This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
marija’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
this made me uncomfortable. it was cathartic, beautiful, funny, crushing and disturbing. I loved it
it didn’t feel as much like a horror movie as I thought it would, which isn’t a bad thing. I also appreciate how much humour was incorporated as well. I think it’s obvious that ari aster wasn’t trying to scare the audience in a traditional sense which he does with Hereditary, it’s more of a disorienting, tense and uncomfortable watch. the movie feels like a bad drug trip that sucks you in with the long runtime and dream-like sequences, it completely captivated me
it’s simply a different kind of horror that I haven’t really seen with any other movies. the structure of the “scares” and the plot are also very different, even from Hereditary which I initially thought had a unique plot structure as well. the imagery was very blunt and graphic yet it wasn’t in-your-face or gratuitous, it was just simply there like the trees and the grass. it felt completely natural. I can definitely see how he was inspired by 70’s horror movies and I think he just added a bit of that style to his own already unique one. for me, the horror of this movie is in the lasting memory of the events and its haunting imagery that sticks with you, there's some scenes that are ingrained in my head. in my opinion, some of the scariest scenes of the movie are the ones with just dani and christian talking, seeing how their relationship dynamic works. also, the loss dani goes through in the very beginning was horrible yet so real, the way it left her broken and hopeless was very effective and something I love about this movie is that it doesn’t shy away from showing too much emotion in its characters (dani mainly). emotions that come from things like loss, confusion, pain, and anxiety are all things we don’t often see in raw detail in movies, so to see dani feel so much throughtout was refreshing. we see her character experience a complete free fall into despair and loneliness, florence pugh portrays this incredibly.
at its core, midsommar is about being at a dead end in a relationship that is no longer benefiting anyone or at all healthy. you just put up with it because you can’t see a way out, or you don’t even realize the problems as problems. feeling stuck in that type of relationship can feel draining and miserable. some of the times you feel like you’re just waiting for something bad to happen, maybe give you an out, a reason to leave. other times it's more complicated, my ex told me that I owed it to them to stay together. no one owes anyone anything, especially when it means sacrificing your own happiness. every shitty relationship is different in its own special shitty way, but the same feeling remains. being accustomed to an unhealthy relationship and thinking it’s what you deserve is one of the scariest parts of the movie to me. I was impressed by how aster was able to portray the feeling of letting someone consistently treat you badly then acting as if they did nothing wrong; leaving you unsure of whether or not your own hurt feelings are even valid.
dani’s grief over the loss of her family is a burden for christian. dani experiences extreme trauma in the movie and her support system in christian remains selfish and unsupportive in the ways she needs, causing her to feel even more alone. he's clearly uncaring and so she begins to hide her pain and fear from him whenever something awful happens. he clearly sees at many points she's not okay too but just remains uncaring and self-absorbed. the feeling of loneliness is obviously exaggerated here with the loss of her family, but there’s a lot of reality to feeling that level of loneliness when you’ve come to that level of dead in the relationship. there's no reason for either of you to be together anymore and it feels more like a chore
yet, as we see here, dani feels a lot of pain when she discovers christian has cheated and their relationship ends. this unhealthy relationship is ending yet she feels so much pain from it ending still, which is also very real and very confusing to feel. initially feeling like your time has been wasted and you go through a crisis thinking abt how you have failed at love. it can make you feel worthless. it’s not true of course, when you look back in a couple weeks/months you’ll realize it was the right decision that should have been made months before (maybe even years in dani and christian’s case)
this is why I initially felt so great about the ending, because finally it appears like dani has overcome the loss of her family, as well as the pain of her bad relationship and the following breakup. also, seeing the gaslighting asshole of a boyfriend get lit on fire inside of a bear ("you wicked creature, you represent all of our sins to be sacrificed") was incredibly satisfying. there is such satisfaction in seeing her smile at the end of this movie surrounded by people who are crazy and outlandish; yet you see throughout the entire movie that they were the ones truly supporting her, showing her empathy and helping her deal with her trauma (with some subtle brainwashing and priming for initiation thrown in). this cult, as barbaric and evil as they are towards the outsiders in the end (except dani), have a very open and honest way of living among themselves. I think their approach and outlook on death as something to accept as a fact and not to fear is something that helps dani with her grief, and is also why the cliff scene was so traumatic for her. this pagan cult embraces the full range of human emotion, they show their affection for each other without shame and they're all happy and calm with no real conflict. that is, unless their guests show disrespect and may write a thesis to expose them to the outside world. regardless of these actions though, they were lambs to slaughter from the get go. emotionally speaking though, the way the hargas live is in sharp contrast with the outsiders visiting, between christian and josh angrily fighting over a thesis project to simon flipping out in outrage at everyone in the cliff scene (simon was justifiable in his outrage of course). however, its interesting how the outsiders are very loud in expressing their negative emotions but quiet and unconcerned about their positive ones, when with the hargas the opposite is true - anger over an ancestral tree is met with short-lived anger that becomes silent passive aggression with death glares across a dinner table until suddenly they kill u. not the healthiest strategy for anger in the world but they're not a called a pagan death cult for no reason
the ending is as beautiful as it is terrifying. the especially scary part of the end for me was just knowing that this cult is obviously not as perfect as they seem on the outside. with extreme openness, empathy and affection comes codependency and possession. also u can't just brush off all of the murder. I don't think dani realizes this because of everything she goes through in the entire movie that's distracting her from properly healing and grounding herself, but one day in the future she'll wake up one day and be mortified at how she ended up in a Swedish pagan cult commune and no ties to the outside world, or any of her friends and previous support systems. I don't think it's a life she'd be open to at any point prior to her loss of family and later boyfriend, but just like the drinks in the movie with "special properties" that open u up to influence, her grief and trauma leaves her vulnerable to be seduced into a murderous cult. they're obviously not letting her leave their commune if she ever changes her mind, and to see a sequel of her trying to escape would be interesting but would probably end poorly.
while dani's ending is contextually dire in the end of the movie, I think there's still a strong message at the end about finding comfort in community. it's about finding a home in friends, family and significant others who can offer you love and empathy, unconditionally and truthfully. relationships like this allow you to open yourself up to others and to and love wholly. this can be hard. vulnerability is not something to fear, but it can be scary when you’re so used to keeping everything inside all the time. a big theme in this movie is the suppression of real feelings and emotions. dani has not let herself properly confront and deal with her family's deaths in months following them. every time she does she breaks down crying and nothing is really worked through. facing your pain is scary. however, coming out on the other side of it makes it all worth it
there's a profound happiness that comes from addressing your emotions and pain in a productive and healthy way, and even though at the time things hurt to think about or deal with, it’s necessary for your growth as a person. the movie opens in the cold and harsh winter, with dani at her lowest point. the end is filled with sunshine, beautiful flowers and dani being happier than ever. so, let go of that bad relationship, confront your feelings (cult style, with group crying) and embrace the process of healing