Ari Aster’s full-length feature film debut, Hereditary, stunned the horror community. He returned to the big screen with the unconventional horror film, Midsommar. It predominantly has most of the scenes during the day, and the film is centered around a male protagonist. Both aspects are not common in horror films. Midsommar is the story about Christian (Jack Reynor), a graduate student trying to balance a relationship with his girlfriend Dani (Florence Pugh) after she experiences a horrific event that shakes her and their relationship to the core. Along with the need to finish his thesis is compelled to embark on a trip to a friend’s Pelle (Vihelm Blomgren) Swedish community’s “Midsommar” festival with a group of his anthropology classmates and Dani. This trip doesn’t end as anyone in the group expects.
The film’s first act sets the foundation of the relationships between all the parties going on the trip. Christian’s girlfriend calls him while he is out with his friends. During the call, Dani reigned in her highly emotional state and explained to Christian her concern about not getting a response from her bipolar sister. Who wrote an extremely upsetting email that worried Dani about what her sister’s harmful act her sister might be doing. Christian attempts to calm her down, and they make plans to get together later that evening. We then see two interesting conversations take place.
One conversation was with Dani and a friend. The two of them discussed if Christian’s support is enough and whether Dani’s constant issues with her family are tearing them apart. The second but concurrent conversation with Christian’s friends tries to compel him to let go of his relationship with Dani. It is a relationship that everyone at the table knows he should have ended a year ago. Christian is clearly unhappy but admits that his biggest fear is that he might regret letting her go. Both sets of friends recognize they should be apart more than Christian and Dani are willing to admit. This type of conflict is so common in dysfunctional and codependent relationships. Seeing this conflict play out in a condensed set of scenes frames one of the ongoing themes throughout the film whether or not the two are compatible enough to be in a healthy relationship.
Unfortunately, they are not able to address their issues as tragedy strikes. Dani’s sister kills her parents and herself that evening. And all aspects surrounding their relationship fall to the side as Christian and Dani come to terms with how this event will impact their lives. Dani is the extremely powerful grip of depression. The next time we see the two of them together, Dani decides to tag along to a party Christian just told her about. Dani appears mentally/emotionally absent at the party until she hears that Christian and his friends are going to Sweden for a festival in Pelle’s hometown. Christian explains he isn’t sure if he is going, which was a lie. He is going.
We find out later that he has already purchased his ticket. The conversation about the trip that Christian didn’t confirm with Dani is a source of tension and awkwardness for all of Christian’s friends at the party. The discussion about the ticket continues at the house, where Christian and Dani continuously dishonestly communicate with each other. Both engage with tactics to emotionally inflict pain on each other or deny they are behaving in a manner not conducive to a healthy relationship. The crazy part is that if Christian walked out of the apartment and decided not to go, the ending of this film would be so different. But he didn’t. Instead, Christian makes the mistake of asking Dani to come with him. The scene ends with Dani saying that he didn’t want her to really go and that he only asked after she broke down crying. Christian replies that she ruined his surprise. The relationship between these two is a horror movie in itself.
The film has many terrifying moments. However, I found the one moment that stands out for me occurs after Christian informs his friends that Dani was invited to go on the trip with them. She enters the apartment where everyone is hanging out and is glowing. As DANI has a conversation with Pelle and the topic of her family’s tragedy is broached, she transitions from being inside the apartment to being inside the plane and having an emotional breakdown. The viewers don’t know what caused her outburst. But Dani is still in a heightened state of anxiety. You get the sense this trip was a bad idea for the first time. You can’t help but feel sorry for her.
The group lands in Sweden, and lingering tensions of her presence on the trip start manifesting within the group. There are looks, comments, and actions like the friends leaving a room when Dani enters it. There was no doubt this was a bad ideal. But Christian appears committed to the relationship even with all of his flaws as a boyfriend. The group finally arrives at the community. This is where they are introduced to other guests and members of the community. Mushrooms are offered to get the group into the correct headspace at the community. Dani, obviously aware of her emotional state, initially declines. Christian comforts Dani by saying she shouldn’t take one if she feels uneasy. Mark (Will Poulter) starts to show animosity towards Chrisitan’s decision to bring Dani along by complaining about not taking the shrooms together as a group. Christian states that he will wait until Dani is ready if she is ready. Dani sees the group’s harmony break down because of her choice, and Christian’s stance to back her up buckles and decides to take the shrooms. In the film, Christian again doesn’t succumb to peer pressure and continues to show Dani that he is there supporting her when she is there or not. A prime example is after they were took the shrooms and Christian realized Dani was missing.
