You aren't prepared for Midsommar. That's Ari Aster's follow-up to Hereditary, the film that dropped last year announcing the young director as a bonafide horror auteur. Midsommar explores the world of cults, following a young couple as they travel to a Swedish festival that takes place once every 90 years. While Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) were hoping to find some respite from their personal woes, they instead end up amidst a sinister cult, pagan rites and bloodshed taking place in the harsh light of day. It's everything you'd hope from Aster.
While the cast is eager to keep as much of the film's horrors a secret, SFX magazine was able to sit down with Jack Reynor to discuss what drew him to working with Aster, his role in Midsommar, and to give us some small insight into what it's like to film on location for one of 2019's most terrifying movie experiences.
Jack Reynor Midsommar interview
Where do we find Christian and Dani at the beginning?
"They're pretty fractured and broken. They've been in a relationship for about five years now, but Christian is finding it difficult to continue... A tragedy befalls Dani (Florence Pugh), which leaves him feeling that he has to stay in the relationship out of guilt. He doesn’t have it in him to call it a day. So they decide to take a holiday and go to Sweden on a trip with a couple of friends... and that's where things go wrong."
What appealed to you about the film?
"It's just fucking mental, y'know! I read it and was like, “Wow!” It was like nothing I'd seen in American cinema for a long time. I get very excited when there’s a director with an auteur vision for a project. To have the opportunity to get behind and work with someone who has such conviction in his vision – that's as exciting as it gets for an actor."
Had you already seen Hereditary?
"No, Hereditary hadn’t come out when I signed on for this, but I'd watched Ari's short films and thought they had a really unique style and flavour. We sat down to talk about films and had a really extensive conversation about film: giallo, Japanese cinema from the '50s and '60s, lots of stuff that I’m really into but don’t normally have anyone to talk about that stuff with. That conversation was what sealed the deal for me."
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Did any of the films you discussed feed into Midsommar in any way?
"I don't know if they necessarily influenced the plot, but I think if you watch Midsommar and pay attention to the cinematography, you'll definitely feel the influence of people like Kaneto Shindo [director of Onibaba and The Naked Island, amongst many other classics of Japanese cinema]. Y'know, intricately designed films where the camera is a character as much as the actors. That's something that Ari does in a really clever way. He writes out his shot list, knows exactly what he wants to get and is uncompromising about his vision."
How about working with Florence Pugh? Her star is really rising at the moment...
"Yeah, she's brilliant. She’s been on my radar since Lady Macbeth, I thought she was astonishing in that. We hung out a bit before we both signed on and we were both keen to work on something together."
It's quite unusual to see a horror film set in the harsh light of day, like this...
"Yeah! Everything is out in the open. I think with horror it's only natural to want to obscure the horror from the audience, but in this case everything is vivid, bright and colourful. To be able to weave such a tone of dread and almost existential horror into that – that's an astonishing feat for a director."
How was the shoot?
"It was good, but it was tough. There were three different languages on set – Swedish, Hungarian and English – and only maybe one or two people on the production who spoke all three languages. And we were dealing with some seriously hot weather and being outside in direct sunlight for long periods of time. The banquet scenes in particular were hard. We had long gaps between scenes, sat at this big table covered in food, sweating and not being able to move for the sake of blocking and composition, with millions of wasps flying around. It was fucking horrific!"
OK, so tell us just how grim does Midsommar get? Does it get gruesome?
"Oh yeah! I can’t talk about those moments, but it's fucking shocking. I can't believe that this movie is getting as wide a release as it is. It's seriously hardcore. If you're into gore, then you'll be in for a treat!"