Midsommar ★★★★

*Director's Cut*

Described by our director as a fairy-tale breakup movie that wasn't influenced by The Wicker Man, the extra 22 minutes here make that sentiment a bit less ridiculous. There's a few scenes of value concerning the cult added, as well as at least one essential Dani/Christian scene that leaves no doubt about his character. Much of the rest blends, as it should.

As someone who can freely admit they were influenced by The Wicker Man, Midsommar's biggest strength is how environmentally legitimate the commume is. The camera and set design do wonders, coming off like a place you could map out or walk around in. The 73' film is both heightened and weakened by its scope, staying centered around the lead while neglecting to show much of how the island functions. Aster knows horror fans are coming in with that work of immediate reference, so he drops the conceit of any mystery to frame the cult purely as study objects, just as our leads are to us. There's a definite symbiotic mirroring of performance/culture/education that's even more apparent on this viewing. How their birth/rebirth clashes with ours, what relationships mean to us compared to how they develop in the cult, the performances we put on for people - fake or obfuscated - versus a culture that's completely open while at the same time closed off and systematic. Even the stages of life where they learn or work, a total 360 from these abrasive young people walking onto a foreign land. It's great stuff.

The problem, still, is the length. It's strange, because when I think about what to trim or could be cut, there's very little that I would. So much of this works because of how lived in the world feels, how we meander through it. You trim a certain shot, it loses something by nature of how precise everything is. At the same time, the cast is so believable that I wouldn't cut any of their conflicts either. The camera focuses on Dani in the backseat early on, with a piece from the score piercing through the guys chatting about girls. It's reminiscent of The Border scene from Sicario, only Dani has no clue about the hell she's about to get into. Even the little things are effective, as they have to be to go with the flow of it.

There's a masterpiece in here somewhere, I just don't know if it's in the lack of commitment to genre, or the editing room. Very much a stream of energy movie that I'll revisit many times over the years.

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