Aster in 2018
|Alma mater||College of Santa Fe (BA)|
AFI Conservatory (MFA)
Aster was born in New York City. His father was a musician and his mother was a poet. He has a younger brother. Aster is Jewish. He recalled going to see his first movie when he was four years old, Dick Tracy. The film featured a scene where a character fired a tommy gun while a wall of fire was behind him. Aster reportedly jumped from his seat and "ran six New York city blocks," whither his mother had to chase him. In his early childhood, Aster's family briefly lived in Chester, England. They returned to the United States when Aster was 10 years old, settling in New Mexico.
As a child, Aster became obsessed with horror films, frequently renting them from local video stores: "I just exhausted the horror section of every video store I could find ... I didn't know how to assemble people who would cooperate on something like that ... I found myself just writing screenplays".
In 2004, Aster enrolled at College of Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he studied film. After graduating in 2008, Aster was accepted into the 2010 class of fellows at the AFI Conservatory graduate program, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts with a focus in directing.
Early short films
Aster's debut film was the short film Tale of Two Tims, which he wrote at College of Santa Fe and submitted to American Film Institute. This garnered him a fellowship into the graduate directing program at the AFI Conservatory. Aster followed up with several AFI cycle films, along with comedic shorts made with industry friends like TDF Really Works in 2011. Aster then followed up with a breakout short film The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, which stars Billy Mayo, Brandon Greenhouse, and Angela Bullock as members of a suburban family in which the son is involved in an abusive incestuous relationship with his father.
The Strange Thing About the Johnsons was Aster's thesis film while studying at the American Film Institute's graduate school in California, and later screened at film festivals in 2011, premiering at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah on January 22, before it leaked online in November and went viral. Ivan Kander of the website Short of the Week wrote that the comments on YouTube had "everything from effusive acclaim to disgusted vitriol. In terms of the internet, that means it's a hit." He worked on the production with fellow students from the school. The story was first conceived while discussing taboos with his friends, including Greenhouse, before Aster's first year at AFI.
Between 2011 and 2018, Aster wrote and directed five more short films, often teaming with his AFI Conservatory friends Alejandro de Leon and Pawel Pogorzelski among others.
Breakthrough with A24
Aster made his feature film directorial debut with the horror-drama film Hereditary, which premiered on January 21, 2018, in the Midnight section at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and was theatrically released in the United States on June 8, 2018. It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne as a family haunted by a mysterious presence after the death of their secretive grandmother.
Hereditary was acclaimed by critics, with Collette's performance receiving particular praise, and was a commercial success, making over $79 million on a $10 million budget to become A24's highest-grossing film worldwide. Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers called it the scariest film of 2018.
Aster's next production, also with A24, was the folk horror film Midsommar, starring Florence Pugh. It follows a group of friends who travel to Sweden for a festival that occurs once every 90 years and find themselves in the clutches of a pagan cult. Midsommar was theatrically released in the United States on July 3, 2019, by A24 and in Sweden on July 10, 2019, by Nordisk Film. The film received positive reviews from critics, with many praising Aster's direction and Pugh's performance. Aster's original 171-minute cut of the film, which A24 asked Aster to trim down for a wide theatrical release, had its world premiere at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City as part of its Scary Movies XII lineup on August 20, 2019. For his work on the film, Aster received a nomination for Best Screenplay at the 29th Gotham Independent Film Awards.
He has said his next film will be a four-hour "nightmare comedy".
Influences and style
In an interview with IndieWire, Aster listed some of his favorite films as Rosemary's Baby, Fanny and Alexander, Persona, A Matter of Life and Death, The Thing, 45 Years, A Brighter Summer Day, The Age of Innocence, In the Mouth of Madness, The Piano Teacher, 8 1/2, and Repulsion.
Regarded as an auteur director, Aster's style consists of long takes, bold colour schemes, and themes of grief, mental illness, and dysfunctional families, and the Occult, as well as recurring motifs of Head injury, and Death by burning.
|Hereditary||2018||Yes||Yes||89% (8.27/10 average rating) (354 reviews)||87 (49 reviews)|
|Midsommar||2019||Yes||Yes||83% (7.54/10 average rating) (366 reviews)||72 (54 reviews)|
|The Strange Thing About the Johnsons||2011||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|TDF Really Works||2011||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|The Turtle's Head||2014||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|C'est la vie||2016||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
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