Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#51 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Sun Jul 07, 2019 7:18 am

I'll have to go back and rewatch Hereditary - anyway, I liked this quite a lot and felt the 2.5h running time zipped by. Most of the characters do dopey-as-shit things but I don't have too much of a problem accepting that e.g.
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When that Josh kid wakes up before every one, jeez I know your dissertation is important but you've seen so much weird shit so far that I would seriously have just got the hell outta there
.

The final shot is an interesting one -
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is it Dani accepting her situation, and accepting that the grief she's been feeling since her family tragedy has stopped?
Also re: the characters,
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did Pelle befriend them/choose them deliberately because they were arseholes. Dani coming along was a last minute addition - maybe she had a sense of resilience or strength the others didn't - and Pelle said he felt what she felt, maybe that's why she was so easily able to become the May Queen? I also wonder if Ingmar chose the two Brits for the same reason - though you didn't find out much about them"
Interesting about the Cries and Whispers influence (makes sense - Ingmar as the name of the brother). I'll have to go back and watch that too.

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Magic Hate Ball
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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#52 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:07 pm

I thought this was kind of disappointing. Very sparse in terms of character and conflict, particularly in the third act,
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which the characters spend most of out of their heads on mushrooms, which means the last forty or so minutes is like babysitting drunk people at a family gathering. The characters don't have much agency, and nothing they do seems to matter.
There just wasn't enough other stuff to fill out the movie. I appreciated Christian's character as a representation of how passive decisionmaking can be used as a form of control, and the genuine, if somewhat overbearing, sense of family the commune provided.
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Rather than deal with dumping him and trying to find her way in the difficult normal world, it's so much easier to burn her past and give herself up to a rigid, idyllic community that destroys individuality but offers lots of easy answers. In a way, her decisionmaking was just as passive - it comes down to literally making a live-or-die decision to finally decide that she's had enough of him. She's free! She doesn't have to be anyone now.
But there wasn't much that felt unexpected or fresh here. It gets to a level of vague anxiety and then stays there without ramping up or, really, paying off much, so after a while it kind of dissipated for me. Every time I felt some kind of "ah-ha!" about what was happening in the movie, it was like the movie shrugged and said "Yeah, I guess" and then moved on.

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warren oates
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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#53 Post by warren oates » Sun Jul 07, 2019 2:37 pm

I went to see this as a big fan of Hereditary. Midsommar certainly looks beautiful, has some good performances and moments of genuine creepiness and even dread. The story is fairly predictable, but not in a way that bothered me much. My main issue with the narrative is how dumb and unsustainable the antagonists' actions seem to be from the perspective of their own goals and motivations.
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It's 2019 and the commune lives somewhere that's supposedly off the grid in rural northern Sweden. And they're just going to kill 6 relatively well-off university students from other Western countries and imagine that no one will come looking for them? And not in a way that would quickly unravel their entire way of life forever? This kind of self and other sacrifice is apparently something they do every year. And yet even the number of cult members alone who must make the ultimate sacrifice -- at least 4 a year just for the summer solstice -- doesn't seem mathematically sustainable. How many people does the cult even have? What do we see in the film -- maybe like a hundred of them at most? Even if this summer ritual is the only one where they do with this kind of bloodletting, then they'd run through all the members who are currently alive in just 25 summers (well before most could make it to the lucky age of 72!). Assuming they could even reasonably reproduce at a rate high enough to just break even with those numbers, that still doesn't seem like optimal existence they'd want, or the one we're supposed to just unquestionably accept that they supposedly presently have.

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Luke M
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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#54 Post by Luke M » Sun Jul 07, 2019 4:35 pm

Magic Hate Ball wrote:I thought this was kind of disappointing. Very sparse in terms of character and conflict, particularly in the third act,
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which the characters spend most of out of their heads on mushrooms, which means the last forty or so minutes is like babysitting drunk people at a family gathering. The characters don't have much agency, and nothing they do seems to matter.
There just wasn't enough other stuff to fill out the movie. I appreciated Christian's character as a representation of how passive decisionmaking can be used as a form of control, and the genuine, if somewhat overbearing, sense of family the commune provided.
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Rather than deal with dumping him and trying to find her way in the difficult normal world, it's so much easier to burn her past and give herself up to a rigid, idyllic community that destroys individuality but offers lots of easy answers. In a way, her decisionmaking was just as passive - it comes down to literally making a live-or-die decision to finally decide that she's had enough of him. She's free! She doesn't have to be anyone now.
But there wasn't much that felt unexpected or fresh here. It gets to a level of vague anxiety and then stays there without ramping up or, really, paying off much, so after a while it kind of dissipated for me. Every time I felt some kind of "ah-ha!" about what was happening in the movie, it was like the movie shrugged and said "Yeah, I guess" and then moved on.
I agree with a lot of this. In regards to scenes/characters that didn't seem to matter. Example:
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They show Dani's parents and sister dead. No explanation ever given to any of this. But worse, it literally doesn't affect anything. They could cut that whole beginning scene out and Dani and the rest of the characters would be acting exactly the same. It has no impact on anything that comes after.
It's hard to forgive setting up things and then dropping them.

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Oedipax
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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#55 Post by Oedipax » Sun Jul 07, 2019 5:44 pm

Luke M wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2019 4:35 pm
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They show Dani's parents and sister dead. No explanation ever given to any of this. But worse, it literally doesn't affect anything. They could cut that whole beginning scene out and Dani and the rest of the characters would be acting exactly the same. It has no impact on anything that comes after.
It's hard to forgive setting up things and then dropping them.
I had a similar response to that section initially.
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I felt like there must be some connection between the sister/parents and the death cult that would be unraveled by the end, but then there's just... nothing? However, after thinking about it more, I think Aster is contrasting modern westernized life, with all its technological innovations and social media alienations, with the communal way of life practiced by the cult. Dani's sister (I'm somewhat unclear on whether the parents were in on it or not - I assume not, but why didn't they answer the phone when it was clear they were awake to hear it?) chooses to die out of desperation and pain, the mental anguish her bipolar depression has placed her in. Whereas in the cult, death is something chosen gladly and willingly not out of suffering but rather out of a sort of ecstatic joy, embracing death as a part of life, as a way of transcending the material here and now.

