Every film loses moments here and there to the cutting room floor, as demonstrated by the deleted scenes ubiquitous on DVD and Blu-ray releases. Sometimes, those scenes are especially difficult to cut, as was the case for a particular moment in writer and director Ari Aster's latest horror movie, Midsommar, which has now arrived in theaters amid very positive reviews.
Warning: There are Midsommar spoilers below. If you haven't watched the movie, come back after you have.
Midsommar follows a group of friends that includes Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor), a couple who would have broken up long before the group's trip to a remote village in Sweden, if not for the tragedy that struck Dani's family. Christian winds up feeling obligated to stay with Dani, despite being pretty well fed up with her--and although he may be trying to do the right thing by not ending it, he's not actually doing her any favors. Their relationship spirals throughout the Midsommar festival, although it never really comes to a head until the end of the movie, when Dani chooses a new family in a spectacularly f***ed up, but very satisfying, way.
Except, at one point, their relationship was supposed to come to a head--in a scene that Aster said was incredible difficult for him to ultimately cut.
"There [was] a very big argument between Dani and Christian in the middle. That was the only time that we see Dani fight back and argue with Christian, and that was a big debate in the edit room, about whether we keep that or lose that," Aster told GameSpot. "If you told me that I would have cut that scene before we went into production, I would have told you that you were crazy."
In Aster's previous film, the acclaimed Hereditary, mother and son Peter (Alex Wolff) and Annie (Toni Collette) have a screaming match across the dinner table that fully demolishes their already fraught relationship. Aster said he once considered the cut scene between Dani and Christian to be just as important.
"I really love the scene that we cut," he said. "It's some of my favorite dialogue in the whole film, and in some ways it was as big of a decision to cut that as it would have been to cut the dinner table scene in Hereditary between Toni and Alex. It was that big of a cut. It was a very, very big day when we lost that from the film."
Aster told us his original version of Midsommar was three hours and 45 minutes long, so naturally, cuts had to happen to get the movie to its final runtime of two hours and 27 minutes. As it is, the film spends a long time languishing in the Swedish village's strange, unsettling rituals, but Aster said there were "two other giant rituals" that got removed entirely. And they dropped a scene that was glimpsed in the movie's trailer, in which someone appears to be levitating (although Midsommar doesn't actually feature anything supernatural, Aster confirmed with us, and that scene had more to do with the film's mushroom-infused psychedelic elements).
"There's a lot that's been cut out of the film, and [distributor] A24 used a lot of images from the cutting room floor in the trailer," Aster said. "I don't mind that, because you're sad to see these things go, and so if they are being put to use in one way or another, you're happy."
Ultimately, losing the big argument scene between Dani and Christian benefitted the movie, in Aster's opinion.
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"We did find that by cutting that, we were able to maintain the tension between them even more successfully," he said. "I was in love with that scene, because it felt like an argument that I'd had with partners before, and I think it felt like the kind of argument that people would relate to. But it also felt like the movie could survive it being cut, which was a shock to me, and I didn't make peace with that until very recently."
Aster shared one other thing about the movie's initial, much longer cut: The timeline of the Midsommar festival itself was much clearer in the original version. As it is, there's plenty of ambiguity, but the writer and director clarified a few things. For one, although the Midsommar festival happens every year, the part that happens at the film's end--the fiery human sacrifice--occurs only every 90 years. In addition to that, said sacrifice occurs on only the fourth day of the nine-day festival, leaving us to wonder how the festival could possibly continue to escalate for five more days after that.
"[That's] something that we always understood would be potentially confusing to people, but I'm really allergic to exposition that's not absolutely needed, or that's not, like, woven invisibly into the fabric, and there was just no way of explaining that in a way that didn't feel like spoon feeding information," Aster said. "In the three hour and 45 minute version of it, it's a little bit clearer, but it was just one of the casualties of cutting the movie down."
"I think there might be a director's cut for this one," Aster emphasized.
Midsommar is in theaters now.