Thanks to his contemporary horror shows Hereditary and Midsommar, Ari Aster has adopted the title of being one of the greatest genre filmmakers currently working in Hollywood, and whilst this is true, he is also so much more than this. After all his 2018 breakthrough debut was as much a scarring family drama as a dark horror, and as for Midsommar, Aster prefers for audiences to see the film as a breakup movie.
With a clear knowledge of film history, Aster approached his second feature film, starring Florence Pugh as the bereaved daughter of a mother and father who committed suicide in their own home. Deciding to travel to a rural hometown’s fabled Swedish midsummer festival with her boyfriend and wider circle of mates, the trip soon descends into a violent trip at the hands of a pagan cult.
Aster’s second feature film fits into a folk horror sub-genre whilst eliciting subtle nods to the pain and torment of a romantic breakup. Fitting this subtext within the realm of folk horror acted as the perfect conduit to tell such a story, with Aster stating: “I just wanted to write a breakup movie, and I saw a way of marrying the breakup movie that I was having at the time with the structure of a folk horror film,” whilst in discussion with YouTube channel Birth.Movies.Death.
Discussing his own inspirations from the breakup movie genre, Aster explains, “I’ll go to Albert Brooks’ Modern Romance, or I’ll go to Eyes Wide Shut, or like Scenes from a Marriage”.
Constantly looking for inspiration in the wider world of art cinema, Ari Aster sat down with the popular distribution company Criterion in 2018 to discuss some of his favourite modern inspirations, with the 2015 movie 45 Years by Andrew Haigh being an outstanding choice.
Comparing the movie, following an elderly couple celebrating their 45 year anniversary who receive shocking news that reawakens a ghost from the past, to the Martin Scorsese romance The Age of Innocence, Aster thrills in its mastery.
Discovering the body of his former lover perfectly preserved in ice decades after her passing, the husband of the story, played by Tom Courtenay, is forced to resurface the feelings of his past life. “Most filmmakers would tell the story of 45 Years from the perspective of the husband,” Aster explained, adding, “The man who followed convention and married the woman he didn’t love and then lost out on the grand romance. But 45 Years is like The Age of Innocence as told from the point of view of Winona Ryder’s character fifty years later”.
Forced to question her previous 45 years of marriage, the wife, played by Charlotte Rampling, begins to fonder her reality. Does he really love her? Does she really love him?
It all leads to a momentous conclusion at their anniversary celebrations, with Ari Aster stating, “I think the last shot of 45 Years is one of the all-time great shots—I feel confident in saying that even though it just came out a few years ago”.
Naming the film on our list of the very best films of the decade, we’d tend to agree with Aster.