Midsommar is Ari Aster’s haunting folk horror film that stunned audiences in 2019. The movie follows a group of college students who travel to a pagan festival in Sweden and get caught up in a terrifying ordeal. If you’ve seen the film, then you know that description doesn’t really do the movie justice, and there’s so much that makes this film such a complex, intriguing work of art. Fortunately, we’ve analyzed every frame to bring you a comprehensive breakdown of what this movie’s really about. Here’s Midsommar explained for all you filmmakers wanting to make your own folk horror masterpiece.
Naturally, spoilers ahead for Midsommar.
Midsommar Explained — Hidden in the Background
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What is Midsommar about?
Midsommar is one of the best horror films of all time and for good reason. It successfully creates a haunting atmosphere that remains pertinent throughout the entire film. Horror movies have short and sweet runtimes but even the Midsommar Director’s Cut with nearly a three-hour runtime keeps you locked in dreadful suspense.
First and foremost, a quick recap of the Midsommar plot explained as things get a little wonky as the film progresses.
Our Midsommar synopsis opens with a scene of Dani trying to call her emotionally-distant boyfriend Christian. She’s hysterical because her suicidal sister isn’t returning any of her messages. We soon learn that Dani’s sister was successful in committing suicide via car exhaust, and the fumes also killed Dani’s parents in the same house.
Fast forward a bit and Dani and Christian are still together. Christian is hesitant about bringing Dani along on a trip to Sweden with him and his friends, but he ultimately invites her. The group arrives at the midsommar festival where everything is a bit… off.
The group experiences the strange rituals of the people, which includes two elderly citizens jumping off a cliff to their deaths (clip not provided for obvious reasons).
As they dive deeper into the true intentions behind the festivals, outsiders in the group begin to disappear. Later, Dani wins a maypole dancing competition, becoming the May Queen. We can see exactly how Ari Aster intended this scene to play out by examining the script that we imported into StudioBinder's screenwriting software.
In another post, we have a complete breakdown of the entire Midsommar script, including a PDF download.
Shortly after this, she witnesses Christian having sex with one of the Swedish girls (after he becomes under the influence of drugs). We soon learn the Swedish people have captured the outsiders to use as part of a ritual burning. They’ve all been killed and are placed within a ceremonial hut. As May Queen, it’s up to Dani to decide whether Christian or one of the cult followers will become the final participant. She chooses Christian.
Dani is the primary protagonist, and we can divide the film into three sections to track her progress. The first section involves Dani becoming traumatized over the death of her sister. While Christian is sympathetic, it’s clear he’s only staying with her because she’s suffered such an immense loss.
The second section takes place throughout the midsommar ceremony. Over the course of these days, we see Dani slowly realize how manipulative and emotionally abusive Christian has been. For example, there’s a moment everyone believes Simon left the village without telling his girlfriend Connie behind. Dani bitterly states how she thinks Christian would do the same.
The ending of Midsommar kicks off after Dani sees Christian having sex with one of the villagers. She breaks down in hysterics, but the other women join her in her pain. Dani screams and hyperventilates, and everyone else follows suit. By looking at the film through these sections, we gain a better understanding of the film’s central themes.
THE MOVIE MIDSOMMAR EXPLAINED
What is our Midsommar analysis?
While Midsommar is a folk horror movie in the same vein as The Wicker Man, it’s essentially a breakup movie. Don’t just take it from us. Hear what Midsommar director Ari Aster has to say as he mentions Eyes Wide Shut and Modern Romance as influences.
Examine Dani and Christian’s relationship in the film’s overture. She’s reaching out to him for help, thinking the worst has happened to her sister, and he really just blows her off. It’s clear this relationship just isn’t panning out, or at the least, it’s just not something Christian is interested in helping Dani get through her family’s passing. Dani likely stays because she doesn’t want to lose someone else at this time, but there’s a lack of shared empathy between the two.
Every relationship is different, but each one depends on a foundation of shared empathy. When your partner is upset, you should be upset, too. When your partner is happy, you share in their joy. If that foundation isn’t there, it leads to people feeling alone and isolated even when they’re surrounded by other people.
