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Ari Aster is still a young director, now only two movies into his career, but one thing that has already been made incredibly clear is that he is a very detail-oriented filmmaker. Both Hereditary and Midsommar are elegantly crafted features, and this extends not just to the cinematography and production design, but also storytelling. He creates a specific history for the worlds in his work, and it provides a special richness to the cinematic experience.
His work on Midsommar is a perfect example, as even though the film came together only about a year after the release of Hereditary, he still managed to put together a 100-page story bible that defined the rules of the story. This material not only detailed explicitly how he was going to make the movie, but also dug into the background for the isolated Swedish community that the central ensemble visits during their special seasonal festivities.
The catch, however, as I recently learned talking with the Midsommar cast, is that he never actually told his actors about it:
It was in my preparation for Midsommar interviews last month that I first learned about Ari Aster’s special story bible for the film… and I was surprised by the reaction I got when I brought it up during my sit down with William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, and Vilhelm Blomgren. While Poulter seemed to know what I was talking about, the whole thing was news to his co-stars, who apparently hadn’t previously heard about the director’s special world-building tome.
Interestingly, though, while the Midsommar stars didn’t know about the story bible, it didn’t surprise them in the least to learn that it existed. The level of detail demanded in Ari Aster’s approach was made very clear in the way that he ran things on set during production, so it wasn’t exactly a huge revelation to discover that he had written his whole plan down.
Offering tremendous applause to his director, Will Poulter explained,
I think this film was so well thought out and conceived in such detail, and with such a kind of meticulous attitude to all the characters and all action that you see. Ari is phenomenal in that sense. He's like a like pointillism painter or something where he commits to every single element in the frame and makes sure that everything is there for a reason, and informs you of all of that so that you can serve the story as best as possible. So it's a pleasure to work with someone who's just that artistically invested in their work.
Like Hereditary, Midsommar is a stunning work that treats every frame like a painting – and it’s wonderfully effective. The material engaging in its beauty, and then it smashes you over the head with images of true horror. It’s one hell of a thing to see, especially because it’s all happening in non-stop sunshine.
Based on an original screenplay by Ari Aster, the movie centers on Dani (Florence Pugh) – a young woman who experiences an extreme tragedy at the start of the story. Emotionally shaken by what has happened, she hopes that she can lean on her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Raynor), but he is basically at a point where he’s ready to break up with her. Because he can’t leave her under the circumstances, he instead brings her along with him on his summer trip to Sweden with his friends (William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, and Vilhelm Blomgren. But what awaits them in Europe is a truly an escalating series of unexpected horrors.