MIDSOMMAR - gather round the maypole everyone! **Spoilers**

Just saw Midsommar yesterday, the second movie from Ari Aster (Hereditary) and I’m dying to talk about it. I was initially going to post this in the horror movie thread but thought it deserved it’s own thread as Waypoint has been a great place for discussion of films. I particularly enjoyed the dive into Jordan Peele’s Us earlier in the year!

I’ll do a plot synopsis, but I’m conscious that the film has literally just opened up this week and, as with Hereditary, some might want to go in knowing as little about the movie as possible. So I’ll just blur it.

Here’s a trailer to break up this wall of text!

So Midsommar, it’s about Danni (Florence Pugh) who undergoes significant tragedy in her life. She is in a relationship with Christian (Jack Reynor), a relationship that is pretty severly on the rocks with a number of red flags blowing in the wind. Christian has a group of friends (Will Poulter) who are all telling him to break up with her, but he seems hesitant and given her recent tragedy, it doesn’t feel right in terms of timing. Christian and his friends plan to travel to Sweden to attend a folksy Midsommar festival taking place in Pelle’s hometown. Danni invites herself along much to the annoyance of the group. They arrive in beautiful Sweeden and are met with sunshine, lots of welcoming smiling faces and folksly old time traditions, mushrooms and suffice to say everything does not go smoothly.

I really enjoyed Midsommar on it’s own, beat for beat it excels in creating an atmosphere of dread, with occassional moments of humour, horror and bits where the two become fused in really weird ways. I think it is a lot less polarising than Hereditary was but I think it is also serves as a really interesting companion piece to it. Whilst Hereditary was the feel bad movie of 2018, Midsommar is almost… from a certain point of view… the feel good comedy of 2019.

Just a list of talking points and things I appreciated.

  • Florence Pugh was fantastic, anchoring the movie with a central performance that rivaled Toni Collette in Hereditary.
  • Horror in broad daylight - this is typically very hard to do but also a staple of the folksy element. The film relishes in creating an atmosphere of dread within this setting, which also allows the more horrific elements really pop.
  • Get Out - the old horror trope is alive and well here but I also loved how the central characters ultimately had no inclination to leave what so ever..
  • Lore reasons I want to see Midsommar again because I feel like there is a lot of stuff, particularly in the artwork that give you futher info into the world. It’s all remarkably well fleshed out. Again Hereditary kind of threw in the supernatural element with some explanation. Having the two duelling academics in the picture was pretty cool too in unearthing more of the complexities in the community
  • The sex scene… As with Hereditary, this was a scene that people were both laughing at and unnerved by.

  • Part of my problem with my first viewing of Hereditary was not stomaching that downbeat ending. I guess in some ways, this was down to personal preferences, in that I like my horror movies to at least have some form of catharsis or constructive resolution. Midsommar obviously goes more in that direction, where Danni does actually find a family that can share in every extreme emotion she has.
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I loved this. I didn’t watch Hereditary so i cant make any comparisons but this was great. One thing I enjoyed was how the majority of the deaths occurred off screen and didn’t elicit any payoff until later

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It’s not going to be out where I live until August, but I really can’t wait to see it! I loved Hereditary.

Won’t read much further of this thread until then, but just here to note there’s been a lot of renewed in the “folk horror” subgenre online lately, as I’m sure a lot of people interested in horror or film may have noticed.
It typically seems to emanate from communities like folk horror revival and related social media pages (the genre’s very existence being a fairly recent invention).

I haven’t had the time to really delve into it myself, but yeah, there seems to be A Lot to get into, and some of it might provide some nice context around this movie!

The genre also seems to come with its own can of political worms re:paganism and nationalist mythologies —see the disclaimer at the bottom of the folk horror revival homepage for a taste. Not very surprising given the subject matter/aesthetics at the heart, but yeah, this stuff’s probably going to be unavoidable.
My hope is that some of the canonical source material actually tackles this aspect head on and goes beyond a surface fascination with European folklore, but who knows.

Still excited to discover much of it for myself, might put July to use for this purpose before Midsommar’s release here.

I am sorry to say I have nothing to add to this conversation because, as much as I was looking forward to this movie, I read the Wikipedia summary, was feeling like I might be able to handle this movie (I really like horror movies but do not like being horrified–weird, I know), hit blood eagle and knew there is no way in hell I am watching this in a theater. Having said that, I wish Ari Aster a long and successful career full of movies that scare me simply in reading about them.