It's the same contrast Aster draws when in the opening, all we're seeing are Facebook messages, texts, emails, phone calls, etc - no one is talking to each other face to face, everyone is isolated, harboring secrets and unspoken sentiments, all working to deceive one another and keep the truth at bay. When they arrive at the commune, phones no longer work, and it's obvious that everyone in the cult knows much or all of what is going on above and beneath the surface of things. They have that sense of belonging, of being home, that is completely missing from the suburban purgatory or hell we catch a glimpse of in the beginning.
That having been said, I was a bit disappointed by this. I didn't find the characters and their behavior nearly as compelling as in Hereditary, and I thought the visual style/aesthetic felt very superficial after a while, it's a 'look,' a 'mood,' lots of slow pushes in with the camera and overcranked shots, but hardly all that expressive or attuned to the emotional and narrative beats of the film. It feels more like aesthetic autopilot, like falling back on the same 3 or 4 techniques over and over, in place of really searching for the best cinematic form in each sequence.

I'm glad A24 exists, but this felt excessively A24-y after a while - like I said, there's only so many slow pushes and drones and crisp, colorful yet muted, curated production design touches I can take before it starts to feel more like a well-executed national ad campaign or branding exercise, and not really cinema. It's the Tumblrization of aesthetics, applying disposable looks and easily replicated techniques to things like so many cheap Instagram filters. Aster's far from the only newer filmmaker I would level this criticism at; Robert Eggers sadly succumbs to a bit of this tendency as well in The Lighthouse, although I did like that film a good bit more than this one.

I know I'm not describing this very well, but this A24 house style functions a bit like the concept of the uncanny valley; it mimics greatness, and can be mistaken as such, but ultimately leaves one feeling a bit empty. It's the difference between filmmaking that arrives at its final form by way of necessity, through a natural outgrowth of a film's thematic concerns (as well as the practical/economic/technical limitations working in tension) versus something that is rather consciously chosen and layered over the top of this or that, a way of elevating and outfitting perhaps less-than-top-shelf material with the trimmings of far greater and more thoughtful art. It's an aesthetic shortcut, cinematic window dressing. To be clear, I don't think everything produced or acquired/distributed by them falls into this category, but there is definitely a kind of emerging visual brand in many of the films A24 gets involved with that I find worrisome.

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Big Ben
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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#56 Post by Big Ben » Sun Jul 07, 2019 8:50 pm

Luke M wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2019 4:35 pm
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They show Dani's parents and sister dead. No explanation ever given to any of this. But worse, it literally doesn't affect anything. They could cut that whole beginning scene out and Dani and the rest of the characters would be acting exactly the same. It has no impact on anything that comes after.
It's hard to forgive setting up things and then dropping them.
On that:
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I thought it was a reason for her to go to Sweden. Furthermore: The reaction from Christian and his friends is emotionally detached and frankly, cruel. This is no doubt one of many incidents that Dani has been subjected to. Even the person who appears genuine, Pelle, is gas-lighting her.
In regards to a certain scene in the end:
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I suppose I might be overthinking this but right before Dani discovers Christian have ritualistic sex in the building she begins to cry before she sees what he's doing. Am I thinking too much into it when I say she might have had an inclination of what he was doing already and that he might have done something similar before?
I've stated this on the previous page but Aster cut out about twenty minutes that he didn't really want to and that his first rough cut was three hours and forty five minutes. The intimation I got is that an even longer cut might happen some day. Perhaps a version with more footage down the line might address some folks' issues?

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#57 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jul 08, 2019 12:52 am

Big Ben wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2019 4:05 am
I am however uncertain of one specific thing, which is most certainly intentional:
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Christian, the boyfriend is the last sacrifice, but Aster deliberately cuts out Dani's response when asked which individual she wishes to see sacrificed. The question I have is how much of Dani's apparent satisfaction is because of her compromised mental state and how much of it is because of her desire to be accepted? I'm leaning heavily on the former here but I think there's some wiggle room there.
On the subject of the film itself:
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Really, ultimately I saw the film as a castigation against toxic men in relationships, particularly those who treat women poorly. Feminist is exactly the word I'd use to describe the film but the Pagan Sex Cult in this film isn't the only evil at play here.
thirtyframesasecond wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2019 7:18 am
The final shot is an interesting one -
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is it Dani accepting her situation, and accepting that the grief she's been feeling since her family tragedy has stopped?
Re: the ending
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I agree that it’s intentionally ambiguous, and I read all of these possibilities to some degree (compromised mental state, state of acceptance/catharsis of the relationship, or of finally being accepted/whisked away from individualistic America into a collective ‘utopia,’ etc.) but ultimately because I saw it all in completely metaphorical symbols for a toxic relationship none of the perceived flaws and very fair criticisms others have mentioned bothered me nor did I feel that she smiled for any of these reasons definitively. Rather the metaphor allows for all of this to be true- the power dynamics of the relationship have shifted, which, while we see events from her perspective and I can see all arguments for this being a feminist film clearly exposing toxic masculinity - which it is in part - it’s far more interesting I think to view it as about a toxic relationship in general but from predominantly her perspective. For example, when we see Christian having a bad trip as Dani is rising and leading the cult, we feel those power dynamics shifting from his POV, and while none of us particularly like him, Aster allows us to stay with him and feel his perceived solidified role become unbalanced choosing to shoot these scenes in a way to make us incredibly uncomfortable instead of fully remaining with Dani and vicariously enjoying any of these events that should bring catharsis but don’t. This also exposes another truth in that the process of shifting dynamics is always uncomfortable as transitions are occurring regardless of their benefits, and Dani is not comfortable in this role until that final shot.