This is expressed visually in the film when Dani goes to talk to Christian’s friends. They’re all on the couch, and Dani is seen through the mirror above, physically separated from them.
All this changes when Dani goes to the village. When she catches Christian cheating on her, she runs out of the hut screaming and crying, but something different happens. The female villagers surround her and share in her grief. Just like earlier in the film when the village shared in the old person’s pain (you know what we’re talking about), the villagers empathize with Dani in a way no one else has.
The ending of Midsommar explained is this: Dani literally buries her past life. Christian and all his friends go up in flames, and she acts out their pain just like the villagers. While the film is filled with ritualistic sacrifices and bears in cages, it sticks with you because of these central, universal themes anyone can learn from.
MIDSOMMAR MOVIE EXPLAINED
What’s going on in the background?
After watching Midsommar the first time around, you may be hesitant to watch it twice (it gets pretty gruesome after all). But if you pay attention, you may notice background details that really let you into Dani’s state of mind and the grief she’s still experiencing.
One of the most memorable moments that went viral was the scene where after Dani becomes the May Queen. If you look at the trees behind her, you can see the image of her sister’s face with the exhaust tube in her mouth from when she killed herself.
However, that’s not the only time Dani’s sister can be seen after the overture. Upon arriving at the village and ingesting hallucinogenic tea, Dani looks at herself in the mirror and is startled to see her sister.
In the end, after she becomes May Queen, Dani hallucinates her sister amongst the crowd.
These scenes give the movie a more surreal atmosphere. They also let us deeper into Dani’s mind. It just goes to show how broken she became over her family’s death. She clearly has mental health issues she needs to address, but all the while, none of the people she’s with seem to care. Christian continues to just try to get her to act normal so that they can have a fun time in Sweden.
It’s not just creepy Easter eggs going on in the background either. Aster also uses the background to foreshadow what’s to come. The very first image we see is a tapestry that summarizes the entire story we're about to watch.
The left-hand side of the quilt shows the overture. A woman (Dani) is connected to three other people (her sister, father, and mother). The grim spectre of death overlooks the image.
Look closely and you can see other events from the film within the quilt. There’s the trek to the Swedish village and the final ceremony around the Maypole. Aster expertly manages to tell the audience precisely what was going to happen in a subtle manner while adding a new sense of dread and foreboding to the sequences about to take place.
MIDSOMMAR ENDING AND OTHER IMPORTANT POINTS
What other symbolism is in the film?
There is symbolism all over Midsommar. Flowers come up prominently in the film, most notably when Dani earns the title of May Queen and adorns a large floral dress. However, flowers come up many other times in the film, often at points to signal great emotional gravity.
Flowers are seen in the wallpaper in Dani’s parents’ house when they pass away, triggering Dani’s emotional journey throughout the film. After the group travels to Sweden, Dani picks flowers for Christian, who couldn’t be more aloof. Finally, flowers guide Christian to the building where he ultimately cheats on Dani.
Flowers are also often used as symbols of rebirth and fertility. While there’s a literal connotation with that meaning when the flowers guide Christian to his doom, there’s also a perversion at play.
There’s a stark juxtaposition at the end of the film seeing Dani covered in beautiful flowers as she watches her former friends, many of whom have already died, be burned alive in the ceremonial structure.
In a perverse way, Dani has indeed been reborn. She’s found a new community to be a part of. She doesn’t have to deal with people who don’t care about her trauma, and instead, she can stay in this village where everyone will share her emotions with her.
Midsommar is a trip you may not always want to take. But it’s so much more than a creepy journey to a remote Swedish village. It’s something a lot of people can relate to… even if they’ve never stuffed their ex into a bear carcass.
Us — Plot, Symbolism Explained
Now that you can impress your friends by explaining the true meaning of Midsommar, let’s tackle another potentially confusing film: Jordan Peele’s Us. In the director’s follow-up to Get Out, he crafts a terrifying tale that makes some salient points concerning modern American society. Let’s dive into our next explainer on Us.