Christian STANDS, panic starting to build.
Dani’s gone. We need to find Dani.
I don’t feel like standing.
Yeah – I don’t wanna move.
Hey! Dani’s our friend!
She isn’t all of our friend.
What? Yes she is. That’s not nice! Why aren’t you ever nice?! You’re being mean!
(scared by this)
What? I am nice. (tearing up) I’m not being mean!
Droning techno begins to THROB from the speakers in the b.g. With every bass punch, the surrounding environment THUMPS visibly.
Dani’s our friend. And she’s sad.
But that makes me sad!
And she’s NOT our friend! She’s barely YOUR friend! You only invited her because you’re too scared to be honest with her!
Christian pauses, FURIOUS, and then:
CHRISTIAN Her family is dead, Mark! Do you get that? They all died!
Why are you saying that?
Because they are! They’re dead!
Even though Christian stood up for Dani in this instance, it doesn’t take away the fact he is a hard person to stand in his corner. Same for Dani. Each of them is exceptionally flawed. As the film continues, we see examples of how selfish Christian was. His goto weapon of choice was his dishonest communications. He was dishonest with Dani by continuing a relationship with her only because he concluded that he might regret breaking up with her one day. He lied to Dani about wanting her to come on the trip with him, and she ruined the surprise. He lied to his friends, telling them Dani was invited but most likely wasn’t going with them to Sweden. Almost all his interactions later in the film show his selfishness was a primary characteristic of his personality. He even steals the subject matter of Josh’s (William Jackson Harper) thesis to be the basis of his thesis because of his selfish nature. There seem to be no lengths he is unwilling to take to fulfill this need.
Dani weaponizes her grief and tears. There wasn’t any interaction that she couldn’t use both to get or at least attempt to get whatever desired outcome she wanted. Dani does it numerous times. She utilizes the notion that if Christian loves her, he will leave with her after seeing aspects of their communities customs that generally are not for non-community’s eyes. Dani realizes it doesn’t make sense why they are allowed to view these activities. She has a valid point. However, once she asks the question, the weaponization becomes more apparent and is called out as Christian acknowledges her passive-aggressive use of these things. It is a frightening scene. The conversation below shows Dani’s manipulation at work. Christian’s frustration for the first time with Dani finally comes out. Her use of her tears was used in getting the invite for the trip. Dani using emotions as a weapon is intentional and a huge part of who she is. There is no doubt she is dealing with trauma. But it appears that manipulation of her grief and Christian’s feeling towards her is intentional and not accidental.
The door opens. Christian and Dani enter. Christian goes to his laptop and turns it on. Dani stays by the door, still preoccupied. Christian looks to her. CHRISTIAN
Are you okay?
Dani looks at him, hesitant to start a fight. Christian gives her an impatient look: “Yes? No?”
I mean – yeah. I’m okay. That was just…very weird.
CHRISTIAN (playing dumb)
What was? Dani looks at him: “Seriously?”
Christian widens his eyes: “What was weird?”
The…Sweden! I had no idea.
Well – what do you mean? I told you I wanted to go.
Okay, fine, but I didn’t know you were going.
Well, I just decided today. I wasn’t keeping it from you.
You already have a ticket! Beat. Christian now looks cornered.
Christian looks extremely defensive. He has LOCKED DOWN. Dani sees this, gathers herself, and tries to explain:
It’s just — imagine if we were at a party and someone asks “what are you doing this summer,”
and my friends say: “oh, we’re all going to Alaska for three months, we’re leaving
in two weeks,” and imagine that was the first you’d ever heard of it!
(correcting) A month and a half.
Okay: I told you I wanted to go to Sweden.
You told me it would be “cool to go.”
Yeah! And then I got the opportunity to go and I decided to do it.
I have no problem with you going! I just wish you’d involve me!
