Midsommar spoilers ahead--obviously!
What did you think of Ari Aster's follow-up to Hereditary, Midsommar? Let us know in the comments below.
Midsommar, the new movie from writer and director Ari Aster (of Hereditary fame), is now in theaters, having received extremely positive reviews. Throughout the film, the group of friends that includes Dani (Florence Pugh), Christian (Jack Reynor), Josh (William Jackson Harper), and Mark (Will Poulter) experience strange and ever more sinister rituals during the Midsommar festival of a remote Swedish village to which they've been lured by their good buddy Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren).
This is your final spoiler warning: If you haven't seen Midsommar yet, come back when you have for a look at the movie's ending.
Dani and Christian's friends drop like flies--first their new acquaintances from London, then Mark, who's seduced by a village girl and apparently has his face skinned off, and finally Josh, who gets smacked in the noggin while snooping around the village's scriptures. Eventually, the two protagonists are the only ones left standing, much like Dani at the end of the dance-off that sees her crowned May Queen.
They go through some crazy weird rituals: Dani sits at the head of the table while tripping her freaking balls off on shrooms and gets palanquin'd away to bless the land, while Christian takes part in one of the strangest sex scenes ever committed to film. It was all leading here: Pelle brought in the outsiders for a specific purpose, and Christian was deemed worthy of "breeding." It's less clear if the plan was always to crown Dani May Queen, although Pelle's suspicious words to her early in the film--that he was glad she was coming on the trip--seem to indicate so.
In Midsommar's final climactic scene, Dani is presented with a choice: Who will be sacrificed in the impending fiery ritual? Christian, her boyfriend of years, or a random villager she's never met before this week? She picks Christian, and in so doing chooses a new family for herself--one that values her and doesn't keep her around out of a misplaced sense of pity.
Some viewers have experienced Midsommar's final scenes as a happy ending. And surprisingly, despite the human sacrifice element, that's not far off from writer and director Ari Aster's intent.
"I hope that it's something that feels maybe cathartic, and almost maybe even uplifting, at the moment, and then I hope it's something that you have to wrestle with later," Aster told GameSpot. "I've always viewed the film as a perverse wish fulfillment fantasy in the clothes of a folk horror film. For the guys, for the men in the movie, the American men, it is a folk horror movie it's. But for Dani, it's really more of a fairy tale. And we are aligned with Dani."
We here at GameSpot can attest to that--after leaving the theater, our own Meg Downey proclaimed Midsommar "the feel-good movie of the summer," a reaction Aster seemed tickled by.
"That's great," he said when we recounted Meg's reaction. "I mean, that's certainly what I was going for. I'm always happy when people call it a crowd pleaser."
Aster shared another interesting tidbit about Midsommar's ending: The aforementioned human sacrifice is not the end of the festivities. In fact, it takes place on just day four of the village's nine-day festival.
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"I just found it funny that this is a nine-day festival, and this massive thing--the thing that ends the film--happens on day four," he said. "I like the idea of thinking about what would happen for the next five days after that."
That timeline was more clear in Midsommar's original cut, but given that that version was three hours and 45 minutes long, some things had to go. Aster said he dislikes exposition, and besides, the ambiguity of basic questions like "What time is it?" and "How long have they been there?" adds to the movie's sense of anxious unreality.
Midsommar's remote Swedish village and its many alien rituals aren't based on any one particular location or people, according to Aster, but rather drawn from a "stew" of different inspirations. "I was drawing from research into Swedish traditions, Swedish history, Swedish folklore, and then I was also pulling from German and English midsummer traditions," the writer and director said. "And then beyond that, I was pulling from my imagination and what was necessary for the story."
One thing that doesn't happen by the end of the movie: anything supernatural, unlike in Aster's previous film, Hereditary.
"It just wasn't that film," Aster said. "There was never going to be anything supernatural, so it wasn't anything I had to--I didn't have to restrain myself from doing that. The only thing I've ever written that did involve the supernatural was Hereditary."
Supernatural or not, it was a hell of an ending--and, depending who you ask, quite an enjoyable one, as well. Midsommar is in theaters now.
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