Speaking of, I read the final shot/Dani’s smile in two ways. One is that she is finally having a moment of comfort in her new role, acceptance that the relationship ended, etc. (basically a combination of all the reasons listed by others and more). The catharsis occurs along with acceptance from outsiders and finally having a community to care for her, to scream back with her and share her pain. It makes sense for all of these things she’s lacked to symbolically occur together, and would also make sense for a ‘horror’/surrealistic tale to convey the mood since the process is so excruciating. This is of course based on buying into this catharsis coming from everything in the film as an allegory for Dani’s perceived lack of control and finally coming to terms with said control and overcoming it (through acceptance of the limitations of her control thus ending the pain of the relationship, or literally killing her bf, whichever you want to believe though I don’t think it matters).

The other way to view the ending is far darker: We see Dani smile against the backdrop of the Swedish cult members screaming in agony for their own collective members are in pain burning in the temple. She has been given this opportunity, this offering, a gift of a community, a collective to share with, who will care for her, with the primary rule being to surrender the individualist western cultural ideals and join this collective consciousness. However, what if Dani smiles and basks in her own selfish glee while the group is experiencing the most intense form of empathy, literally engaging in feeling others’ pain as Dani is relishing another’s pain as voyeur; their humble connective acts to her punishing godlike act? The first idea is that Dani is free from this pain and liberated via this harmonious energy she feels from the cult, whether this is real or not doesn’t matter: she achieves serenity through positive, supportive energy. The darker reading is that Dani rejects this energy/empathy, and her smile is devilish and more individualistic than ever. She has used the cult’s or god’s/earth’s (I feel like this can be viewed as metaphorically as mother!) energy and is now scoffing at it all. She has come out on top, and that rush comes not from a sense of love but from a sense of hate, reverting back to, and embracing, the narrow scope of western ideological worldviews that mirror the narrow scope of the mindset in the throes of a breakup. I like this ambiguity because in real life it can be both: we can feel positivity and love as well as vengeful hatred during these intense moments, and much like this film it’s often obvious, messy, and surreally dreamlike with situations that blindside us from our tunnel vision and lead to even more drastically unexpected emotional responses.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#58 Post by pianocrash » Mon Jul 08, 2019 1:14 pm

Oedipax wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2019 5:44 pm
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Dani's sister (I'm somewhat unclear on whether the parents were in on it or not - I assume not, but why didn't they answer the phone when it was clear they were awake to hear it?)...
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At that point, they were all already dead, with Dani's sister sending the email earlier in the evening/day.
I'll echo a majority of what's already been said, though the time did breeze past on account of Hester's overall command of imagery and soundtrack (the folk songs, whispered conversations, along with Bobby Krlic's/The Haxan Cloak's score), though the non-Halsingland character's motives were severely underwritten (to the point of their individual obvious fates), as was the logic of it all. Looking back now, the film is practically over by the time the first flowers appear on the entrance trail, and what follows feels more like a how-to ritual rather than an actual experience (or maybe I've been watching too much CreateTV lately). What only remains in the center is Pugh's character (the richest and loneliest and most human of all the performances), who, despite whatever twist on relationships the A24 PR dept is trying to spin on this cut of the film, really might as well have arrived alone and met a bunch of strangers six months after her personal tragedy. As it is, there is very little at stake here, which is a shame, though I'm certain that even the longest cut filled with even more poor writing and set-ups would ever be satisfying, either.

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Finch
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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#59 Post by Finch » Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:23 pm

I liked the film a lot though the most devastating and haunting scene comes in the American section.
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Especially the image of the sister sitting against the desk with the exhaust pipe taped to her mouth
is going to stay with me for a very long time. The film peaks again in the scene following the first dinner sequence and then it lost my interest for a while when it devotes time to the squabbling between Christian and Josh over their competing theses because it feels it's only there to set up a later plot development with the book Josh wants to take pictures of, presumably to make his thesis more valuable than Christian's, but really it feels very minor to what the film is really interested in, Florence Pugh's character's trauma. To that end I agree the film could have easily lost or combined a few characters and not been the poorer for it, and I think the film would have been more impacting still if it had taken any effort to portray Christian as more nuanced.

I also read Aster's comment about having to cut some 25 minutes as being very painful but while I like slow builds and thought the pacing was mostly well judged, I think a longer running time would have really pushed it. But I'd like to see those deleted scenes for sure. The interior one on one scene between Christian and the older woman kind of felt like it was meant to be longer so I wonder if one of the cuts occurred there.

The third act of the film is very out there and I felt it managed the escalation of dread better than Hereditary. The cinematography really helped with the shiny whites of the robes and they definitely pushed the reds in the last third (the seductress's crimson lips and her dress).

Worth seeing for Florence Pugh, the cinematography, that reveal in the US opening and the post-first dinner sequence. For me, a C+ (compared to a C- for Hereditary).

PS.: Liked the transition from the friend's house to the plane toilet. The only shot that struck me as overly showy for the sake of it was when they get to Sweden and the camera hovers above the car and then rotates to show the highway upside down.
Last edited by Finch on Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Luke M
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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#60 Post by Luke M » Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:32 pm


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mfunk9786
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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#61 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 11:53 pm

I'm on vacation and out of pocket, but LQ and I took some time out to see this (at a rather awesome Regal theater in Miami Beach, which had, among other things, certain screens limited to 21+ viewers), and I thought it was a massive step up from Hereditary and despite some issues with pace and plotting, was one of the more psychologically frightening films I've seen in a while. And the ending worked very nicely for me too - it's really a film, for me, about how isolating it is to never be put first in anyone's priorities - either because of someone else being the squeakier wheel, or because of inconsiderate neglect. I was delighted by the turn the story took, and some of the film's more graphic images will stick with me for a long time.