Can someone elaborate to me the perspective it takes to interpret this movie as a comedy? The culture clash elements were uncomfortably amusing in making you feel embarrassed for the guests, I guess, and maybe if you accept absurd nihilism as feel-good comedy, but it’s not quite cringe comedy when the culture clash is justified and ends in the brutal mutilation of the guests.

What made it more frustrating and less engaging for me, at least from a storytelling perspective, was that there was never even really a chance for any victim to struggle: they’re swiftly and brutally killed one by one without reasonably suspecting it. Except for Will Poulter’s character*, they didn’t even ostensibly earn their fate; they were dead when they arrived, because a foreign culture demanded it. This ruined the suspense or tension for me because there was no sense of will-they-or-won’t-they-survive, and by the time the last dude got that drugdust blown in his face, I would have felt content if I left, because there was nothing left to do but the rote, miserable, and inevitable executions.

I figure the absurd, nihilistic attitude is somewhat the filmmaker’s intention, and there’s some art-to-be-interpreted in the parallels of the family murder-suicide at the beginning and the communal sacrifices, but I’m afraid we’re wrapping back around to misery/torture porn from an artsier path. Most of the actual scary parts of this movie were in the sudden shocks of human mutilation, starting with the elders’ suicides, but when they indulge over and over in showing their caved-in faces to the audience, it just numbed me to the later shocks. I left this movie actually reminded of Hostel to some extent, except at least Hostel had an honest struggle by the end.

*And William Jackson Harper’s character, duh, but my point was more that the movie implies they were dead whether they broke customs or not.

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Comedy im the very broad sense, in that there is a kind of resolution at the end. *Dani gets out of the relationship she was in, finds a family who are largely empathatic to her emotions. Things might get better for Dani, even if all her ‘friends’ were murdered.

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I wrote this up for a discussion elsewhere, and reading it back a few days later I still feel the same way. If anything, I’m actually a little cooler on it than I was initially. Major spoilers for Midsommar and minor spoilers for Hereditary:

Summary

It’s gonna sound like I’m coming down hard on this, but I promise I’m not. I actually liked it!

-I 100% agree with it being a sister film to Hereditary. There are so many similarities between the two it’s impossible not see how they bleed into one another.

-I also wasn’t expecting it to be so funny. The only time the audience laughter bothered me was during the sex scene, which took me out of how unnerving it was.

-In terms of pure visuals it was pretty spectacular, even more so than Hereditary. The scene from the chicken coop was straight out of Hannibal and every time the May Queen dress was on screen I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Parts of it reminded me of Annihilation, which is a major compliment coming from me.

-In general I thought the way it lingered on gore bordered on exploitative. Part of what made that one shot from Hereditary work so well was how it reflected the shock and emotional devastation of the scene that came before it, and that was lacking here. I had no connection to most of the characters being maimed, so it just felt like gore for gore’s sake. You can only do so many close-ups of someone’s caved-in head before it stops being shocking.

-I don’t know how well the plot and characters worked for me. Dani was the only one who even registered as a real person, and I even lost sight of her towards the end. The whole thing was relatively grounded up until the cliff scene, and then everyone just sort of did whatever the plot demanded of them. I liked the through line of Dani finding a new family and casting off her old life and shitty boyfriend in the process (it was actually one of my favorite parts of the movie) but it felt like it was much stronger allegorically than it was literally.

-I’m glad Ari Aster isn’t going to do another horror movie (supposedly) because I’m a little worried he has a limited bag of tricks: grief, suicide, mental illness, naked cultists, runes, head trauma, tableaus of corpses; it’s fine to have a few motifs that you return to, but it it worries me that none of them were employed as effectively as they were in Hereditary.

To be clear, I enjoyed it a lot overall. I’m just being hyper-critical because I loved Hereditary so much.

I’d also add that I wasn’t a fan of how the “prophet” character was used and in retrospect the whole plot about the thesis seems even more out of place.