Well, I just apologized, Dani. 10.
You didn’t apologize, you said – (shrugs) – “sorry.”
Which sounds more like “too bad.”
Beat. Christian’s eyes are now very cold.
Maybe I should just go home.
…I’m just trying to understand.
And I tried apologizing.
I don’t need an apology. I just wanna talk about it. Pause.
I think I should just prob’ly go home. Dani looks helpless.
I’m not trying to attack you.
Well, it feels like that.
Well…I’m sorry! I am sorry. I just got confused.
Christian’s eyes, looking down, haven’t begun to thaw. Dani, now desperate to reverse the mood, sits on the couch. She beckons him.
Come on: Sit with me. I’m sorry. That just felt weird, that’s all.
I think going to Sweden could be really great for you.
That sounds amazing. Are you going for your thesis?
I don’t know what my thesis is.
DANI (brightly) I know! It could be inspiring! Right?
CHRISTIAN (still looking down)
…I think I’m just gonna leave. Dani’s eyes start to well intensely with TEARS.
DANI Please. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to overreact. Please.
Christian SOFTENS when he sees that she’s crying. Still distant, he sits with her.
CHRISTIAN Okay – shhh. It’s okay. I’m sorry, too. All right?
I get paranoid. I’m sorry. I’m going through all this stuff and I’ve been dealing with
all this panic and I just – overreacted. I’m not trying to put pressure or accuse you
of anything. I just got crazy for a second. I didn’t mean to project.
Christian strokes her hair.
It’s okay. I’m sorry, too. It’s okay. Beat.
CHRISTIAN (CONT’D) (uncertainly)
I was gonna ask you to come with me. Pause. Dani looks at him.
DANI What do you mean?
CHRISTIAN …What I just said.
Christian nods a stiff “yes.”
DANI (CONT’D) You don’t want me to.
CHRISTIAN I just asked you.
DANI (CONT’D) After I broke down crying!
CHRISTIAN Well…you ruined the surprise.
It is obvious Christian doesn’t want to give up on them. He may have displayed signals stating he wants to get out of the relationship through past actions. Maybe Dani reads into something that was there or something that wasn’t. It is hard to tell. However, ending their relationship wasn’t something Christian wanted or asked for. This realization is why he was hurt and caused him to storm away after justifiably feeling attacked. The entire situation involving his relationship with Dani looks to reach its breaking point in the story. Next, we start down the path of Christian, and the groups fall from grace.
Earlier in the film, the group and other individuals who came to the communities to visit the ceremonies we bombarded by the inhumanity of what they saw. The death of the elderly couple was incredibly intense. This iconic scene was the first indication that something was wrong. The community guest watched in horror as two elderly people sacrificed themselves by jumping off a cliff in front of the community. This scene marked the beginning of the festival. The sacrifice was too much for some of the guests. As they decided to leave the community in the middle of the night. But their fates were sealed, as we learn later. However, the following day the story starts to come into focus. Josh finds a ruin under Christian’s bed.
We are told it is a love ruin and that it is used to cast a love spell. Upon learning this, Christian walks up to Pelle and Josh, who just finished that conversation, where Pelle tells Christian that his younger sister is taking a liking to him and that at 15, she has reached “bymyndig,” the age of consent that allows her to have sex. Christian casually replies, “good for her,” attempting to be polite and assuming it has nothing to do with him. Unfortunately, it has everything to do with him. The brief conversation is interrupted by the community freaking out because Mark unknowingly takes a piss on an ancestral tree. That event, of course, raised tensions between the community and the group. Whereas when they are all together again during a dining event. The tension is so thick it can’t be ignored. The break in the tension comes at the expense of Christian. After Christian takes a bite out of his pie, he pulls a strand of red pubic hair out of his mouth. Mark calls it out as someone’s public hair. Which Christian dismisses, but it is clear that Maja places that and most likely the ruin under his bed. You can start feeling the walls close in on Christian.
The commotion involving a stolen book and the disappearance of both Josh and Mark the following day starts off the day. Christian, being who he is, start disowning his friends as he wants to continue having access to the community for his thesis. His concern for his missing friends raises the question of whether they were ever friends. The viewer saw Josh murdered as he attempted to gain access the previous night. Mark left off with a woman who wanted to show him something. At this point, we can only assume the worst. This film is finally in third gear.
