By Matilda Stolte || Contributing Writer
For Halloween, I urge you to step out of the boring bubble of the same three Halloween movies into the world of Midsommar. It successfully accomplishes the task of overlapping the horrifying and the beautiful. Over the summer, I was peer pressured to go see it by my friend Kendra. We absentmindedly watched the two minute trailer, not really understanding what we were in for since neither of us has seen Ari Aster’s first film Hereditary. We had only heard that Midsommar consisted of the two things we were seeking: ook and spook.
The film didn’t even attempt to ease the audience into the craziness that is an Ari Aster movie. The lead character Dani is played by a relatively newcomer: Florence Pugh. I’ve previously seen her in the unexpected film Lady McBeth and the BBC limited series The Little Drummer Girl. After watching both, I made a promise to watch everything she is in. Pugh will play Amy in Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Little Women. Alcott’s Amy is the foil of Dani. Dani is quiet, codependent, and trapped in this light-hearted, easy-going personality that doesn’t fit after tragedy strikes.
In Midsommar, we see Dani stuck in a loveless relationship with boyfriend Christian, played by Jack Reynor. Within the first five minutes, we witness Dani’s sister murder her parents and commits suicide through the unique torturous manipulation of exhaust pipes. Through devastation, we are able to closely examine the rocky relationship between Dani and Christian by their inability to properly communicate. Christian’s core group of friends planned this trip to Sweden months prior each attending for various reasons. Pelle wants to show his friends his hometown. Actor William Jackson Harper of NBC’s The Good Place plays Josh who is attempting to finish his thesis on the Midsommar festival they are all attending. Harper’s Chidi from The Good Place and Josh are very similar: anxious, unsure, and a tad pedantic. Josh, the intellectually motivated juxtaposes both Christian and other friend Mark played by Will Poulter of We’re the Millers and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Both Christian and Mark are there for leisure and do not put in any effort to learn the Harga culture they’ve been submerged into.
In an attempt to include the mourner, Dani is invited to this previously deemed boys trip. The group, led by Swedish friend Pelle, is introduced to all the peculiar elements of the festival along with the audience. Ari Aster plays with this potent sense of unfamiliarity and not belonging on multiple levels: through the eyes of trip crasher Dani and as outsiders of a traditional Swedish festival. We are slowly initiated into the Harga culture through awkward, extended dinners set at these oblong white tables bizarrely placed where everybody wears white smocks except the outsiders, including two newcomers from the UK. At the first dinner, they stand and honor two elders who sit at the head of the most important table. After the meal Dani and her friends barely touched, they follow the elders towards a large cliff. Questions and confusion mumbles within the group, but the leader Pelle assures them quietly. Possibly the most jarring scene is when the elders climb this rock, stutter something incoherent, and jump off separately. If you looked away like I did, you are reminded by the loud moans of pain from the second jumper who survives the fall. His leg being twisted to his torso forces the other leaders in white to end his life for him. As this is going on, the Americans force Pelle to explain the events that just transpired. This is the beginning of Dani’s confusion and the absurdity that is Midsommar.
In a slight attempt of not completely ruining the film for you, let’s fast forward to the end. The outsiders at the table decrease while Dani slowly assimilates to the Harga culture. The British couple is the first to go. As an audience, we believe the couple successfully escapes after suicide of the two elders, but their death is revealed to us at the end. The Harga people are shown fertilizing their dead bodies. Their murder is followed with the killing of Mark who completely disrespects the sacred elder tree by peeing on it. Josh, the one who is most unlikely to disrespect the culture, pulls an academia Icarus, and attempts to read their most sacred text. Most deaths are off-screen, but the climax of the movie comes in the form of Dani winning the festival’s prized honor: the May Queen. The festival celebrates their tradition where nine people get killed as sacrifices. Four outsiders (British Couple, Josh, and Mark) and four of their own are killed. As the May Queen, she gets to choose the ninth sacrifice. The honor of May Queen is representative of the fact that Dani was the only outsider who had proven loyalty and shown respect to the Haga culture. As part of her journey to freedom and self-discovery, she chooses the only outsider left to sacrifice: her boyfriend Christian.
Ari Aster successfully confuses and shocks the audience. There wasn’t a single second in the movie where I felt like I could predict the next scene. Midsommar is the first horror movie I’ve seen where the scariest, thrilling scenes happen in broad daylight. The realization that the worst events occur right under your nose, refusing to be hidden, is possible the scariest part of Midsommar.
Sophomore Matilda Stolte is a contributing writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.