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Black Hat
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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#62 Post by Black Hat » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:38 pm

I'm with Luke, Brody and the other naysayers on this. It got off to a good enough start with some genuinely funny moments, but boy oh boy did this drag on. For what or why? I'm not sure anybody knows. I think sometimes people are so desperate for something mind blowing that they confuse competence and a few nice compositions for brilliance. In that way I totally understand the Chazelle comparison.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#63 Post by brundlefly » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:59 am

I’m in on Aster even though I don’t think he’ll ever check all the boxes for me. Because he’s got shrewd, unpredictable ways of getting at raw feelings and plies a patchwork of influences and objects engaging/amusing/distracting enough to make you think there’s more going on than there probably is. So there’s some substance, and some showmanship, and then a pile of things at which he’s just not good.
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Midsommar happily offers two metaphors for itself: The over-tangled hosework that figures in Dani’s family’s suicide/murder and the giant cliff the movie throws itself over.

Aster errs toward klutzy overcomplication. The layers of art trotted out on-screen, the cute Easter eggery. The weird extra plot-steps that light up the minds of conspiracy theorists and the corners of the internet where people insist the numbers on Lost added up to anything, but alienate and confuse everyone else. A conclusive ambiguity. As if your cinematic world seems more complete when your reborn daemon (or whatever) has to take the scenic route to its new body and gather enough decapitated bodies for bridge, or if your festival headliner requires nine (nine!) sacrifices and that they all wear the correct hat. In my day, they were sated with a single Edward Woodward.

Ain’t no one in an Ari Aster film gonna have their throat slit by Occam’s razor.

The first hour – I guess the long first act – of Midsommar hummed along for me. Even if in retrospect it introduces the thinness of the characters (and the richness of their fine art collections), Pugh feels so hard she earns the American portion its place. As much as Dani’s boyfriend is both romantically and dramatically a poor match and lame dude – I wish they had cast someone who did more than look like Chris Pratt, someone who had some semblance of charm so that the slow burble of assholery was a more shocking/dangerous/satisfying – Dani is also a nightmare of a woman in a nightmare situation. Even before the tragedy, she has a cabinet full of prescriptions, has a therapist, has worn out all the friends in her phone. Watching her negotiate her neediness to keep the milquetoast bf within reach without provoking confrontation is an amazing tug-and-pull. Pugh is so good that when Aster does the formal distancing things of posing characters together/not together (reflections in the full-length mirror, the TV) they’re crass and unnecessary. Events and the performance have effectively isolated Dani.

Another frustrating thing about Aster is that his agenda trumps the strengths his films have had to offer. Hereditary systematically eliminated its most interesting presences. And Midsommar is a movie that should stay with Dani’s POV and keep Pugh in almost every shot. But after the cliff dive, there are jarring, uninteresting sections away from her. The movie is too long. (I know. I’m sympathetic to the problem, but it’s a problem.) Lopping off all the non-Dani stuff would pare down obviousness and redundancies (pubic hair as ingredient in witchcraft gets at least four mentions, only the last one a lol) and help everyone seem less stupid. If ancillary characters started disappearing without explanation, in the background, while the leads were being typically selfish/antagonizing their relationship/watching some amazing pagan gobbledygook? It would be more spell-like, it would flesh out the characters about which we’re supposed to care, and/or we’d get more amazing pagan gobbledygook.

And Sweden is often amazing. The randomness of a bear or a walk-through “new guy,” the unlikelihood of perpetual recorder-players, instant multilingualism, houses that seem to have sprung out of the grasses for a single scene. But after the movie went over the cliff, the characters’ reactions revealed them to be extra dumb. All bickering about theses and truck rides. Started stumbling into leftover props from Hannibal. I got to wondering which make-up person got to dab not-Pratt’s dong with fake virginal blood. Had to fight to not cry out, “BUT I’M ALLERGIC!” when we first saw Dani in her May Queen mummery.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#64 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 10, 2019 10:34 am

Mfunk, I'm with you (except for it being massively better than Heriditary; not sure where I place them relatively). For me, Aster is an excellent writer and director of dramatic action, especially the more difficult forms of trauma and grief. Midsommar for me is the realization of a specific kind of unhealthy one-sided relationship, a very subtle and well understood realization, too. This builds more widely into the theme of how people are not there for each other when they should be, how the necessity of support is treated like a shameful burden only accepted unwillingly. Speaking of which: I take great issue with brundlefly's post above.
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brundlefly wrote:Dani is also a nightmare of a woman in a nightmare situation. Even before the tragedy, she has a cabinet full of prescriptions, has a therapist, has worn out all the friends in her phone. Watching her negotiate her neediness to keep the milquetoast bf within reach without provoking confrontation is an amazing tug-and-pull.
Are you serious? This sounds like the perspective of the bf's doofus friends. How unsympathetic do you have to be to consider someone a nightmare for having a therapist and a prescription for an anti-anxiety med (adavan)? Like, what, how dare she be seeking help for the worry that her bi-polar sister puts her through? She's managing pretty well, it seems to me, with her neediness (and anxiety over said neediness) being entirely the result of her boyfriend. Who wouldn't be insecure if the reaction one gets to a basic request for support in a trying time is endless weary sighs over the phone? There isn't a single request she makes that's unreasonable or asking too much, and yet her boyfriend's eternal response is to treat her as a needy, smothering, crazy burden who ought to know better. He's a terrible boyfriend, but he makes her feel like she is the problem.

