Midsommar: Ari Aster’s Folk Horror, Follow-Up to Hereditary

The entrepreneurial company A24 hopes that Ari Aster’s horror movie Midsommar, which opens July 3, will succeed in this tough climate for indies in the marketplace.

Last summer, Aster’s feature debut Hereditary, starring Toni Collette and Ann Dowd, became a sleeper, earning over $44 million domestically for the distributor on a $10 million budget.

Midsommar stars Florence Pugh as grief-stricken femme Dani, who is forced to deal with a flailing relationship with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor).

Will Poulter (“We’re the Millers”) and William Jackson Harper (“The Good Place”) round out the cast as friends who travel with the couple to the fictional Swedish town of Hårga.

Aster described the genre as “folk horror,” placing his feature in the same company as “The Wicker Man,” and more recently “The Witch,” all narratives placed within pagan traditions.

Origins of “Midsommar?”
Aster: I was sort of going through a breakup at the time and piecing through the ruins of a failed relationship. I’d wanted to write a breakup movie before, but I could never find an angle that felt interesting and didn’t feel like a mopey, kitchen sink drama. But then I was approached by a Swedish production company that read “Hereditary,” and they said that they wanted me to write a folk horror film set in Sweden. We found that the framework of the folk horror movie was kind of perfect for a story about a relationship ending.

Broken families?
Aster: It’s fodder for good drama. Family dynamics–they’re my whole career and could have plenty to talk about.

Shot in Hungary

Aster: It would have been extremely expensive to shoot in Sweden. It’s one of the most expensive places to shoot in the world. I don’t get a lot of coverage, so I need to really have time to rehearse and practice each shot because the blocking is often complicated between the actors and the camera movement that is sort of revolving around them.

Production design?
Aster: We found a field 30 minutes outside of Budapest and then we had just over two months to build the fictional village, which was 10 buildings, some of which are three stories tall. We needed to cultivate the field, which when we found it was nothing but very tall, wild grass. We were inspired by farms in Northern Sweden that we visited in doing research and a lot of those very old houses, centuries old, had paintings all over the walls of each room.

Challenges

Aster: The more complicated the shot, the more challenges you run into, but for me, it’s a thrill surmounting those challenges. I enjoy long takes where the smallest mistake or the smallest error could ruin the take and you have to start over.  It’s so exciting when you finally get the take that works. There’s something very gratifying about seeing that on your monitor and knowing what you have. When you get a lot of coverage, you don’t really need to know exactly what you’ve gotten from the scene until you’re in the editing room and you put it together.

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