A bonafide pioneer of the South Korean New Wave of filmmaking, Bong Joon-ho has established himself as a creative force to be reckoned with. Revered by fans all around the world for his gripping sociopolitical thrillers such as Memories of Murder and Parasite, Bong’s unique sensibilities have quickly propelled him up the ladder of contemporary filmmakers to watch out for.
For this Far Out Fear Club spotlight, we revisit the time when Bong Joon-ho revealed the modern horror film that isn’t just his favourite of the genre but also his top pick from 2019. Bong chose Midsommar, the recent psychological masterpiece by Ari Aster, claiming that Aster’s artistic vision introduced him to an overwhelming sense of horror.
Bong didn’t just praise Midsommar, focusing on Aster’s fantastic debut Hereditary as well while including Aster on his personal list of 20 directors who will shape the future of cinema. From Bong’s superfluous comments about the genius of Ari Aster, it is clear that the South Korean maestro considers Aster to be a top talent meant for great things.
“[Hereditary] goes beyond the trappings of genre and delivers true, profound horror,” Bong said. “A horror that is primal and inescapable. In order to survive this overwhelming horror, we cast a spell on ourselves. We hope that the gruesome moments we witnessed will eventually settle into a neutral view of the accident, like an innocuous tableau made up of adorable miniature figures.”
Bong Joon-ho isn’t the only one who thinks along these lines about Aster. Another filmmaking pioneer, Martin Scorsese, wrote: “A couple of years ago, I watched a first film called Hereditary. Right from the start, I was impressed. Here was a young filmmaker that obviously knew cinema. The formal control, the precision of the framing and the movement within the frame the pacing of the action, the sound — it was all there, immediately evident.”
While discussing the influences that helped shape the final product that is the version Midsommar we are familiar with, Aster astonished everyone by insisting that he wasn’t even thinking about the horror genre. Instead, Aster and his team focused on transforming Midsommar into a visual experience by studying some of the most beautiful films ever made.
Aster claimed: “The films I was talking about with my cinematographer were Powell and Pressburger films [which often have fantastical, dream-like elements], especially when we were talking about colour, or how we were going to ‘paint’ this community.
“So we were talking about Black Narcissus and Tales of Hoffman. We weren’t really looking at other horror films. We painted in these broad, whimsical strokes.”