It hasn’t taken Ari Aster too long to be considered one of the greatest horror filmmakers working today, gaining popularity after the success of both Hereditary and Midsommar. The 2019 latter proved to be a breakthrough project for Florence Pugh, whose character travels to Sweden to celebrate the midsummer festival with her boyfriend, but things take a sinister turn.
The film is routinely cited as one of the greatest horror movies of the last decade. However, many of Aster’s influences during the production of Midsommar didn’t belong to the horror genre. During a conversation, he revealed that Midsommar’s visual style was inspired by the experiments of Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell.
The director said: “We were really pursuing this three-strip technicolour look, and so Black Narcissus and The Tales of Hoffmann were really on my mind. I was talking to cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski about those films, and we had our colourists look at Black Narcissus, in particular, to get excited about what the possibilities were’
Aster also included a Lars von Trier film in his list. He added: “It would be false to call Dogville something that I was actively thinking about while making Midsommar, but it must have been an unconscious influence because what that film does with catharsis is what I want to do with the catharsis here — I want it to be a joy, I want the ending to be exciting and kind of crowd-pleasing. And then, at the same time, I want it to be something complicated that you’d have to contend with.”
Like Dogville, Aster didn’t have Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage in his mind, but it remained embedded in his subconscious. He explained: “It’s not that I was thinking about it actively, but that’s just the ultimate breakup movie, and there’s no topping it. It’s probably the best writing I’ve ever encountered in a movie as well — those monologues are just the most brutal things in the world.”
Check out the full list below.
The films that inspired Ari Aster:
- Modern Romance (Albert Brooks, 1981)
- Scenes from a Marriage (Ingmar Bergman, 1973)
- Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)
- The Colour of Pomegranates (Sergei Parajanov, 1969)
- Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Sergei Parajanov, 1965)
- Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, 2000)
- Black Narcissus (Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell, 1947)
- The Tales of Hoffmann (Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell, 1951)
- Save the Green Planet! (Jang Joon-hwan, 2003)
Midsommar’s primary strength is the sense of atmospheric horror it is able to conjure up, explored beautifully through visually stunning segments. While constructing these scenes, Aster often thought about Roy Andersson’s existential films.
“That’s [Songs from the Second Floor] another movie I saw in theatre with my mom when it came out in 2001, when I would have been 15,” Aster recalled. “It changed my life. I made a short a long time ago that was me trying to do Roy Andersson, but you can’t do Roy Andersson. He stages the most perfect vignettes, and I think he has an entire month to build every set for every scene.”