Actor Jack Reynor likens Midsommar (out July 3) to both The Wizard of Oz and The Wicker Man, the 1973 film about a Scottish pagan cult that periodically burns visitors alive. Except? “The Wicker Man, that’s kind of a cult you wouldn’t mind being a part of,” he says (rather worryingly, to be honest). “But these guys, in Midsommar, they’re really f—ing creepy dudes.”
In writer-director Ari Aster’s second movie after last year’s acclaimed terror tale Hereditary, Reynor and Florence Pugh play an American couple, Dani and Christian, whose lovers’ bond has seen better days. “Dani has had a loss, [and] by the time that the film starts, she’s in the middle of a relationship that is on its way out,” says Pugh of her character. “When we meet her, she’s just about to suffer some more. So it’s pretty much rock bottom with her!”
The pair embark on a trip to Scandinavia with friends Mark (Will Poulter), Josh (William Jackson Harper), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), the latter of whom has invited them to visit his remote village in Sweden. “They’re a really weird, culty kind of commune,” Reynor says of its locals. “Everybody’s all dressed in white, they have strange kinds of social cliques.” The town is celebrating Midsummer — “a particularly special iteration of the festival,” says Aster ominously — and invite their guests to take part in a number of ritualistic meals. These include a repast Pugh calls The Last Supper. “They’re in the middle of their holiday, and a few of them are over it, and I’m getting inspired to look around and figure things out,” says the actress of the travelers’ states of mind.
And then what happens? “They just hang out,” deadpans Aster. “They take it easy and they make it home safe and sound.” No, but seriously. “It is very safe to say that horrors ensue,” concedes the director. “The film is definitely mining the same vein as Wicker Man was working, but as a piece of folk-horror, it’s pretty irreverent in that it doesn’t really stay comfortably on that route. That’s why I’m making sure to describe it as a fairytale. It’s not a million miles away from something like Alice in Wonderland. It’s a psychedelic film. It definitely moves very solidly into psychedelia and so it’s not a million miles away from something like A Field in England in that respect. But there are no solid [comparisons] that I can hand you. I’m hoping that the film feels pretty singular and is a trip.”
The Last Supper sequence was filmed in a field outside Budapest, Hungary, where, prior to the shoot, Aster oversaw the construction of the movie’s village set from scratch. “Some of those buildings are three stories tall,” says the director. “It was a huge endeavor.” The temperature soared on many of the production days, including the one on which Aster filmed the meal. “For about a month of shooting, it was unbearably hot, and the cast and crew were very upset with me,” says the filmmaker.
While Reynor doesn’t use the word “upset,” he does recall the day as decidedly unpleasant. “It must have been 40 degrees centigrade, and we were sitting in the direct sunlight,” says the actor. “As a result of everything on the table having sugar in it, we were getting murdered by wasps. It was uncomfortable, but I think it lent itself to the tone of the thing.”
Exclusively see an image from Midsommar, above.
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