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I have yet to really gather all my thoughts about the movie (as I just watched it a few hours ago), but one thing I became fixated on was a specific book on top of the table during the “Dani is coming with us” scene. The book in question was called The Secret Nazi Language of the Uthark, and led me to have a completely different read on the movie than my friend who I was watching with. There’s also something to be said to Sweden’s relation to nazism (which is actually mentioned in the script directly, not sure if the scene makes it to the film) as well as hälsingland’s reliance on eugenics

Again, I have yet to gather my thoughts cause this movie is A Lot, but I would like to hear from anyone who has some thoughts on this.

Also, sorry for my bad formatting, this is my first interaction with the waypoint forums (I just made this account lol) and also it’s 4am so this is as clean as I can be

This book stuck out like a sore thumb to the point I thought it was the movie directly telling the audience what would end up being the thing behind the actual festival. I guess in the end, it felt more like a red herring and just coloured the academic interests of the group. I’m not as clued up on my nazi occult lore. Though I guess all the runes had similarities to the Uthark, though the academic had trouble deciphering them as it seemed as if the community had created their own runic alphabet via the ‘prophet’. They all supposedly learned it as children, so I guess the implication that it may be related. It would give the movie an even darker dimension if Dani’s family was actually one born out of nazism. I guess it’s not an uncommon recruitment strategy to target those who are suffering mentally.

I feel like a lot of the artwork in the behind the scenes holds up to repeat viewings. And I guess the festival did rely on bringing in outsiders who weren’t generally Swedish.

watched it tonight, great fucking movie. feels like it took 45 years but we finally found a director who Gets what the Wicker Man was about. there was never a way out for them, but they still completely sealed their own fates through their actions.

a thing i liked very much about it - especially after the twisty-turns of Hereditary - is that it’s actually a very straightforward story. like, everybody who you think might die does die, you even get a final girl. and yet, and yet, it turns you around and around its finger on the strength of cinematography, performance, and slow tense build.

my other half said that you could Wicker Man it and cut the entire start of the film right up to the drive across sweden; start right in the action, establish all the characters thru one quick conversation in the car, and then do anything else you need by flashback. i think i see what she means? interestingly i think that would further drive home the fact that it’s structured like a pretty standard horror movie actually; kills one-by-one, shocking stuff on screen partway, even down to the final girl lol. also if you did that, imagine how shocking the dream sequence with her sister taped up sat in front of the two corpses by the cliff would be. it’d come out of nowhere! it’d be double shocking! an interesting and good idea and i would watch that cut.

anyway. ultimately we can all agree Good For Her.

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Can you elaborate on that point in a way that resolves its apparent incoherence? The logic here is part of why I found the movie dissatisfying as a whole (apart from, as most everyone agrees, the beautiful and evocative framing), but I want to believe it’s because I’m approaching it from the wrong angle.

I see it as characters who only care about how this situation stands to benefit them; as a subject for a thesis, as a way to get high and laid, etc. Although I’m not sure the same can really be said about the British couple, at least from what we see of them. Almost feels a little colonialist…let’s go look at the silly little foreigners and make their culture a carnival ride for the home country.

gonna be tough to explain but to take a shot: the tension in classic greek tragedy, for me, is between the fully sceptical Shit Earth Theory (i.e. you had 100% free will, the gods have no influence, there is no magic, just everything went as wrong for you as it possibly could) and Bastard Fate theory (i.e. you have no free will and the gods just decided to fuck you over in particular).

to explore a bit further with spoilers, if we take Midsommar from an entirely sceptical viewpoint (i.e. magic isn’t real and this festival is entirely a sham thing based on a false tradition), then they were always going to kill the outsiders because that’s what they’d decided to do together, and any action they took was just further proof it was good to kill them. mark pissing on the tree was obviously a huge insult, but they would’ve contrived a different one also? they were doomed by the free will of the cult members?

meanwhile, if we take a more deterministic approach where their actions were the things which got them killed - where mark pissing on the tree was foretold and they killed him when he fulfilled his role as The Fool - they were still exactly as doomed as they are in the first scenario.

their fates were always sealed, in a certain way, but in another way, they could’ve foreseen it at any point and stopped it. but they didn’t, because they couldn’t, and they couldn’t, because they didn’t.

also i think thats propped up in both this and the Wicker Man by the interlopers believing they’re ‘above’ or separate from the festivities, and therefore won’t be touched by them; in wicker man because he’s a police officer who believes he’s a righteous authority from the mainland / christianity, and in Midsommar by the anthropologists who believe they’re the righteous authority from america / academia. only when they’re already too far in to possibly escape do they realise that they’re part of what they’re trying to watch ‘’‘objectively’’’, and by that point it’s way too late.

anyway thats a bit more highminded than the actual level i enjoyed it on which is “i liked it when the scary things happened”

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I seen it tonight. I loved it. Other than Hereditary I’ve not seen a film do trauma like this, Collete and Pugh have grief and sorrow and gutteral sadness in the bag.

