In time, this post will be about the theories to explain the mindjob movie Midsommar. But I have to get a few things off my chest first. Firstly, Midsommar, is the craziest and scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Hands down. No competition. I once thought that Mandy might be the craziest movie I’ve ever seen. But now I know for a fact that that isn’t true – it’s Midsommar.
I am currently sitting in a Starbucks, literally breathing into a bag, and sucking on ice chips the pleasant employees gave me to help me revive. You see, I just walked out of Midsommar, the movie I was more excited about this summer than any other. But I’ve come out to my little blog to post one message, and to warn as many people as I can:
“Please. For the love of all that is good and holy, do not see this movie.”
Normally here at THiNC. I ask that you make certain that you’ve seen the movie I am bringing to you, so that we can talk about it, and discuss it in detail. Generally I give a spoiler free walkthrough, throw a trailer at you, and then ask you to see it. Then after you’ve seen it, to come back, and join in as I walk through the movie from front to back, and then give my interpretation on what the heck we just saw. Right? (If this is your first page at THiNC. that you’ve had the joy of experiencing, then I am sorry. This is a terrible, horrible first post for you to see. Might I recommend maybe, oh I don’t know, the movie Starfish? Brightburn, or Blood Punch if you like your movies a little soggier. Or if its foreign mindjob movies you like, then try your hand at Verónica, Mirage, or Dark.) But this time, I am telling you outright, do not, whatever you do, do not watch this film. If you haven’t seen the film, feel free to read along as I walk you through the movie. And by the end, maybe you’ll see for yourselves why you shouldn’t watch this film.
Ok? But, I promise you in advance, this is going to be a screeding rant of a no holds barred, burn it down, write up. I am not going to be civil, or kind to this movie at all. I am, after all, still shaking, and have considered puking more than once I am still shaken that much by this movie. First to the technicalities of the movie. This movie was written and directed by Ari Aster – whom you probably know from his work on the movie Hereditary. And I have to say that Aster did a great job setting tone, and mood, and causing mind numbing fear in the bright light of summer… which I didn’t think possible. The sound quality on the front end of the film was awful… but picked up once the film made it to the Swedish commune compound. The art direction was beyond the pale. Just unbelievably executed. The acting was well done on the whole. But some of the writing came off as ad libbed. Many of the lines were extraordinarily bumpy. All of that can be given a pass. And if it weren’t for the horrifying content, and the horrific building chaos that just seemed to ramp up perpetually without pause or respect for the audience, who were all sitting at the back of the bus, just hammering on the “stop the bus” button, “I WANT OFF MAN!”, to no avail – if it weren’t for all of that, I would have happily given this movie a 4.0 on the technical merits, and would have sung its praises from the rooftops. But no. Instead I am writing this screed, and just begging you not to watch this horrifying film.
Midsommar Walk Through
Dani (played brilliantly & convincingly by Florence Pugh, who I absolutely loved in the movie Lady Macbeth) and Christian (played by Jack Reynor who did a great job in the movie Free Fire) have been dating for four years – and seem constantly on the verge of breaking up. The movie starts off, startlingly enough, when Dani’s sister commits suicide while simultaneously murdering their parents as well. The nature of the suicide is ingeniously horrific. She started the cars in the garage, and ran tubes from the exhaust, and piped it under the door of their parent’s bedroom. And the final tube was duct taped to her own mouth. (If the details of this description, and the intricacies of this murder/suicide gave you a bit of a lurch – then you probably should stop now. Because this particular struggle bus is only going to get infinitely worse before it’s over.)
Fast forward a year, and we catch back up with Dani the day she learns that Christian has been invited by his Swedish friend Pelle (vilhelm Blomgren) to attend a midsummer celebration. And this celebration – as luck(?) would have it – only occurs every ninety years. It will be held at Pelle’s family commune, the Hårga, in the very north of Sweden. Josh (played by William Jackson Harper) has decided that he will be studying the community for his thesis and Mark (Will Poulter) will be coming along as fodder, no no… sorry, misstep there. He’s coming along for the ride, and to enjoy the experience. Dani, after receiving a truly cringe worthy false invitation she was intended to accept, comes along for the ride as well.
