Why this movie critic is postponing his Swedish vacation
Alaughed Aster Middle is the first movie I’ve seen all year that feels like it’s been directed by a real filmmaker, an artist who has carefully crafted every shot, collaborated fully with every member of the cast and has a real vision that he achieves with every scene. It is so good. While the promotional material presents it as a ‘director of inheritance’ horror film, the result is a quirk that is outside the scope of summer films and, to say the least, will leave very different impressions on each member. public.
Although they’ve been dating for years, Christian (played by Jack Reynor) has failed to break up with Dani (played by Florence Pugh), his unstable future girlfriend. Dani’s recent family tragedy makes his late plans to part with her seem particularly inopportune. Christian’s roommates at university are tired of his demanding presence and visibly horrified when he invites her to join them on a most unusual summer getaway: a visit to a large isolated community in Sweden, led by the cheerful extended family. from Christian’s college buddy. Immediately after their arrival very bad things start to happen, although the group of Americans is assured that this is all part of the weekend activities, which look like a “pageantry”. Dani wonders to what extent what she is seeing is real or if her grief and bubbling emotions are pushing her to the brink.
It’s clear from the start where all of this is going, even if you haven’t seen The Wicker Man (either version), an obvious influence on this. There are also visuals and even sets that seem to be influenced by Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, although the nods to Swedish cinema (note a main character named “Ingemar”) are particularly notable; much of Swedish cinema, especially Ingmar Bergman’s films, is about family suffering, the community created by living with siblings, and the tortured existence of watching yourself grow up and die. Much of this is in Middle, which, despite wide Swedish distribution and decor, was produced in Hungary.
There is clearly something so fishy and double-sided about Christian’s Swedish pal inviting the group to his strange childhood home of community life and ancient customs. Still, rather than noticing how obvious the danger is (the on-screen characters certainly aren’t), we’re meant to go with it, capture every scene, and savor the experience. This is ideal, as Pawel Pogorzelski’s remarkable cinematography is immersive and gripping, always finding a way to bring us closer to the action (sometimes, closer than we’d rather be). While Middle is a muscular and efficient shocker, it’s less frightening than psychologically rich and disturbing, which is preferable to a simple series of “jump alerts”.
Everyone in the cast is giving whatever is needed to convey this growing madness and bring harsh reality to their characters, though Pugh (whose character I haven’t always supported) is particularly strong. Writer / director Aster’s Hereditary put it on the map a summer ago, but it’s a much stronger and more distinct work.
The use of space, murals, and reflections to note the character’s current and potential location is smart, and touches of devilish dark humor (most of which courtesy of stage thief Will Poulter) are the key points. welcome.
By the end of the movie, I wasn’t convinced that Aster had done everything he intended to do or that each character had received an appropriate conclusion. Rather, the scandalous final moments reflect the film’s take on inevitability, but provide more of a sudden narrative stop than a satisfying ending. What this has to say about how Americans view foreigners (as well as the agony of resisting a rotten breakup) is open to interpretation, although there is much to discuss in the lobby afterwards. Or not: On the film’s opening night, I heard a report of a massive walkout during a particularly difficult scene.
While it may be best enjoyed on the road as a cult movie and too offbeat to be released alongside Spider-Man, Milieu is most ideal for the big screen and an adventurous group of moviegoers. It’s some of the best movies I’ve seen this year and a mesmerizing experience. I can’t wait to see it again, although I have postponed my next trip to Sweden indefinitely.
Rated R / 147 Min.
Image courtesy IMDB