Watching Dani be forced to manage her boyfriend's emotions when she is the one going through difficult times is heartbreaking. Just look at their argument following the party. She had to find out he was going to Sweden through his friends just a few days before the trip. When she brings this up in a reasonable and non-confrontational way, it’s not long before he’s holding his presence in the room hostage and making her apologize. It's childish and manipulative behaviour. There is an ellipsis in which he has plainly wormed his way out of the argument by inviting her along, and then we see him pull a similarly childish trick with his friends, showing up to announce he's invited her. He keeps mumbling "But she's not coming" even tho' it's pretty clear when they question him that she is indeed coming. So not only does he just dump things on his friends without telling them, he can't even really take responsibility for it, both pretending the reality doesn't exist ("She's not coming." "Did she say she was coming?" "Yes, but she's not coming.") and weakly pretending like the responsibility lies with her for accepting rather than him for inviting.

This carries over into the shrooms scene. It's clear Dani declines for personal reasons but does not want to stop anyone else, boyfriend included. Overall she is alert to her third-wheel status and wary of disrupting group dynamics, not least because her boyfriend is always making her feel like needy female ruining the fun. Yet even tho' she hasn't acted like she expects him to decline with her, her boyfriend hangs his head and with an air of long-suffering disappointment declines too, screwing up his friends' plans since they'll be tripping at different times. By treating her action as tho' it came with unstated obligations, he has both shouldered her with responsibility for his choice and forced her once again to suppress her needs in order to stage manage everyone else's emotions. So she takes the shrooms so everyone else will be happy and has a bad trip that sends her running into the forest alone. Her boyfriend never even asks how she is when they find her later. Her boyfriend's cowardice and childishness, his inability to be open and honest about what he wants constantly puts her in situations of having to suppress her own needs to stage manage his needs and emotions and extricate herself from villain-roles she finds herself unfairly stuffed in.

This goes on and on in the movie, with the boyfriend's cowardice even causing problems with his friends. The film finds a genre metaphor for it, too. In a pagan or witchcraft movie, there is usually a target of spells, charms, and manipulations who is lead into something horrible. Here, that manipulated party is the person whose defining characteristic in the narrative is his weakness and cowardice, his need to follow other people's paths, inability to make his own decisions and stand by them--a man who can't assert what he wants, often doesn't even know what he wants, and blames everything on others.

He is the evil spirit to be purged, the totem of blackness in the world, dressed as the bear. And when he dies, the community performs his pain, willfully sharing the emotions even of someone who treated other people's emotions as burdens to escape from, when he noticed them at all. No wonder Dani stays in the community--it's horrific, but she's found support.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#65 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:10 pm

Great post, Sausage! I'm with you on this 100%.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#66 Post by brundlefly » Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:14 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 10:34 am
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Are you serious? This sounds like the perspective of the bf's doofus friends. How unsympathetic do you have to be to consider someone a nightmare for having a therapist and a prescription for an anti-anxiety med (adavan)? Like, what, how dare she be seeking help for the worry that her bi-polar sister puts her through? She's managing pretty well, it seems to me, with her neediness (and anxiety over said neediness) being entirely the result of her boyfriend. Who wouldn't be insecure if the reaction one gets to a basic request for support in a trying time is endless weary sighs over the phone? There isn't a single request she makes that's unreasonable or asking too much, and yet her boyfriend's eternal response is to treat her as a needy, smothering, crazy burden who ought to know better. He's a terrible boyfriend, but he makes her feel like she is the problem.

Watching Dani be forced to manage her boyfriend's emotions when she is the one going through difficult times is heartbreaking. Just look at their argument following the party. She had to find out he was going to Sweden through his friends just a few days before the trip. When she brings this up in a reasonable and non-confrontational way, it’s not long before he’s holding his presence in the room hostage and making her apologize. It's childish and manipulative behaviour. There is an ellipsis in which he has plainly wormed his way out of the argument by inviting her along, and then we see him pull a similarly childish trick with his friends, showing up to announce he's invited her. He keeps mumbling "But she's not coming" even tho' it's pretty clear when they question him that she is indeed coming. So not only does he just dump things on his friends without telling them, he can't even really take responsibility for it, both pretending the reality doesn't exist ("She's not coming." "Did she say she was coming?" "Yes, but she's not coming.") and weakly pretending like the responsibility lies with her for accepting rather than him for inviting.

This carries over into the shrooms scene. It's clear Dani declines for personal reasons but does not want to stop anyone else, boyfriend included. Overall she is alert to her third-wheel status and wary of disrupting group dynamics, not least because her boyfriend is always making her feel like needy female ruining the fun. Yet even tho' she hasn't acted like she expects him to decline with her, her boyfriend hangs his head and with an air of long-suffering disappointment declines too, screwing up his friends' plans since they'll be tripping at different times. By treating her action as tho' it came with unstated obligations, he has both shouldered her with responsibility for his choice and forced her once again to suppress her needs in order to stage manage everyone else's emotions. So she takes the shrooms so everyone else will be happy and has a bad trip that sends her running into the forest alone. Her boyfriend never even asks how she is when they find her later. Her boyfriend's cowardice and childishness, his inability to be open and honest about what he wants constantly puts her in situations of having to suppress her own needs to stage manage his needs and emotions and extricate herself from villain-roles she finds herself unfairly stuffed in.

This goes on and on in the movie, with the boyfriend's cowardice even causing problems with his friends. The film finds a genre metaphor for it, too. In a pagan or witchcraft movie, there is usually a target of spells, charms, and manipulations who is lead into something horrible. Here, that manipulated party is the person whose defining characteristic in the narrative is his weakness and cowardice, his need to follow other people's paths, inability to make his own decisions and stand by them--a man who can't assert what he wants, often doesn't even know what he wants, and blames everything on others.