What happens next is one of the most critical aspects of the film. The dialogue below explains why everyone is there.
INT. SMALL ROOM – CONTINUOUS
A spare room. Two chairs face each other in the center. Siv takes a seat in one of them.
Christian obliges. Siv’s posture is perfect. Christian self-consciously corrects his posture. A long silence, and then:
I just need to say, I have no idea where Josh went, and I can swear to that on my mother’s life.
How do you feel about Maja?
Siv’s lack of response says “yes.”
How do I feel about her how?
You have been approved to mate with her. You’re an ideal astrological match and she has fallen in love with you.
We haven’t even spoken. SIV She fell in love with you before you came. Pelle showed her a photo.
I have someone here with me. I’m with Dani.
Dani will not know. I am not proposing marriage. You wouldn’t be approved for that.
So…you’re asking me to what?
I’m asking you if you care to mate with Maja. It is a one-night offer.
…She’s very beautiful. SIV She is very beautiful
I think I ate one of her pubic hairs.
That sounds probably right.
Beat. Christian doesn’t know what to say.
From an academic perspective, it would also serve as a unique glimpse into our sexual rites.
Can I not have a unique glimpse without participating?
Siv smiles at the silly question.
Can I think about it?
You can think about it here. Tonight is the time of alignment. Then it’s done.
A long, conflicted pause.
I don’t think I can.
Okay. Is that your answer?
Sviv (Gunnel Fred) explains that Maja picked him as her mate, and the community, through Pelle, brought Christian there for that reason. It refers to a conversation he had earlier with a person from the community that sometimes brings in people from outside to mate with the women to keep the bloodlines from overlapping. So Mark, Dani, and Josh were only there because Maja selected Christian as her mate over a year ago. This fact is not lost on him. He genuinely starts to understand he is in mortal danger, mainly because he just refused the offer Sviv presented to him to participate freely in the sexual ritual. After leaving the building where he spoke with Sviv, Christian returns to the area where the Dance of Hargas contest takes place. He sees Dani is participating. However, his main concern is his well-being. He looks up and sees Maja obsessively staring at him, and a prominent woman in the community Ulla walks up to him with a glass for him to drink. Christian understands this conversation with Ulla as his last stance against whatever is taking place. He knows that numerous people, including his friends, are missing. He understands he was targeted to be a mate for the 15-year-old sister of a collegiate from thousands of miles away from him. And all the effort of him being there has culminated in this drink. He hesitates and then resigns himself to his fate. He knows he is being drugged. He hopes this is all that happens. He, unfortunately, realizes he is trapped. He takes one sip, then another, and throws up the proverbial white flag of surrender.
Christian is led towards a building where he is drugged again. This time right before he engages in the highly coerced sexual intercourse with Maja. Everything about Christian being with Maja, without a doubt, shows that he was forced into the sexual act by the entire community against his will. The community participates in facilitating sexual assault on him. Afterwards, a naked Christian in a drugged-induced state runs out of the building, looking for refuge. Only to find himself in another building where he is drugged for the third time. This time he is drugged so that he can offer no resistance to being sewn inside of a bear carcass. Then Christian is set on fire in a building along with all the other missing guests and sacrificial members from the community. His death was horrible. The only unknown is how horrible Dani’s death would be. The wasn’t anything shown that anyone in the community use to be an outsider or a Hargas Dance winner. Witnesses were not something the community believed in. The winner of the Dance of Hargas that Dani won only seems to remain in the community as a photo. Dani’s death was guaranteed once she accepted the invitation to come.
I know a lot of people disliked the film. I believe it is because Midsommar and the film’s promotion incorrectly framed people’s perspectives about the story. Midsommar isn’t a film about a bad breakup or grief. It was a film about Christian and how he ended up in a bear suit and got everyone around him killed. Is it worth seeing. Sure, give it a shot with a different perspective if you have time. I suggest the Director’s Cut because it offers more insight on the characters. Either version is good. I don’t rate it as high as I probably could, mainly because the film’s execution felt off. It isn’t a must-see, but a meh.
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