When the group of five friends arrives at the commune, they are given a psilocybin fruit punch concoction, which caused Dani to have a terrifyingly bad trip that caused her to see hallucinations of her dead sister. And then after, they meet an English couple that had been invited by Pelle’s brother. But when the group of six outsiders are invited to witness an ättestupa ritual, things take one of our first really really awful turns. Not freaked out of your mind yet? Well, that’s understandable, because you don’t know what an ättestupa ritual is. But I can help with that – yes, you are welcome – as it is a rite wherein two of the commune’s elder members commit senicide. Sorry, no, it’s not senicide, that seems to connote senility, and a putting out of misery… but these two elderly individuals seem to be perfectly fit and mentally, just extraordinarily healthy. And they do this by leaping to their death from a cliff. The woman jumps, and gruesomely dies immediately. But when the jump doesn’t kill the gentleman, four people walk over and take turns hammering on his skull with a mallet. A mallet that was apparently reconstructed diligently to match the historically accurate tool? And this bludgeoning isn’t some sort of veiled, half view through the cracks in your fingers, this is a fullon close up of his skull shattering like a melon. Again. And again. And again.
By now, having watched this horror show, the British couple are hollering and screaming about the insanity of it all. (And the truth be told? I was screaming along with them from the comfort of my reclined fetal position.) They are not handling it well… like at all. And I actually think it is more of an indictment against Dani and Christian for not joining their chorus of protestations. But alas. The last runaway truck ramp was miles ago. This thing is going to accelerate all the way into the ground, there won’t be any slowing on this inner-city shuttle. Oh, and by the way, the two British protesting individuals? They go missing the next day – and we learn later, they are horribly dismembered in various terrifying ways. And become useful again at the end of the movie. So, just put a bookmark on them for now.
A few minutes later, when Mark, mistakenly, relieves himself on the commune’s ancestral family tree… he’s lured away by a woman of the commune, never to be seen again. Oh, and did I mention that Josh had been looking for a thesis to study as well? And in the middle of a widening rift between himself and Dani, he decides he is going to study the community’s rituals and practices. Which, OBVIOUSLY, sets Josh off completely. It actually pushes Josh to get up in the middle of the night and attempt to get photos of the holy text the commune uses as their guide and direction. When Josh sneaks in to photograph the book in order to get the jump on Christian, he is jumped by a man wearing Mark’s skinned face. His. Skinned. Face. “Hey Mark… cut it out… shut the door… AHGHHH!” Right. You get the picture. Something straight out of a Hannibal Lecter story.
Quick Midsommar Pause
I will say this – because I desperately need a break from continuing to talk about this movie at this point – that normal horror movies don’t do anything for me at all. Some have clever twists, or investigate guilt and feelings of loss, and that interests me. But pouring gallons of fake blood on actors just makes me say, ew. I immediately leave the fear of the fictional moment and my thoughts move to the actor that has been paid to writhe in this embryonic stew. So you have to understand, that one of the biggest elements that makes this movie truly soul-splitting to watch for me, is the participation of these cult members of this cute little commune. It’s all sunshine, lemonade, and smiles. And they’re all asmile as we greet the two older people, who then, graphically and terrifyingly, commit suicide. And then we think, ok, ok, aboration. Weird one off. Pass the psychotropic lemonade please. And then the violence and the blood escalates. People disappear, and then are found in just mortifying death poses. (Blood eagles, for example. Which, I didn’t realize was a real thing – but oh my, is it ever a real thing. But apparently a blood eagle a ritualistic killing method where the person’s ribs are cut open with a sharp tool, and the lungs are pulled up through the back, and splayed out into the air. Yes. I also almost threw up as well.) And it’s all this horrid gore is among the sunshine. And among the smiles. And these aren’t the creepy clown smiles. Genuine, kind hearted smiles of people interested to know you and have you join in. Hahhaha. It’s the daylight that makes this film so incredibly hard to watch.
Midsommar Ending Walkthrough
Ok. Jumping Jacks everyone. We can finish this up!!
Anyway – we, the audience, get the idea that this community can’t handle its voracious appetite for death without outside blood. We already know that Dani, Christian, and the rest are seen as new blood into the community, and their chance for leaving will be extraordinarily slim. But they apparently don’t know that. This community also have some serious incest-worship issues, seeing as though that is how they pick their prophets by intententually inbreed to cause deformed and handicapped individuals to “learn” from.