He is the evil spirit to be purged, the totem of blackness in the world, dressed as the bear. And when he dies, the community performs his pain, willfully sharing the emotions even of someone who treated other people's emotions as burdens to escape from, when he noticed them at all. No wonder Dani stays in the community--it's horrific, but she's found support.
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What you said, absolutely, and certainly as much as the film is from her perspective (as it should be, and withers when it isn't) he's the problem and the one the movie solves. Like I mentioned, Pugh is so, so good at doing that awkward negotiation of expressing a need and then backing off. Heartbreaking. I would never blame her for her family tragedies, and I certainly wouldn't go to bat for his character except to say that he's a college kid (albeit a directionless post-grad) not just terrible at making any firm decision but ill-equipped to do so. He is a limp, incapable crutch. But we don't see her lean anywhere else. There's a single frantic phone call to a friend, the mention of a therapist. Sorta-laughs at the cliche that she's majoring in psychology because she's crazy. I saw a whole cabinet of prescriptions there, not just the bottle in the close-up. (Also, the community starts performing pain when Ingmar and the other volunteer start going voof; I suspect it's more about feeling their brothers and sisters than getting in touch with ol' Smokey.) She has a lot to deal with and is a lot to deal with if you're not strong and dedicated enough to wail with her. She called him, what did they say, four times while she was waiting to hear back from the DM she sent her sister? While he wants out so much that he doesn't just not want to be with her, he wants to be in Sweden. But he also can't stop making feeble attempts at being the good boyfriend he's not. Maybe he's spent four years trying to get her to break up with him. He's terrible, and for someone so non-committal, she's a nightmare.

So it's great for her, as Pelle predicts, to jet over to a matriarchal wonderland where men don frocks and talk of getting in touch with their inner hermaphrodite. She's empowered, she rules, there. She's the hero because she's the one who makes the call to burn the relationship to the ground, chooses herself by choosing him. Except we have zero idea if she stays in the community, do we? Was there a post-credits bumper I missed? Because if not, In that final shot, she's not even part of the community. What I saw was a whole town feeling the pain of sacrifice while Dani beamed at her freedom (or maybe even his suffering.) And even if she does choose to stay with the "horrific" people who gutted and defaced and strung up all the interlopers... not exactly what I'd describe as "managing pretty well."

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#67 Post by Black Hat » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:03 pm

Sausage could you elaborate on what you mean by subtle? I could largely see where you're coming from and agree with what you felt the film was about as well as Dani's evolution, but I'm surprised to hear you describe the film as subtle. I also don't think it executed what it's like to be in a one sided relationship all that well. In fact I'm not sure the humor, tho enjoyable, helped get at the psychosis of what it's like to be in that position. I felt it actually turned us away as just like in life the humor worked as a defense mechanism. Perhaps this was the point and in part what you mean when you described it as 'well understood', but to me a lack of subtlety usually indicates a lack of understanding or unwillingness to really get at the root of an issue. Admittedly I may be bringing my own baggage into my views on the film as my last relationship was one sided. Practically everything you wrote about Dani applies to me so maybe I'm the one who is unwilling to go deeper, as a year on I'm still working thru it, but I suppose whether we realize it or not we all bring something of our own trajectory into our opinions.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#68 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:39 pm

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Dani displays some pretty flagrant codependency. Both are people who need to take more responsibility, which is why the codependency is allowed to continue in the first place - Christian isn't obligated to be her therapist, but instead of breaking up with her he puts the onus on her by cutting himself off and being (or continuing to be) a dickbag, presumably hoping that she'll fold first and break it off. Passive sabotage is easier than facing the consequences of telling somebody it's over. Dani's codependence is a key element in the ending's irony - not only does she smile, meaning that she's feeling selfish joy rather than the mutual pain of sacrifice the others in the village are expressing - but she's also joining a community that's essentially entirely codependent.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#69 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:26 pm

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Magic Hate Ball wrote:Dani displays some pretty flagrant codependency. Both are people who need to take more responsibility, which is why the codependency is allowed to continue in the first place - Christian isn't obligated to be her therapist
Dani does not display any codependent behaviour. She displays the opposite on numerous occasions.

The simplest and clearest example: whenever she has a panic attack, she goes off on her own (to the bathroom, to the woods, etc.). A codependent person would announce it.

Another is how she begins their argument by saying she is ok with him going to Sweden without her but not ok that he was keeping the decision a secret. If she were codependent, this is not the position she would've taken because him leaving her would be the major stressor and point of focus. It's Christian who keeps willfully misinterpreting her position, forcing her to reaffirm several times it's not about the trip but the way he handled it.

Another is how she does not want to take the shrooms but encourages him to do so. He treats her as tho' she's trying to get him to abstain as well, but we can see that she isn't, most especially because, were she codependent, she'd already have gotten what she wanted when he said no. She would not have reversed her decision to make sure he didn't sabotage his and his friends' fun. She is managing his emotions, and that's unhealthy, but he has put her in that position, has eroded her trust in herself, so I won't be critical about her. Her problem is that, because she is so agreeable and willing to believe she could be in the wrong, she cannot see how awful his behaviour is, tho' she eventually does.

She doesn't treat her boyfriend as her therapist, either, that's just absurd. She very reasonably wants support and understanding in situations that are objectively difficult and stressful. It's unbelievable how female expressions of need are so often read negatively. I'm unhappy to see that happening here too. SOme people seem to be adopting precisely what's being critiqued: the skewed pov of Christian and his friends.
Magic Hate Ball wrote:but she's also joining a community that's essentially entirely codependent.
Communities by definition require people depend on each other. I don't think you understand the terminology you're using. Codependency in a community, to guess at how you're using the term (and it is very weird to see it applied to a community), would have to be extreme, where no member was allowed their own individual identity, individual role in the community, or any choice in what happens. Even with that definition of codependency, the community is does not fit the definition.

