The Very Upsetting Ending To Midsommar: Explained
If you've already seen Ari Aster's Hereditary follow-up Midsommar, you'll be familiar with the sense of reeling horror that it sends you home with. That last half-hour is extremely intense and stuffed with deeply disturbing images and allegory. You might also feel a bit confused. That's alright, we're all friends here. Not the kinds of friends you'd go to Sweden with. Good friends.
Obviously, this is going to contain a lot of spoilers for the ending of Midsommar, so if you're yet to see it, back away now. Although, if you fancy, you can have a spoiler-free précis of the whole film for free here.
There are many, many moments that stay with you long after the credits roll on Midsommar. The cliff. The big hammer. The bear suit. The woman who pushes Christian's bum. But it's the ending which probably needs the most consideration.
So, the nuts and bolts of it: Dani is the May Queen, and Christian is groomed as the man to play the role in the story we see painted on sheets hanging from a line early on. He's picked out using the power of a pube in a pie and menstrual blood in his drink, and then drugged and chivvied toward his chosen partner Maja.
While they have sex surrounded by wailing elders, Dani spies him through the door and breaks down. Other younger village women go for a cathartic mass scream with her, Christian runs into a barn and discovers Londoner Simon's in there, having had his lungs pulled out through his back but left alive. That form of ritual dismemberment is known as a blood angel, and was big within Norse culture—one of the old kings of Northumbria, Aella, was done in with it by Ivar the Boneless in York in 867.
Then it's time for the big showdown. Nine people have to die to complete the Midsommar festivities. Eight have already gone. Four outsiders—Mark, Simon, Connie, and Josh—four cult members—the two elderly cliff-jumpers plus two living sacrifices—and either Christian or a bloke chosen at random by runic tombola. Obviously, Christian cops it.
"He realizes his own guilt," Jack Raynor told Vulture. "He starts to feel his accountability for not having done the right thing: either commit himself to her in the relationship, or break up with her... a lot of that had to be in the eyes, in the way I looked at her. Looking at her like, 'Oh my God, what the fuck have I done; I’m so regretful of all this.'"
Too late, buddy! He's sewn into a bearskin, representing the "worst affekts" of the community, and is wheeled into the big yellow pyramid. The rest of the sacrificial gang are there too, some in relatively decent (if dead) shape and others less so. Mark's decapitated head is plonked on a straw body and has a jester's hat on it ("The attentive viewer might notice earlier on in the film that there are children playing a game called Skin the Fool," Aster noted to IGN). Where's the rest of him?
Well, Aster explains, the man who bonks Josh on the head skinned him and took his skin as a trophy in the time-honored Viking manner: "So, what you're seeing is Ulf wearing Mark's face, so Will Poulter's face, and wearing his legs as pants."
The pyramid is set on fire, everything burns, and Dani grimace-smiles. So, is this a happy ending? Aster thinks it is, from Dani's perspective at least. "In the end, she is finally able to liberate herself from her 'dead weight' and she finds a new family," Aster told IGN. Dani's been pushing her grief and unhappiness down to make things easier for Christian, despite him being a fairly useless boyfriend to begin with and an increasingly rotten man in general. Just as the Harga screams and wails as the building burns, the purging of her attachment to and reliance on Christian is complete.
"She’s moving from one codependent relationship to another by the end. It's like the ultimate codependent family," he told Insider, adding that this might not be entirely a bad thing. "Their language is empathy, and Dani is a character who is like in dire need of some empathy."
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.