MIDSOMMAR Director’s Cut Adds (Even More) Depth to the characters REVIEW [Originally published for Bloody Disgusting]

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The original post can be found under “Reviews” at Bloody-Disgusting.com

“This is not releasable,” Ari Aster joked, as he introduced his “more complete” Director’s Cut of Midsommar in New York this past weekend. 

I, for one, was already in love with the theatrical version of Midsommar as it was released to us last month: I felt immersed in the pastoral world building of the Harga community; my stomach sank at the authenticity of a toxic, crumbling relationship; I was deeply moved and satisfied by the cathartic conclusion. However, after witnessing the more comprehensive version of Aster’s vision in this (nearly) three-hour film, I’m happy to say I prefer this cut in spades.

Impressively, the Midsommar Director’s Cut manages to move more swiftly and efficiently than the previous version does. With added situational context, dialogue, humor, and foreshadowing, any remote slowness of the original cut is modified to put the viewer into an entertained, fixated trance. The subplot of Josh (William Jackson Harper) and Christian’s (Jack Reynor) riff with their thesis papers is given a few more minutes of attention, showcasing Harper’s underrated talent. Additional comically snide remarks from Will Poulter’s Mark, background radio mentions of severed penises, Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) blatantly hinting at the real intentions of why he’s invited his friends along, and an extended sequence of the car ride to the commune reminded me of the warped, jet-black comedy that we’ve witnessed with Aster’s short films, even moreso than before. I was too engrossed to feel the nearly three-hour runtime. 

Not that I ever really respected Christian in the theatrical version, but I thought of him as much more of a coward and a shitty boyfriend than I did as a completely garbage human being. However, this heightened version of Christian exceeds in despicability. The pre-Sweden tension that arises from Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian’s relationship dynamic somewhat differs in this: After the couple attends the party where Christian’s friends let it slip that they’ll be leaving in two weeks, as hurt as Dani is with his lack of communication with her, she doesn’t seem as interested in tagging along to their boys’ trip. In fact, Dani doesn’t even invite herself in this cut, as Christian is the one who pushes her to come— as he wants to deflect some of the heat off of himself and attempts to make up for his coldness towards her— one of several attempts he will make to manipulate Dani into blaming herself for their relationship issues, in a way that feels borderline narcissistic and/or sociopathic.

Christian even has the audacity to laugh and mock the tears of the Harga man who is devastated over Mark’s pissing on the ancestral tree, proving he’s just as distasteful as his most crass friend in the bunch. Nor is he as innocent to the “influence” that the Hargas place upon him in order to lure him to “mate” with the red-headed Maya— as we watch him approach her and take subtle interest in her from afar. By the end, you’ll be ready for him to meet his inevitable fiery fate.

Contrary to Christian, Aster somehow manages to include even more empathy to protagonist Dani this time around. Her arc is arguably more complicated, as she switches from self-conscious and overly apologetic in some scenes, while more knowing and confronting in others— the latter of which we previously didn’t get to see as much of. In, hands-down, the most astounding aspect of this cut, we bear witness to a gripping blow-out between her and Christian that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since. She assertively asks him the gut-wrenching question that no one ever wants to be forced to ask: “Do you even still love me anymore?” Awkward silences turn into an exchanging of heated, resentful words, and both Pugh and Reynor give some of their best work to date, as each wants to either prove a point or deflect it. I don’t agree with some of the criticism out there that Aster creates detached, unlikeable characters; instead, I find his characters to be completely human and complicated, while being placed in cold, caustic situations, such as this particular sequence. This sequence may not be at the exact level as the infamous dinner table scene in Hereditary per se, but I’m relieved that it didn’t get totally buried on the cutting room floor. Aster directs the hell out of it.

If you were wondering about the omission of the nighttime scenes that the trailers featured, one particular sequence by the lake should please you. An (almost) brutal act towards a child who wants to help with the number of ritual sacrifices ups the tension after the already exhaustive Attestupa scene— but Aster halts the madness before things get even crazier. I understand that it was probably eliminated for timing purposes, but it actually adds more context to one of the corpses we see later on. However, a clip within the film’s trailer you may recall, in which a man is levitating in the nighttime air, is not included, which he later gave further reasoning for (read my additional report from the screening’s Q+A).

While there may not be anything in terms of additional violence and gore that we hadn’t seen in the original cut, there is a feeling of more vitriol and graphicness that Midsommar 2.0 possesses. Sometimes it appears within the most subtle of details, like when a naked Christian runs away from the sex temple— this time with visible blood on his penis from his encounter with Maya, who was a virgin prior. While there should be nothing overtly shocking about that (because this would be true to life) we simply would never see something that taboo in mainstream movie theaters. You have to laugh at the thought that Aster could keep all the gore and bashed-in faces in his film, but how dare he include some blood on the penis of a man who was a woman’s first-ever sexual partner…

The only sad news to report is— yet again— the lack of Ruben, the community’s deformed, paint-smearing oracle. Unfortunately, we did not get to spend any more time with him than what we already got within the theatrical cut. So if you’re a Ruben fan like I am, you’ll be left with the same burning questions and curiosities that you had when you met him the first time.

But in short: Yes, Pelle, I do feel held by this version of Midsommar. Aster’s vision simply cannot and should not be contained.~

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