Director Ari Aster crafted an incredibly specific horror film with Midsommar, pulling from ancient Swedish traditions and myths alike to transform a sunny village into a dark cult. It also explores the topic of grief from an interesting angle, centering Florence Pugh in a star-making role, which makes it a worthy follow-up to last year's Hereditary. Screen Rant discussed the themes of the film and the weight of Dani's story with Aster and actor Jack Reynor, who plays her well-meaning but ultimately frustrating boyfriend Christian.
Congratulations on Midsommar, it was an amazing film. Ari, I was especially amazed by how you took Swedish pagan traditions and used them to tell the story of a toxic relationship. What was it that inspired you to research Swedish culture in the first place?
Ari Aster: The fact that I was not so mired in it to begin with made it necessary. I grew up loving Swedish films – Bergman and Bo Widerberg and Jan Troell. Beyond that, I sort of just dove in and found anything that was useful for the story, and anything that wasn’t I kind of went elsewhere. It’s a mix of research and invention.
Jack, you and Florence did an amazing job of portraying a lived-in relationship that’s also falling apart. You had moments of sweetness followed by estrangement, and they both felt really natural. How did you guys work together to make that synergy happen?
Jack Reynor: Florence and I are really good friends, and there is a lot of warmth between the two of us. So that’s kind of exists behind the performance onscreen, you know? Which was great to have, obviously. I think if it had been somebody who I didn’t like, I don’t know if we would have been able to achieve that. But prior to principal photography, we spent the week having really in-depth conversations about the characters and about the nature of a relationship like this. And we did a little bit of improv and stuff as well, which was illuminating and informative for us. So we kind of brought that stuff to the table.
Also, to watch Florence for two months sustaining such a heavy [role], to occupy such a heavy mental space – I mean, she put everything into it. To stand there and to watch her playing a character that was hurting so badly, and to see her so invested in it and really feeling it, was difficult. I think that for me to watch that allowed me to develop some more texture for my whole character. If it feels like there’s authenticity in the performance, and that you can feel as you say it’s a lived-in relationship that’s falling apart, it’s largely due to that.
Wow. It also seems like there’s an undercurrent of racism or xenophobia in the story, in terms of how the way that Connie, Josh and Simon are treated is different from the way that Dani and Christian are – even if the end result is one. So what was it you wanted to say with that? Was that a conscious choice you made?
Ari Aster: That was a very conscious choice, and I tried to sort of weave a lot of things into the periphery of the film. I think it’s there, and I’m reluctant to be too explicit about it. But it is there, and I’m glad you noticed that, and it’s a very important part of the film.