The actual irony as I see it is that this awful community of murderers is far more emotionally available and supportive than those they are victimizing.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#70 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:54 pm

Black Hat wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:03 pm
Sausage could you elaborate on what you mean by subtle? I could largely see where you're coming from and agree with what you felt the film was about as well as Dani's evolution, but I'm surprised to hear you describe the film as subtle. I also don't think it executed what it's like to be in a one sided relationship all that well. In fact I'm not sure the humor, tho enjoyable, helped get at the psychosis of what it's like to be in that position. I felt it actually turned us away as just like in life the humor worked as a defense mechanism. Perhaps this was the point and in part what you mean when you described it as 'well understood', but to me a lack of subtlety usually indicates a lack of understanding or unwillingness to really get at the root of an issue. Admittedly I may be bringing my own baggage into my views on the film as my last relationship was one sided. Practically everything you wrote about Dani applies to me so maybe I'm the one who is unwilling to go deeper, as a year on I'm still working thru it, but I suppose whether we realize it or not we all bring something of our own trajectory into our opinions.
By subtle I don't mean, say, hidden or not apparent. I mean the movie is depicting a one-sided, unhealthy situation not at an extreme. There isn't psychosis involved because it's not that bad. It's not an abusive relationship. The the unhealthiness and one-sidedness is of the more subtle kind and involves smaller emotions, minor moments, patterns of behaviour rather than large blow outs. These are subtle things in life that are easily misread or go unnoticed. So, yes, Aster makes all of them apparent in his movie, but this is because he's is trying to make them clearer, more understandable, to bring this issue to the open. It's very well observed in how it does it.

I'm very sorry to hear you went through something like that, but I suspect you had it worse than Dani.
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brundlefly wrote: What you said, absolutely, and certainly as much as the film is from her perspective (as it should be, and withers when it isn't) he's the problem and the one the movie solves. Like I mentioned, Pugh is so, so good at doing that awkward negotiation of expressing a need and then backing off. Heartbreaking. I would never blame her for her family tragedies, and I certainly wouldn't go to bat for his character except to say that he's a college kid (albeit a directionless post-grad) not just terrible at making any firm decision but ill-equipped to do so. He is a limp, incapable crutch. But we don't see her lean anywhere else. There's a single frantic phone call to a friend, the mention of a therapist. Sorta-laughs at the cliche that she's majoring in psychology because she's crazy. I saw a whole cabinet of prescriptions there, not just the bottle in the close-up. (Also, the community starts performing pain when Ingmar and the other volunteer start going voof; I suspect it's more about feeling their brothers and sisters than getting in touch with ol' Smokey.) She has a lot to deal with and is a lot to deal with if you're not strong and dedicated enough to wail with her. She called him, what did they say, four times while she was waiting to hear back from the DM she sent her sister? While he wants out so much that he doesn't just not want to be with her, he wants to be in Sweden. But he also can't stop making feeble attempts at being the good boyfriend he's not. Maybe he's spent four years trying to get her to break up with him. He's terrible, and for someone so non-committal, she's a nightmare.
Except she isn't a nightmare in the way you say. Where does she freak out at Christian over nothing? Where does she make unreasonable demands? She calls him four times, but in a time of objective crisis. Her sister is the nightmare. Dani is doing the best she can to manage, and is doing a good job. She seeks help, uses support systems, is engaged--everything one ought to do. There's just a weak link in that, the boyfriend. If she's such a nightmare, where's the nightmarish behaviour? Running to the bathroom by herself when she has panic attacks? Being conciliatory and attuned to other people's emotions? Freaking out when she can't get ahold of her family when her bipolar sister threatens to kill herself and them? I mean, christ, Dani's so easily calmed down with just the slightest reassurance. She doesn't ratchet up, refuse help, go nuclear; she maintains control, she becomes calmer, she makes jokes at her own expense (ie. shows self-awareness and insight). She feels more stable with just a little effort on the other person's behalf. The friend does a good job at this; the boyfriend, well, he does it, but he makes her feel like shit for needing it, too.
brundlefly wrote:So it's great for her, as Pelle predicts, to jet over to a matriarchal wonderland where men don frocks and talk of getting in touch with their inner hermaphrodite. She's empowered, she rules, there. She's the hero because she's the one who makes the call to burn the relationship to the ground, chooses herself by choosing him. Except we have zero idea if she stays in the community, do we? Was there a post-credits bumper I missed? Because if not, In that final shot, she's not even part of the community. What I saw was a whole town feeling the pain of sacrifice while Dani beamed at her freedom (or maybe even his suffering.) And even if she does choose to stay with the "horrific" people who gutted and defaced and strung up all the interlopers... not exactly what I'd describe as "managing pretty well."
Dunno what she does after the final scene. I should've said "joins the community in their performance", which is more what I meant. Also, I remember her crying and performing the pain along with them, with an exuberant expression because she feels supported, vindicated, and part of a positive emotional experience (as the community would have it) rather than the subject of a negative one.

Dani is fine. Her boyfriend is the weak link.

I think you're reading too much the lack of evidence. We don't see her friends, but this is a compressed view we're getting. It doesn't mean anything.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#71 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:16 pm

Some of these reactions to the characterization of Dani is leading me to believe that this movie is serving a higher purpose than I initially thought, although perhaps the message isn't seeping in quite as well as Aster would've hoped.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#72 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:28 pm

What's odd is that, despite ample evidence otherwise, some people are treating Dani's behaviour as if it were a reaction to normal, supportive behaviour from her boyfriend. If it were, they might have a point. But it's not.

If someone is needy and insecure when everything's fine and people are supportive, they have deep personal and emotional issues. When someone's needy and insecure because their loved ones keep pulling away unaccountably, refuse support, make the person feel like a burden, all while implying (or worse) it's the other person's fault, that it's all in their head, they're out of control--the person should feel needy and insecure. That's the understandable reaction.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#73 Post by Black Hat » Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:38 pm

Magic Hate Ball:
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Flagrant is a great word to describe what went on. She ultimately replaced Christian with the cult so the break up/feminist/empowerment themes many are reading into the film are dubious to say the least as she's left in an even more toxic relationship, with less moral standing to boot.
The film was also such a hackneyed commentary on religion that in the words of Stephen A Smith I think the film's fans declaring its intelligence have been "Hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray and flat out deceived".