The next day, with Dani and Christian being the only members of their group arriving at breakfast (uh, red flags, anyone?), Dani gets involved in the May Queen – Maypole competition. And guess what? She wins!! So great. Tell her what she’s won Bill! Simultaneously, Christian is drugged and setup to have sex with Maja while half the female population of the commune watches on while naked. Yeah. You heard that right… it was a whole ‘nother level of cringey awfulness and evil. But all of this, the impregnation festivities, and the maypole frollicking, were all done under a wash of psychotropic drugs. Why? Because it allows you to “fall under the influence easier.” (I swear, that is a quote from the movie, I am not making that up.) And after Dani wins the competition she forces her way to where Christian is, and sees through a keyhole what he is up to. And – yeah… if you haven’t yet got a sense of how this might be a bit of a break up film in the guise horror film, then this might be your wake up call. And, just for the record, this breakup is on rails now.
And then the real horror begins.
We learn that after Dani’s panic attack after seeing Christian impregnating Maja, that nine sacrifices are going to have to be made at the end of this ritual celebration. And as luck would have it, Christian has just been captured for just this purpose. Of the nine, four outsiders would be offered: (Josh, Mark, Simon, and Connie). All of whom are already dead and embalmed especially and spectacularly for the festivities. And there are four cult members. The two elders. And then the two volunteers. Which leaves one last sacrifice to be identified. And, guess what?!? Dani, the May Queen, gets to decide who the final sacrifice will be. She is to choose between an outsider (Christian), or a lottery selected villager.
Can you say Barabus, anyone? Shall I release the Christ (Christian)? Or shall I release Barabus, the criminal? BARABBUS! BARABBUS! (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you really need to brush up on your general Bible knowledge. Matthew 27 if you are interested.) And just like that, Dani decides that Christian will be the one to be sacrificed.
Now, this last bit – is so messed up – I really would prefer not to go through it in grave detail. But basically, the commune’s bear is disemboweled by the children of the commune, and Christian – alive and kicking – is embedded inside the bear. And then he is sat in the center of the commune’s big wooden pyramid. The pyramid that has been looming back there like Hamlet’s father since minute one. Ok? Then the other six dead commune members and outsiders, are sat in the corners and sides of the inside of the pyramid. Which leaves us with the two volunteers, that just take a seat on hay bales around the perimeter inside the pyramid. And then the pyramid is lit in order to attempt to purge the community’s evil. Of which, there is apparently a metric butt-ton worth to rid of.
Christian and the two volunteers are alive when they light. And those two volunteers quiet. And as they scream, the commune members mirror the screams in perfect unison. Adding horror to the horror of these two men writhing inside the pyramid in pain. And as the cultic community celebrates the conclusion of the 90 year ritual, Dani screams and sobs. But eventually her screams gradually turn from shrieks of horror to a smile.
Midsommar – Sacrifices Explain It??
Throughout the world’s religions is this idea of sin and reconciliation via sacrifice. That there is life in blood, and only via blood can reconciliation and atonement for sin be created. Sacrifices are deeply embedded in the Vedic and Hinduism, and detailed throughout the Brahmana texts. In China, sacrifice has been utilized a number of different ways. Human sacrifices have even been used, normally by the emperor himself, to heaven and to earth. Sacrifices were also incorporated in the idea of ancestral worship. Wherein sacrificial offerings were renewed perpetually. Human sacrifice was once common in Japan, in order to satiate the natural deities and during burial rites. Those rituals fell out of favor in the Middle Ages. Now though sacrifices of food, clothing, shelter, are more the norm. These different practices are fairly common place in the traditional religion, Shintō. In Judaism, the idea of sacrifice was ritualized under Moses, and the rule of the priests. Specific animal sacrifices were institutionalized in order to temporarily cover sin until the Christ were to come and grant forgiveness in perpetuity. Which is where we get to Christianity, and its claim that Jesus is the Christ, and brought forgiveness for sins once and for all through his death and resurrection. Obviously the Jews are still awaiting the arrival of the Christ. And Christians celebrate his arrival every year at Christmas.
So this idea of sacrifice for the covering of sins isn’t a weird idea. It’s fairly pervasive actually. Which sort of begs the question… what is sin, and why are we sacrificing for it? Well, if you believe in God, and a perfect God at that, it is fairly difficult for a perfect entity to cavort with sinners. Regardless of how lenient he’d like to be. Unless there is some method for atoning for sin, a separation logically has to occur. And the fact that we all innately understand this need, or lack, or separation, tells me that it is real. Heck, this movie, as horrible as it is, reminds me of my own need for reconciliation with the perfect God of the universe.
Now, to the cult. They utilized an inbred prophet to paint paintings and interpreted the paintings into laws, rules, and sacrifices necessary to make amends for the community’s sin. But really? All of this really doesn’t matter. Because the sacrifices, the cult chaos, the fires, the suicides, that isn’t what this movie is all about. It’s about something else entirely. But what?!?
