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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kent State chapter.

Includes spoilers for the film Midsommar. TW // suicide, sa

When I first watched Ari Aster’s Midsommar, I hated it. I told myself I never wanted to watch it ever again. I gave it a solid 3 stars on Letterboxd and warned people against watching it. I judged people for saying it was their favorite movie and winced every time I thought about it. But then, I realized that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The cinematography stood out to me first. The flowers and bright colors and meticulous angles of the camera at every moment stuck with me. Soon after, the plot did not leave my mind. I began to realize that what I had seen was more to ingest than what I had anticipated when watching it. I went into the film knowing nothing about it and left it not wanting to know more. There was a video on TikTok, I believe, of someone going on a rant regarding people calling Midsommar a “girlboss movie.” The video was short but it stuck with me. I was so distrubed by the film the first time that I hadn’t taken a moment to pay attention to the symbolism or the themes or what it was really about. 

The film starts with Florence Pugh’s character, Dani, having a panic attack brought on by her sister. Her sister struggles with bipolar disorder and had been sending Dani cryptic emails. Dani seeks out her boyfriend Christian for comfort but the audience sees that he really is not happy in his relationship. He and his friends find her anxiety annoying and he wants to break up with her. However, that night, Dani’s sister kills herself and her parents and Christian has no choice but to stay with Dani. 

We know Dani is vulnerable, we know she is mentally ill, we know that aside from Christian she has no one in her life. 

All these factors drive her to join her boyfriend on a trip to Sweden.

I won’t give a whole summary of the film, but it is important to note that Dani is in a bad headspace and is processing a lot of trauma throughout the movie. 

When I saw Dani and the other Americans arrive in Pelle’s village, I got flashbacks to Quintin Tarintino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood when Brad Pitt’s character stumbled upon where the Manson family lives. 

Right away, Aster is telling us that this community is a cult. Everyone dresses the same, they sleep in the same room, they eat at the same table at the same time, their personal bible is written in finger paint by an inbred and they do lots of hallucinogens together.

I believe it was an intentional choice to show Dani taking medication at the beginning of the film once, but never again once she is in Sweden. It hasn’t even been a year since the incident with her sister and she is not taking her medication or speaking with her therapist while in a different country with a boyfriend who doesn’t even like her. 

On the first day of the Midsummer festival, Dani witnesses two elders sacrificing themselves by diving off a cliff. When one elder does not immediately die, we see that the rest of the village is moaning in pain along with him until he is finally killed for good. This shows that when one person hurts in the village, they all hurt. They experience collective pain.

After Dani witnesses the sacrifices and wants to leave, Pelle asks her in regards to Christian, “Do you feel held by him? Does he feel like home to you?”

Dani doesn’t have an answer, but it is evident that that question sits with her throughout the remainder of the film. She decides to stay in the village and continues participating in the rest of the festival. Everyone is kind to her and she begins to like it. She cooks with the other women and enjoys learning about their culture. 

On the final day of the festival, we find out that all of Christian’s friends and the other “foreigners” have been murdered. One was skinned, one was tortured using the “butterfly method”, and one was buried alive. 

Dani, unaware of this, participates in the May Queen competition while on shrooms and wins. The village begins to worship her while Christian is nowhere to be found. 

Christian is also on shrooms and begins experiencing a bad trip. He is also given a substance for “his vitality” before being sent into a room with a girl from the village who has chosen him. When Christian and the girl from the village have sex, it is in no way consentual. Christian is drugged both mentally and physically and seems completely confused the entire scene.

Of course Dani does not know this when she sees it occur through a crack in the door. What she does know is that the women of the village support her and hold her while she is screaming in emotional pain. The one person Dani has is not loyal to her in her eyes and that seems to be the last straw for her. During the whole film, she’s struggled with loneliness, family and her relationship and now she’s lost everything. 

The only people that have been supportive of her during the film are those in the village. So, it is not a surprise that when as the May Queen, she has to choose between a man from the village or Christian to sacrifice, she choses Christian. 

Dani chooses her own boyfriend to be shoved into a dead bear and burned alive. Yes, this is a cathartic scene for women who have been in relationships with bad or unfaithful men, but does this make Dani victorious? Is she still the hero of this story?

In the screenplay, the script ends with this: “Dani is now being taken over by an invading sense of pride and contentment. This soon evolves into a manic exhilaration. Dani BEAMS. She has been embraced by a new family. She is Queen. She is not alone. A SMILE finally breaks onto Dani’s face. She has surrendered to a joy known only by the insane. She has lost herself completely, and she is finally free. It is horrible and it is beautiful.” 

The film does not give any closure as to what happens with Dani, but it is obvious that she becomes a member of the village. 

While I’ve been using the word “village”, it could easily be swapped out with “cult” since that’s truly what it is. 

Cults prey on vulnerable people. They prey on people who suffer from mental illness. They use the concept of family to draw people in. They use drugs to lower people’s inhabitants. They make it impossible to leave. They are separated from the rest of society. 

All of these traits align with the village in the film. So while Dani choosing to sacrifice her boyfriend may seem like a “girlboss” move, the truth is that she has been brainwashed and is now fully indoctrinated into the cult with no way out.

Sure, she is no longer alone but at what cost?  

Fiona Loudon

Kent State '23

Fiona Loudon (Senior Editor) is a senior at Kent State University studying English with a minor in Creative Writing. She's a Pittsburgh native who enjoys watching movies, reading and spending time with her cat, Link. This is her fifth semester in Her Campus and third semester as Senior Editor.