I left Hereditary last year feeling energized. I wanted to talk about the movie, but no one I know had seen it.. So I invented the “Spoiler Stuff” feature to dig a little deeper into movies I had more to say about. Particularly ones where if I said too much in a review, I might spoil the movie for the reader.
Anyway, this one has a nice big warning on it. SPOILERS below for both Hereditary and Midsommar.
When I got out of this one, I mentioned in the Gabbing Geek virtual office that Midsommar was good in a way that was different than Hereditary and I really liked Midsommar. Watson privately asked me how it was relative to Hereditary. I told him it had a very different tone, not the unrelenting bleakness and misery of Hereditary.
And that’s basically what Midsommar is. Aster has a thing for head trauma in all the different meanings of the phrase. Yes, Midsommar has some gory surprises and miserable characters. But while Hereditary‘s very setting seemed to fill the screen with gloom, Midsommar is a very brightly lit movie. Once Dani, Christian, Mark, and Josh arrive in Harga, the sun never really sets outside of the occasional dream sequence. At most, it gets dim.
Aster’s costumes and settings further stress that brightness. We see the villagers in their white and light blue attire, standing in bright sunshine, contrasted with the visitors’ more colorfully diverse wardrobes. And for all that the cult has some rather murderous ideas on how to treat guests, they sure are a welcoming bunch. If anything, the various outsider victims of the cult die for either disrespecting the village’s customs (the British couple) or breaking the various village rules (Mark and Josh). The one exception is Christian. He dies because he’s basically an insensitive asshole to his grieving girlfriend. Over the course of the movie, he appears worse than Josh, but not as bad as Mark.
And who lives? Well Dani. She somehow embraces the village’s customs, suddenly able to speak Swedish at a key moment. She doesn’t scream in protest like the British, disrespect others like the American men, and she accepts the village’s warm welcome. The movie builds up to that. The script implies the village brings in outsiders to avoid too much inbreeding, and Pelle is far more sensitive to Dani’s needs than Christian ever could be.
And for all that what happens to the others is horrifying, Dani does see her dead parents after she is crowned May Queen. The cultists tell her she is part of the family. And in the end, she smiles the most genuine smile she shows for the entire movie. She’s home.
If Hereditary is the story of an unavoidable fate set in motion years before the start of the movie, Midsommar is one where each character’s choices lead to his or her fate. Dani’s impulsive decision to go along leads her to a new home. The men’s choices to ignore various societal taboos, both inside and outside the village, lead to their demises. Harga may not be the sort of place audience members should want to visit, but it sure is fairly welcoming for a cultish commune.
In the end, they’re basically the opposite of the family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They’re easily the friendliest group into human sacrifice you’ll ever see.