Ari Aster: 5 things to know about the new master of horror

It is Joaquin Phoenix who will interpret the main role of the next film by American filmmaker Ari Aster, Beau is Afraid. While waiting for its release on April 23, Number looks back on five whims of the new king of horror between petrifying screams, atrocious scenes and sacrificial rites, on the menu especially in his latest films, Midsommar (2020) and Heredity (2018).

“Beau Is Afraid” | Official Trailer HD | A24

Joaquin Phoenix lands the lead role in Beau is Afraid

Ari Aster, 36, offered the title role of his next feature film to Joaquin Phoenix, 12 years his senior. Beau is Afraid will only be released in three months, but fans of macabre atmospheres, distressing still shots and tormented characters are already in awe. The synopsis: a neurotic entrepreneur wishes to visit his mother whom he has not seen for a very long time. But Beau gets hit by a car and wakes up, injured, in an unknown place… Son of a musician and a poet, Ari Aster has been delighting moviegoers since Heredity, his 2018 film appreciated a posteriori at its fair value, and whose quality is still debated by the most demanding moviegoers. A provocative and destabilizing spectacle for some, a parodic genre film for others, everyone nevertheless salutes the risk-taking of the New Yorker who graduated from the American Film Institute. Ari Aster offers another vision of horror, transforming the codes of the Z movie to present a work of cruel and realistic atrocity, abject and believable scenes. Discover 5 things to know about Ari Aster, the new king of horror in cinema.

“Heredity” by Ari Aster. Trailer.

1. Ari Aster has fun confronting the generations

A recurring character in horror films – especially of the “slasher” genre, which consists of letting go of a psychopath on the heels of an ingenuous band – the teenager is particularly appreciated for his naivety and his grim recklessness. In his feature films, Ari Aster prefers to confront the generations: he thus opposes a bereaved mother to her dumbfounded teenage son, or candid young tourists to a skinny old man in full sacrificial rite. More than a fascination for this generational divide, the filmmaker conscientiously transforms bodies and their stigmata into horrifying elements. A graphic violence made possible by the science of movement demonstrated by Ari Aster: between a multitude of sequence shots, the filmmaker masterfully inserts static shots, within which his characters remain surprisingly still. The horrific effect of the monsters, motionless on the screen, is multiplied and petrifies the viewer, who cannot look away from this persistent object of horror. And when it comes to the victims, their inertia, carefully orchestrated by the director, accentuates their helplessness and the viewer’s anguish.

2. A filmmaker fascinated by howling and mutilation

Ari Aster has the art of arousing unease. He is literally fascinated by bodies suffering from malformations, congenital anomalies of a tissue or an organ, which he carries to a very high degree of exaggeration. He summons disfigured or mutilated characters, the cries of fear are pushed to paroxysm, while the gaping mouths at the limit of tearing transform the faces into figures of demons. In reality, Ari Aster depicts a strange and pessimistic world, crossed by the Freudian feeling ofunheimliche (“the disturbing strangeness”). But under the guise of incestuous relationships, his handicapped and deformed characters willingly evoke mythological or even metaphorical figures, creatures in full metamorphosis.

Midsommar – Trailer VOST

3. Ari Aster’s films are inspired by his own life

Like many of his counterparts, Ari Aster admits to drawing inspiration from his own life to write his films. Obvious continuation of his 2011 short film The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, the film Heredity (2018) immerses us in the heart of a cursed family following the death of the matriarch. The director transcribes here a series of ordeals suffered by his own family for three years… Traumas that participated in the genesis of this testamentary and cathartic feature film. A few years later, Ari Aster tackles Midsommar (2020), a therapeutic work which this time evokes his own breakup that occurred a few months earlier.

4. Ari Aster injects ancient runes and symbols into his films

Using a black marker, Ragnar Persson has long had fun transfusing heavy metal imagery into bucolic landscapes. But these are prophetic frescoes that the Swedish artist produced in 2019 on behalf of Ari Aster. These naive and bloody works recall the medieval illustrations of the tarology, this divinatory art which is a matter of cartomancy. The drawings of pagan rites will then be transformed into wallpaper. Integrated directly into the film Midsommar (2019), they secretly announce the script of the film to the viewers. In Heredity, the scenario writer already disseminated symbols with length of shots, until the explicit satanic ritual. Ari Aster clearly inherited the attraction of Ingmar Bergman – one of his mentors – for the iconography and symbols of mourning and death (The Seventh Seal Where Screams and whispers for example). Designer of a fictional language for Midsommar, he will go so far as to imagine a whole runic alphabet for his film.

Midsommar (2020) by Ari Aster.
Midsommar (2020) by Ari Aster.

Midsommar (2020) by Ari Aster.

5. Ari Aster has long refused to get into horror

Screenwriter of his own feature films, Ari Aster rejects the codes of commercial horror and does not really consider himself a “horror filmmaker”. “I resisted writing a horror film for a long time because that genre didn’t really excite me, he confesses in an interview with the site The Verge. Eventually I robbed the horror section of every store I could find…” A nuance linked to his love for the genre film – from witchcraft fan Robert Egger (The Witch) to the scandalous Nagisa Ôshima (Furyo) via Lars von Trier, Gaspar Noé or Ingmar Bergman. Ari Aster rejects the jump scare and oscillates between the dark camera and the nightmare shot in broad daylight under a crushing sun, like Midsommarhis macabre work of 2019 with a fantastic Florence Pugh.

Beau is Afraid by Ari Aster, in theaters April 21

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Ari Aster: 5 things to know about the new master of horror

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