Warning: Spoilers ahead for Midsommar!
In what appears to be Sweden's real Midsummer Festival meets Burning Man, Midsommar is a sensory horror film that hides behind a facade of bright ambiance and floral aesthetics. Directed by Ari Aster, the director of the horror film Hereditary, Midsommar has been touted as a "breakup movie", and the graphic imagery and plot act as an allegory for the demise of a relationship. After suffering a heartbreaking family tragedy where her bipolar sister kills their parents and herself, a traumatized Dani (Florence Pugh) accompanies her distant boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends to a Swedish Summer celebration that only occurs every 90 years. What starts as a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity takes a disturbing turn for the worse, and we have the graphic receipts to prove it.
Drugs Are Used as a Form of Mind Control
Aster calls the movie a "psychedelic film" because it's a trippy experience for both the characters and viewers, though more literally for the former. As soon as the group of friends arrive at Harga, the Swedish commune site of the Summer festival, the villagers urge them to take a psychedelic that causes Dani to start hallucinating about her dead sister. In many ways, the villagers use drugs to control the outsiders by distorting their realities, stripping them of their inhibitions, and getting them to do their bidding. And after drugging Christian, they lure him into a breeding ritual.
There's Explicit Sexual Content
There's a reason The Daily Beast called Midsommar's orgy scene, "The Most Insane Sex Scene of the Year." It's a cacophony of carnal pleasures as a young woman named Maja brings Christian to a circle of naked pagan women of varying ages and has sex with him while the women around them chant and moan in support. They want him to impregnate her so as to bring outside blood into the community. Christian does full-frontal nudity here and stays that way for a significant period of time — and Reynor suggested it.
In an interview with Variety, he explained, "I was advocating for as much full frontal as possible. I felt like it was really important. When I read the script, I saw an opportunity to take a character who exhibits a lot of archetypal male characteristics — like male toxicity — who has all of the stuff stripped away from him through the course of the film and then ultimately finds himself in this situation which is kind of the ultimate humiliation . . . It was always intentional to have the full frontal." For Reynor, that made the fate of his character much more fulfilling because it was a physical manifestation of his embarrassment and it purposely stands as a contrast to many scenes in horror films in which women's nudity is exploited instead.
Aster commented on this scene by telling The Daily Beast: "Even though Christian is getting what he thinks he wants, to play the field and live his life, so to speak, he's used in a way that women tend to be in the horror genre . . . Horror films and exploitation films are typically synonymous, and typically the people who are being exploited are women. And so there was something fun about dressing down this guy and kind of submitting him to this."
The Violent Scenes Are Exceptionally Grisly
Throughout the movie, we are privy to a number of particularly violent rituals that end in death. Two elderly villagers commit suicide by jumping off a cliff, and when one fails to die on impact, the villagers smash his head in with a hammer to finish the deed. Several of Christian's friends are sacrificed and quite brutally mutilated, and as the film's final act, Dani chooses Christian to be the last sacrifice of the festival out of spite. The villagers stuff him in a bear carcass and set him and the other chosen victims ablaze as everyone around them cries and laughs. The camera pans on these scenes in a way that forces viewers to take in the gore, and Midsommar's bright and pristine cinematography makes the visuals of these human sacrifices much more starkly disturbing.