Exposing Key Details in Midsommar


Photo courtesy of: indiewire.com

Allie Nichols, Layout/Design Manager

Midsommar released in July of 2019 and was directed by the screenwriter Ari Aster, who also wrote and directed Heredity, Munchausen, and The Strange Thing About the Johnsons.  Google summarizes the movie by writing: “A couple travel to Sweden to visit their friend’s rural hometown for its fabled midsummer festival, but what begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.” While the movie does not follow the traditional “aesthetic” of a horror movie (dark, scary monsters popping up from behind the closet door), it contains many sinister and alarming images. This movie is rated R and should not be watched by anyone easily triggered or disturbed. Spoilers will follow. 

The movie opens during the heart of winter with the protagonist Dani (Florence Pugh) reading an ominous email from her bipolar sister and calling her toxic boyfriend Christian (Jack Reyner) about her worries. We learn that her sister killed herself and their parents which causes Dani to have the first of many mental breakdowns. The whole beginning makes me want to turn up the brightness on the screen, but it’s already maxed out. This juxtapositions the time in Sweden during the springtime with all the light. 

Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) invites Dani, Christian, Mark (Will Poulter), and Josh (William Harper) to “celebrate midsummer” with him in Sweden. Midsummer is an honoring of the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. While on the drive there, the camera flips itself upside down, so viewers see the road at the top of the screen; this represents Dani’s life turning around. When the group arrives, they meet up with Pelle’s brother Ingemar (Hampus Hallberg) who introduces his two recruits- I mean, friends- he also brought. When they get to Pelle’s village, they enter a world of sun, literally, seeing as they walk through a wooden cut out of the sun. Christian says, “It’s like another world.”

This movie presents a lot of foreshadowing and minute details. For example, watchers may notice a bear poster above Dani’s bed, and Christian later notes there’s a bear in a cage in the middle of the camp. There is also a lot of juxtaposition between Dani’s life before and during this “vacation.” Christian and Pelle are opposite attitudes in Dani’s life, yet both use her need to feel secure against her. It’s cinematic genius.

While getting settled, Pelle illustrates the lifestyle of the cult- I mean, normal people who follow strict secrecy- to Josh. Pelle explains age groupings for roles and jobs in this group but never clearly states what happens to people over the age of 72. The audience quickly finds out that those people are forced to commit brutal suicide. These people view it as gracefully departing life rather than being stripped away from it, vulnerable and frail. The movie depicts this in the next scene with plenty of gore.

Slowly more darkness integrates itself back into the film, and for a brief moment, the plot focuses solely on her friends and we almost forget about Dani. Because he’s new, Mark unknowingly tarnishes the “Ancestor Tree.” This angers many members, and he receives many murderous stares as he walks away. Next, we focus more on the strained relationship between Christian and Josh. The strong conflict causes anger between the two, alienating those most like themselves making them less guarded.

Women partake in a competition to determine “the May Queen.” They dance in circles until they literally drop almost dead. The chaos is caused by the intoxicating tea that “lowers your defense and opens you to influence.” Dani wins and becomes the center of attention. Meanwhile, Christain becomes a victim of an unorthodox love potion. (This movie is rated R for a reason.) Dani walks in on Christian committing adultery with a random village girl and begins wailing in emotional pain. In this cult, everyone becomes one with the group. In this instance, about a dozen girls start wailing and screaming and crying in time with Dani. I’ve never covered my ears faster. 

Some agonizing time later, the movie cuts to black until Dani opens her eyes. We hear: “You can’t speak; you can’t move,” unsettling. As the camera pans out, we see Dani in a massive cone of flowers waking up. We slowly discover what happened to each of Dani’s friends. Because all of the abnormality finally settled in, Christian attempts to run away, and the camera angles down to show Josh’s foot sticking out of the ground. While hiding in the chicken pen, Christian sees the despicable sight of Mark hanging by his organs. The people once against drug Christian then stuff him in a real carved out bear. (Remember that foreshadowing earlier?) 

The leader speaks about the annual tradition of giving the ancestors a “gift.” The movie begins closing with the burning of multiple human sacrifices including Christian and Ingmar. It’s a fiery hell-like ending with wailing and a large flower monster- Dani- trying to crawl away. However, she looks at her burning boyfriend and hears the crying people around her, and a smile appears on her face. The end. 

Horrifying, disturbing, appalling. These words cannot even begin to describe the utterly awful plot for this film. The movie is bookended by death. It is way more intense than an innocent Halloween “boo” scare. Midsommar portrays the qualities of cults, something that exists in our world today. Imagining taking a vacation with “friends” to never be heard from again, eerie. While the cinematography isolated from the storyline was astounding, that’s simply glitter distracting viewers from the mud. Many references to morally corrupt acts appear left and right. This review has been toned down extensively, and I do not recommend this movie to anyone.