After months of anticipation, (some) of the cinematic world has finally gotten its first glimpse of “Midsommar.” One of 2019’s most anticipated indies, Ari Aster’s folk horror followup to “Hereditary” is being praised as a bold breakup film of epic perversion. In his IndieWire review, Eric Kohn writes that “Aster refashions ‘The Wicker Man’ as a perverse breakup movie, douses Swedish mythology in Bergmanesque despair, and sets the epic collage ablaze.”
After an early screening last night at Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse — held in tandem with similar screenings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Austin — Aster spoke about his journey to making the film and the unexpected influences he discovered along the way.
Aster first described meeting with a Swedish production company that pitched him “an ‘Americans going to Sweden and getting killed off’ concept.” He wasn’t interested in that idea at first, but eventually had a realization about its possibilities after going through a breakup. “I saw a way of marrying the breakup movie with the folk horror subgenre, and then kind of making this big, operatic breakup movie,” Aster said.
What made him set the film in Scandinavia, after rejecting the original pitch? It may have had something to do with his love of a certain Danish filmmaker. When asked a question about Lars von Trier’s approach to female characters, Aster said, “I really love Lars von Trier’s work, especially ‘Dogville.’ … Yeah, I said it.” While he praised the polarizing film, which features a woman hiding in a small town that ends up being more evil than the danger she was fleeing, it was not top of mind while filming.
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“‘Dogville’ is a very important film to me,” the filmmaker said. “I didn’t really see the connection between this and that film until recently. Film Comment asked me to write a very short piece on the film that affected me most, and I had to write about ‘Dogville.’ And as I was writing it I was like, ‘oh, shit, I must have at least inadvertently tried to make my “Dogville.”‘”
Aster has said that “Midsommar” will be his last horror film for the time being, but he’s certainly going out on a horrifying note. Combining personal subject matter with one of the daring director’s boldest films yet marks this as another example of Aster’s unique voice, who has managed to alternately charm and repel audiences with films like “Hereditary” and his breakout short “The Strange Thing About the Johnsons.”
While it remains to be seen if “Midsommar” will divide audiences like “Dogville,” Aster is following in von Trier’s footsteps as a highly ambitious filmmaker with a very strong stomach.
A24 opens “Midsommar” theatrically on July 3, 2019.