I really was positively surprised by how funny the film is. The comedic relief was really necessary at times. Christians reaction THAT lady in the sex scene was gold.

The film done a really good job of making me feel I was in a similar situation as the students. I was there by my own accord, for selfish reasons and no matter how uncomfortable or scared I got, I refused to try leave because I’m outside of the film the same way they’re outside of the ‘cult’.

In an interview with the Guardian, Aster said he would make a comedy or musical next, I couldn’t tell if he was serious but I’m excited for whatever the next project is

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This is such an interesting point that I hadn’t even thought about!

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YES the way the film makes you complicit rules. remember the fourth wall break during the cliff sequence? one of the ladies turns away from the cliff and looks straight down camera at the audience. felt very Funny Games to me.

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Yeah, I only realised after I got out and realised that was the only difference, it ended for me and I could go. It hit me in a weird way.

@trustworthymartin YES! that stare made me think the film was going to go some weirder (if possible) places.

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I did not expect to have nearly as much fun with this movie as I did. I absolutely loved Hereditary but also good LORD it messed me up. I couldn’t relax my shoulders for at least 30 minutes after seeing it. I was expecting something similar with Midsommar which ended up being both right and wrong? They both create a smothering uncomfortable atmosphere (though Hereditary sent my anxiety levels way higher) and focus on dealing with trauma/emotional abuse. But where Hereditary is placing you in the middle of this family and letting you watch as they tear each other apart, Midsommar pairs you with Dani as the toxic people around her are stripped away and replaced with ones that are willing to share her grief…Okay so it’s all a little more messed up than I made it sound BUT Dani’s screams being met with all the other women’s screams as they put their hands on her was one of the most cathartic scenes I’ve witnessed. One of the first thoughts my friends and I had afterwards was “I need that in my life.”

I couldn’t agree more that it all feels more of a comedy than a tragedy, in the general genre sense of having a positive conclusion. But also wow I laughed a lot. Will Poulter’s Mark is a little on the nose but his performance worked wonders for me. And Christian’s sex scene hit me exactly how @Velocirapture described: started off wildly unnerving but gradually became absurd to the point where I couldn’t help but laugh. Watching his dopey face glance back as one of the women uhh helped? And then his naked scramble around the village that might as well have the Benny Hill theme playing over it? I love it.

@trustworthymartin The fourth wall break is such a good catch!! I completely forgot about it but I remember a brief confused laugh leaving my body there.

Anyways, a week out from seeing this I think I favor it to Hereditary. There’s so much I want to say about it. The way it somehow made me feel like I hadn’t slept in a week? The visual effects used for the tripping sequences? The dissolves used during the dance sequence? Florence Pugh’s incredible performance?? My list goes on. I definitely agree with @mnemos about the use of the “prophet” character. That struck me as kind of gross and lazy tbh. But other than that I really don’t have many negative things to say about it. I loved the familiar “watch everyone get picked off one-by-one” nature but with the tweak of most deaths happening off-screen. And the way the final stretch takes its sweet time. I was smiling with Dani at the very end.

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Saw this the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it! It was one of those rare incidents for me where I got to go in knowing absolutely nothing about the film other than seeing the promotional poster (the one with the close up of Dani’s face), and that it’s from the director of Hereditary (which I also enjoyed).

I don’t have much to add to the discussion, but I one thing I particularly enjoyed was just how uneasy and suspicious you’re made to feel throughout, even though the “antagonists” are never really portrayed as evil or sinister.

Also I’m curious to hear people’s thoughts about Pelle? He’s a tough one to place for me. By the end, it’s made apparent what his complicitness in all this is, but his kindness and empathy came off as genuine to me?

Oh and I’ll echo my fellow users’ thoughts about the “prophet” character. Maybe I need to rewatch it, but even putting aside the cheap grossness of it, I don’t think that character legitimately served any purpose whatsoever???

Christian does this as well during the dance scene.