufferings of old age.

The theme of belonging to a family opens and closes Midsommar
The theme of belonging to a family opens and closes Midsummer

The division insinuates itself within the group

From this suicide rite, the will to leave the place is spreading among the group of new arrivals until they, Simon, disappears without leaving any message.

Gradually, Hårga and its rules take the place of pre-existing relationships, leading the boys to separate and divide. Initially Dani tries to avoid these rifts but almost unwittingly she gets closer to Pelle, who reveals to her that she has something very important in common with her: the loss of her family. Hårga welcomed him long before, making him a son of the whole community and giving him back the family he had lost.

The days pass and the atmosphere of Hårga becomes more and more intense. There are many i details of the place that the boys cannot explain and that attract and frighten them at the same time. The floral theme pervades everything as a celebration of summer, and the white of the clothes of the natives and of the light, an eternal light that never sets, becomes deafening, constant, obsessive.

The abuse of substances, the loss of the sense of time, the impossibility of leaving Hårga paint with increasing insistence a nightmare with eyes open from which Dani and the others cannot escape. All culminates during the dance competition, in which Dani is involved in spite of herself and during which her destiny is configured, in line with the scene of the beginning and with the fatal flaw of the character, masterfully declined throughout the film.

The midsommarstång in Midsommar
Il midsommarstång in Midsummer

The theme of light and Nordic traditions in Midsommar

Without a doubt, one of the most interesting choices of the film lies in the replace light in traditional darkness typical of the horror tradition, make it something more frightening and disturbing than the night. Moreover, those who have lived or even traveled to the north know that a perennial light can become unbearable, cause the loss of references, delay or prevent sleep, lead to confusion.

The way the film takes advantage of some elements of the is interesting popular Nordic tradition, using them and taking them to the extreme to create a unique and disturbing atmosphere. Midsummer in Swedish it means "midsummer", which is identified with the weekend at the end of June. On this occasion the feast is celebrated with banquets, songs and dances that revolve around the midsommarstång, a pole adorned with flowers. The stake is central to the film and its importance culminates in the dance competition scene, where all the action is pivoted. During this festival, the Swedes move away from the cities to move to nature, on the coasts or on the islands.

It is precisely this escape into nature, this departure of the city that provides the first step towards the nightmare of Midsummer for Dani and the other boys, a nightmare that manifests itself not in the darkness of the night but in the most pitiless northern light.