Five Fun Facts From The Midsommar Q&A w/Ari Aster
We were fortunate enough to snag a ticket for a Midsommar screening on Wednesday, July 10th, with writer/direct Ari Aster in attendance. The screening was the second (and final) Q&A Aster had for the evening, and he was pretty heavily buzzed from drinking potent margaritas with Alamo Drafthouse CEO, Tim League, who served as moderator.
The alcohol played the wild card in the evening’s festivities, leading to some rowdy and bizarre behavior — there was some contesting questions and a college-aged kid even occupied Q&A time to pathetically ask Aster if he knew of any work (Note to everyone: never do that). There was a lot of yelling and cursing, some jokey answers to serious questions, and a lot of laughs. Despite the silly questions (like “who’s in the mirror when [Florence Pugh] is having the bad trip?”), it was packed with a lot of interesting and illuminating information.
As always, we’ve recorded the audio of the full session, which you can listen to below, but for the sake of convenience, we’ve transcribed the five most interesting tidbits below for your viewing pleasure. Of course, there’s **SPOILERS** below, so enter at your own risk. Skål!
Ari Aster thinks Hereditary is funny.
Audience Member: In your moviemaking, what is the role of comedy to you?
Ari Aster: Well, I like comedy, and I feel like a movie without humor is a movie wasted. Almost all the shorts I made were primarily comedies. Hereditary is probably the most serious thing I’ve ever written, and I still think that’s funny in places. I think what happens to Charlie is very funny, if you can divorce yourself from it enough. It’s not supposed to play funny, but—
Tim League: I laughed at Sundance…
AA: I mean, everybody’s parent warned them to not put their head out the window, and I really feel like that deserved its own cautionary dramatization, but yeah, I don’t know, I like comedy… I’m glad that people are finding humor in the film, and there are meant to be a lot of funny moments, but for me, the trajectory of the film is kinda funny. I laugh the most whenever I’m watching this — if I’m able to relax enough to laugh — at the end. For me, the payoff is funny.
TL: The Yew tree is hysterical to me. The payoff on the Yew tree joke is really funny.
AA: It’s hopefully the kind of comedy where the movie still works if you’re not laughing and you don’t know if it’s funny, but it’s pretty absurd. I mean the sex scene is—
TL: Pretty funny.
AA: It’s a pretty big signal to the audience when the lady comes out to help out and finish him off.
TL: That’s funny stuff.
AA: Try being on a set, asking actors to do that for 16 hours.
TL: Also pretty funny stuff from a different perspective.
It’s “Yew,” not “Jew.”
Ari Aster: So the actor who says, “Take from the Yew tree, feel no pain,” speaks Swedish. I don’t speak Swedish. He didn’t understand the script, and he actually said, “Take from the Jew tree,” [laugher] which I love. They asked me if I wanted to fix that, and I absolutely did not.
Everything in Hårga was hand built.
Tim League: What inspired the crazy architecture?
Ari Aster: Everything that you see in Hårga is built from scratch. We had two month to build everything and cultivate that entire field. It was ten buildings, some of which are very large, and all the paintings were commissioned and done specifically for this film. We were drawing from a lot of research. My production designer, Henrik Svensson, and I went on a trip to northern Sweden a few years ago when we were first talking about the film. We went to a lot of old farms. A lot of them were centuries old. The houses, every room was covered floor to ceiling in paintings, and so the style of the painting here [in Midsommar] were drawn from that style, and then a lot of liberties were taken obviously.
Audience Member: I just assumed they came from the kid with the lip. It’s him right?
AA: No, no, you’ve seen his paintings; he’s a finger painter.
Levente Puczkó-Smith, who plays Ruben, the disfigured village prophet, is the Norwegian Billy Elliot.
Ari Aster: By the way, the boy who plays Ruben — which everything on him in the film is prosthetics — is actually the Hungarian Billy Elliot. He speaks perfect English and he’s this very charming young man who was always dancing around the set. He was on the Hungarian version of broadway’s Billy Elliot for a couple of years. He was stifled by that mask.
What Aster wants us to take away from the film.
Audience Member: What would you hope that people take away from this film, and what have you seen people misinterpret?
Ari Aster: I’m hoping that the film is consistently doing at least two things all the way. For instance, this is a folk horror for most of the visitors, but for Dani, I don’t believe it is. For Dani, it’s a wish fulfillment fantasy and a fairytale. Because we’re most closely aligned with Dani, that’s effectively how I view the film; I see the film as a fairytale. And if it’s a horror film, which I’m not sure it is. I know that people take umbrage with filmmakers disowning the horror title, and I don’t do that; I love the horror genre. Hereditary is one. I don’t necessary think [Midsommar] is, but if it’s a horror film, it’s a horror movie about codependency. Ultimately, you begin with a woman who’s in a dysfunctional codependent relationship, and then at the end, she finds herself in a maybe slightly more functioning but equally codependent relationship with the most codependent family possible. But it’s gonna work this time.
For me, I wanted there to be a way of watching this movie and Hargå feeling like this lived in place with a deep history and very rich traditions, a place where you can really stand and feel is real. At the same time, I want there to be a way of watching the film where they’re strictly a fulfillment of all of Dani’s needs, and they are almost a manifestation of her will.
So when you have the atestupan with the people jumping off the cliff, that could be a big horror movie set piece spectacle, or it could be an opportunity given to Dani to confront the the thing she’s been running away from, and then even listen to a person’s perspective on the matter that may be illuminating for her and might allow her to work through some — or it might be a toxic filter that brings her closer to it.
The movie’s been, in my opinion, misread in a million different ways — I don’t want to get into it, but there’s plenty of people who are in my opinion misconstruing it, but in the end, that’s what happens; it’s not mine anymore.
In all sincerity, I want people to feel a little bit confused about how they’re feeling. The ending is designed to be very very cathartic. You are aligned with Dani, so Christian is for all intents and purposes her foil, and so it’s a perverse happy ending, and I hope if feels happy while also feeling unhappy and awful. I know that what we were going for was a feeling of awe at the end, but hopefully, that’s something that viewer can wrestle with later.
Check out the full Q&A below:
What did you think? Did you learn anything cool? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!