It took almost three decades for the director’s cut of The Wicker Man to be released in the UK after the shorter theatrical cut hit cinemas (and then another 12 years before the so-called Final Cut was released).
Ari Aster’s Midsommar, a similar sort of story about unwitting naïfs visiting a remote pagan community and meeting sticky ends, only came out this July but already the Director’s Cut (which extends the film from an already generous 147 minutes to a sprawling 171) is getting a limited theatrical release. There’s no real justification for it beyond pure indulgence – but then, it’s a film worth indulging in.
There aren’t any major changes or revelations in this version. You just get more: poor Dani (Florence Pugh) gets a few extra moments of suffering at the hands of her intolerable boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor); irritating Mark (Will Poulter) gets some new annoying lines; and mysterious Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) gets his motives explained a little more clearly. The journey across Sweden to reach the Hårga commune is elongated, emphasising just how far away it is from everywhere else. And there’s an extra ritual and a bit more singing.
But there’s a particular pleasure to be found in rewatching Aster’s sprawling sun-bleached psychosexual horror. Every shot has been carefully constructed, dripping in symbolism with portents literally written on the walls for its characters to blithely ignore as they’re manoeuvred towards their fates. The result is stunning to look at, particularly the aerial shots of people gathering to dance or eat in ways that etch runes into the landscape itself, and the sound design – which incorporates cheekily diegetic folk music, ominous hissing, and all too intimate-sounding breath – is impeccable.
It’s unfortunate that this cut still doesn’t expand the role of Ruben (Levente Puczkó-Smith), the cult’s “oracle”, leaving that plot strand feeling underdeveloped and insensitive. But in every other respect, this is a triumph. Though the home entertainment release of this version has yet to be confirmed, it probably won’t be allowed to go missing any time soon.