Normally, I avoid looking at other sites that try and explain the inner workings of movies. I avoid coming to the movie with a tainted perspective. But when I walked out of this movie, I had my idea of how the inner workings happened, but I was way more fascinated to hear what others thought about this movie. Here are a few interpretations that just made me laugh out loud as they struggled to make sense of this insanity:
Midsommar Explained – Theory 1 – Family
Over at Collider they thought it was about finding family: “…this is the story of a young woman enduring the most unimaginable grief at the same time… is about the importance of empathy, shared emotion, and finding family in the most unexpected places.” They go on to say that in the beginning of the movie, Dani was alone in her grief of her family’s death. But in the end she is surrounded in her sadness, by others who are joining in her loss. So Ok. That’s one read on the film. And it’s awful. Terrible. Horrible. No. That is not what this movie is about.
Midsommar Explained – Theory 2 – All Tripping
In one interview, Reynor states, “Can you think of any film that you’ve watched that has as accurately represented the experience of a mushroom trip?” Could it be that the entirety of this movie is 100% a trip? Or 90% tripping? Might it be that they are actually surrounded by pleasant Swedish small town villagers who are just filled with love and acceptance. All the murder. All the sacrificing? Maybe it never really happened. And the only thing I’ve got to support this particular theory is that this could all be Dani’s blood dream induced by the psychotropics that they have been given. Trust me… any theory that makes the rest of this movie fake, I am all for it. Because, please, someone please make it all go away.
Midsommar Explained – Theory 3 – Gaping Horror
Jordan Peele – the amazing writer/director of US and Get Out – has opined on this mental mindjob of a movie, and how to understand it. “It is an ascension of horror … It’s a very unique feeling for a film to conjure because after it ended, I found myself looking back at the final act like, ‘Holy sh*t.’ That was some of the most atrociously disturbing imagery I’ve ever seen on film, and yet I experienced it with this open-mouthed, wild-eyed gape. I think that part of how we get there is never reducing the villains to any kind of snarling monsters with an evil agenda.”
And to that end, a lot of this movie is based on fact. The ättestupa ritualistic cliffs can still be found to this day. Generally the elderly were pushed off the cliff. They didn’t jump. And those are some of the scariest words I’ve ever written down. The outfits, the architecture, all based in fact. You base a story on these kinds of facts and you have just made one of the scariest movies the world has ever seen. You can’t make a movie this scary based on fiction. It’s not possible.
Midsommar Explained – Theory 4 – A Fairy Tale
But what did Ari Aster say about the meaning of the film? What meaning did the writer and director ascribe to it? “For me, the film is incidentally a folk horror film. If anything, this is my attempt at making a big operatic breakup movie that feels the way a breakup feels,” said Aster. “That sort of makes literal those feelings, where a breakup can feel apocalyptic, like the world is ending. And so there’s a pleasure in taking a movie to that extreme. Anybody watching the trailer for ‘Midsommar,’ you probably know where it’s going, right? These people are going to be sacrificed,” he said. “And so that made it the least interesting thing for me. It was about getting to that inevitable ending in a way that feels emotionally surprising. And my way in was by kind of working through my breakup.”
So Aster has come out to explicitly tell us that the entire affair is a metaphor. An apocalyptic vision for describing the carnage that is a breakup. There is horror, and fire, and despair. Which, is true, in a sense. But Aster was careful in declaring that no one in the film was a surrogate for his ex. “It’s not like this is what I want to do to my ex, but there is a feeling of you want to set fire to that part of yourself and that part of your life and move on clean because it’s so painful. I see the film as being a perverse wish fulfillment fantasy. Christian and his friends,” said Aster “they’re all walking into a folk horror movie and that’s what the movie is going to be for them. But for Dani, by the end it’ll be revealed that in fact the movie is a fairy tale only for her.”
Final Thoughts on Midsommar
Midsommar was without a doubt, the single scariest, most gruesome movie I’ve ever watched. Yes, it was a tad gorey. It wasn’t the blood that made it gruesome… it was the sunshine of it. The bright skies, the happy, welcoming smiles, all accompanying the most inhumane spectacles ever. That is how you create real fear. To say I hated this movie is to put it lightly. But only in a way that a really skillfully done movie can draw one’s ire. Aster excelled at creating the vision he was hoping for. A drug infused, miasma of blood, fire, and angst. And I am really, really glad that this walk through and discussion is finally over.