Ari Aster’s latest horrorfest Midsommar is out now. It’s rich, gorgeous, lucid nightmare of a movie (check out our review) packed with shocks and images you can’t unsee. It also requires a little bit of unpicking and left us with several questions.
Like many excellent but mysterious movies, not all the answers are clear. Instead we’ve come up with a bunch of things that made us scratch our heads and a range of points that, frankly, we just really want to talk about. We’ve come up with our own theories about what might have happened and what they might mean. We’d love to hear your thoughts too, let us know what you made of all this in the comments section.
And needless to say, this article will be packed with spoilers from the get-go so if you’ve not seen the movie – move along! Not least because if you’ve not seen it, the article likely won’t make a lick of sense anyway…
Why did Dani put Christian in the bear?
This looks like a very straightforward one at first glance: she puts him in the bear because he’s a massive dick. But let’s break it down a little further though. Dani isn’t crazy and although Christian is a terrible boyfriend it’s quite the leap to put him in a bear and burn him. Yes, she witnessed him sleeping with another girl, but by that point that’s surely the least of the horrors she’s witnessed that week, and to be fair, that wasn’t entirely his fault.
We think this decision is more a journey of discovery decision. Because although you’d probably choose to save even the nobbiest of ex-boyfriends over a murderous cult, Dani has perhaps decided that she’s without family of her own and the nurturing elements of Hårga are where she now belongs. If she doesn’t put Christian in a bear and burn him, she’s never going to be free. He can’t be allowed to leave. He’s currently paralysed. And if not-paraylsed he’ll be a liability, especially given he’s probably fathered a child within the cult. You go your own way, girl. Put him in the bear.
Why a bear?
The gang walk past the still alive bear early on in the film and Mark (Will Poulter) references it (something like ‘is no one going to mention there’s a bear?’) foreshadowing the bear’s later involvement. It’s a Chekhov’s bear, if you will.
There’s a bit more bear-based foreshadowing before the guys even get to Hårga. In Dani’s house there’s a painting of a little girl wearing a crown reaching out to a bear.
But that still doesn’t explain why a bear.
In Norse Myth there were warriors called Berserkers who would fight in a frenzied trance and in some versions these were said to be able to actually transform into a bear. Dead Berserkers were often put in bear skins ahead of their funeral rites, so it could be a reference to that?
But it could also just be because it’s a cool image. We are hoping ‘urgh, put them in a bear and burn them’ becomes a comforting phrase offered to those who are being mistreated by their other half.
Who were the nine sacrifices?
We learn there must be nine people sacrificed. Four from Hårga, four outsiders, and one final choice to be made by the May Queen. The outsiders are of course Mark, Josh, Connie and Simon. The May Queen’s choice is Christian (urgh, put him in a bear and burn him) and then there are two volunteers from Hårga. But who are the other two? At first we thought it was the old couple who jumped off the cliff near the start. But it can’t be them since they had their heads smashed in and were burned on the pyre. Also the sacrifice of the oldies seemed to be something that happens outside the celebrations – if the celebrations happen only every 90 years then would mean that others in the commune wouldn’t be able to sacrifice themselves in this way, and we know that’s not the case because another of the town’s elders says she will sacrifice herself when her time comes.
So who are the locals who are dressed up like trees? Honestly, we don’t know. Suggestions welcome.
Why did they kill Connie and Simon?
Unlike Mark – who wees on the sacred tree, and Josh – who tries to photograph and possibly steal the sacred book – Connie and Simon don’t really commit any obvious transgressions. Unless you count saying ‘fuck’ a lot after the old couple jump off the cliff and wanting to go home early.
Perhaps the sacrifice of the outsiders isn’t dependent on transgressions at all, though that does make you wonder what might have happened if Dani hadn’t become the May Queen. There are six outsiders, four or possibly five are getting sacrificed. If Dani’s not the May Queen, what would they have done with her? Let her go? Don’t think so.
But if Connie and Simon were always for the chop, why were the elders annoyed with Ingmar?
Ingmar’s all super apologetic that Connie and Simon choose to leave, but why, if they’re just going to be killed anyway? Perhaps this messes with the schedule and there was something more ritualistic planned. Also Simon getting flowers for eyes and hung up in a chicken coup isn’t not ritualistic…
Who’s that in the Mark skin mask?
We think that’s Ruben wearing Mark’s face who kills Josh, because of some sound cues during that scene (and because he protects the book). That was quite the image.
Was Dani always going to be May Queen? And what if she hadn’t won the dance?
Pelle certainly seemed to be grooming Dani to become one of them. From very early on, before they take the trip, he empathises with her grief and it’s only Pelle that really makes her feel welcome. However, were it not for the loss of her family, Christian likely would have broken up with her and she wouldn’t have put him in a bear and burned him.
So it’s unlikely that luring her over to become the new May Queen was the plan, but more an opportunity Pelle saw present itself once he realised Dani was going to come with. She could just as easily been one of the nine. There’s an indication that Pelle is romantically interested in Dani (totally kisses her on the mouth) so you could see why he might want her to join the commune.
If she hadn’t won the dance-off it doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have joined the group – the communal grieving session seemed to be quite a turning point for Dani – though she wouldn’t have had the catharsis of being able to put Christian in a bear and burn him.
Why didn’t they all just leave?
Firstly, because then we wouldn’t have a movie.
But within the film’s logic Mark stays because he’s getting some action. And then he gets killed. Josh and Christian stay because they are planning to base their theses on the community. And Dani? Well initially she’s coerced by Christian but later it seems as if she’s gently seeing some positives in the community – after all, it’s not all bad.
The May Queen dance off, for example, is a strange mix of drug fuelled joy and terror, and at various points the other women are supportive of Dani. She is also slowly beginning to realise how much of a rubbish boyfriend Christian is and coming around to Pelle’s view of the community as a new family. He won’t leave with her (though she fears he would leave without her) and ultimately her journey leads her to believe it’s better for her to stay.