Mr Sausage wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:26 pm
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Magic Hate Ball wrote:Dani displays some pretty flagrant codependency. Both are people who need to take more responsibility, which is why the codependency is allowed to continue in the first place - Christian isn't obligated to be her therapist
Dani does not display any codependent behaviour. She displays the opposite on numerous occasions.

The simplest and clearest example: whenever she has a panic attack, she goes off on her own (to the bathroom, to the woods, etc.). A codependent person would announce it.

Her problem is that she cannot see how awful his behaviour is, tho' she eventually does.
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I think it's wrong here to dismiss codependency. As I'm sure you're aware codependency as with any psychological/behavioral disorder is very broad in definition and exists in many different forms so just because someone doesn't announce having a panic attack or the other examples you cite doesn't mean they are not codependent. Beyond being a personality type it can also be a sense of self pushed on to you which can be ephemeral in nature and outsourced, meaning that in this case I don't see Dani realizing how awful Christian was at all. What I saw was a person replacing one dependency with the stronger pull of another as its only when her emptiness is fulfilled and fear alleviated by the cult that she is able to let Christian go. After all a "Queen' is nothing if not dependent on her subjects.
Mr Sausage wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:54 pm
By subtle I don't mean, say, hidden or not apparent. I mean the movie is depicting a one-sided, unhealthy situation not at an extreme. There isn't psychosis involved because it's not that bad. It's not an abusive relationship. The the unhealthiness and one-sidedness is of the more subtle kind and involves smaller emotions, minor moments, patterns of behaviour rather than large blow outs. These are subtle things in life that are easily misread or go unnoticed. So, yes, Aster makes all of them apparent in his movie, but this is because he's is trying to make them clearer, more understandable, to bring this issue to the open. It's very well observed in how it does it.

I'm very sorry to hear you went through something like that, but I suspect you had it worse than Dani.
This makes a lot more sense to me now, thank you for the clarification. I also appreciate the sentiment and your hunch would be correct. I do wonder tho what would constitute an extreme? Can't patterns of behavior that don't result in large blow outs be abusive? Be that bad? In my case there wasn't anything spectacular or that I'd characterize as singularly abusive, but there was this steady pricking or slow drilling of diminishment into my personhood that by the end left me unrecognizable. I didn't just need to receive or moreover regain validation, I was obsessed with it. Obviously I was never going to receive what I craved, but what really emptied my tank was going wholly unnoticed which as you alluded to earlier with Dani led to me then becoming a burden whenever I tried to express anything. Before it got too late, with the help of friends I snapped back into myself and got away while expressing my disgust with how I was treated, but I don't believe people like that care. I think once you become a burden, if you manage to get away, the other person feels relief. I think the film danced around this concept a little, but would have been far more interesting if it explored this direction.
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I think the revenge ending was entirely wrong.
It's interesting the more I consider your take on the film, as well as the film's themes which I can't really argue against I feel like I should have liked this film a lot more, but ultimately I guess it didn't ring true for me. What I feel now is that this is a Tarantino type take on this kind of relationship, smart at times, professional, kinda fun, humorous, but ultimately not all that it could have been.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#74 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:30 pm

Black Hat wrote:I do wonder tho what would constitute an extreme? Can't patterns of behavior that don't result in large blow outs be abusive? Be that bad? In my case there wasn't anything spectacular or that I'd characterize as singularly abusive, but there was this steady pricking or slow drilling of diminishment into my personhood that by the end left me unrecognizable. I didn't just need to receive or moreover regain validation, I was obsessed with it. Obviously I was never going to receive what I craved, but what really emptied my tank was going wholly unnoticed which as you alluded to earlier with Dani led to me then becoming a burden whenever I tried to express anything. Before it got too late, with the help of friends I snapped back into myself and got away while expressing my disgust with how I was treated, but I don't believe people like that care. I think once you become a burden, if you manage to get away, the other person feels relief. I think the film danced around this concept a little, but would have been far more interesting if it explored this direction.
Yes, patterns of behaviour that don't result in large blow outs can be abusive, can be that bad, etc. They're just more subtle kinds.

I don't think the movie was depicting an abusive relationship. I suppose the relationship could've become abusive, but I suspect it wouldn't have because the boyfriend had his foot half out the door and one or the other of them would've ended things before it got there. But who knows.


Also, I think people are treating the cult too literally. The pagan ritual plot is working as a metaphor (or some figurative structure at least), there to explore certain types of emotional experience, much as in Hereditary. I don't see the point of reading philosophical or religious concepts into it. The film is far more interested in exploring the intersection of family, community, and emotional support in the context of loss and trauma. It's taking an idyllic tho' extreme form of healing through support, sacrifice, purgation, and sychronizing oneself with natural cycles and contrasting it to a modern reality of disconnection, withdrawal, irresponsibility, and inadequate emotional support. As in Hereditary, this is a film about family in its most difficult emotional terms, explored using the heightened emotional landscape that horror tropes allow for.

The specifics of the horror story are just conventions working as a vehicle for the emotional and thematic meat of the story. This is about paganism on a surface level only.

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Re: Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

#75 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:39 pm

Sausage, the distinction you point out re: whether the relationship in the film is abusive is one of the things that made it so satisfying for me:
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If that ending were just "woman gets back at her abuser" it would have felt rote, but the fact that this was just a wishy-washy, emotionally neglectful clown getting his comeuppance is a lot more morally shaky and in keeping with the dark comedic tone of the whole film. This isn't someone who entirely deserves his fate, but he deserves it more than that other guy who Dani doesn't know from a hole in the wall.

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