Life is a great lonely pain without love. Listen to the pop songs. They get it. A person needs to know that there is someone outside their own body willing to share, understand, and enjoy their experience. Rain or shine. Happiness or despair. It doesn’t matter whether that’s a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband, family, or friend. You need that person in your corner. You need their warmth to survive the elements.
↓Spoilers for Midsommar↓
At the start of Midsommar, Dani (Florence Pugh) loses that foundation of unconditional love. The murder/suicide of her sister and parents shatters her existence. Christian (Jack Reynor), her boyfriend of four years, can barely be bothered to pick up the pieces. He was working on his exit strategy before the tragedy, and he assumes Dani’s nightmare will add a few more years to his sentence. While she screams her soul into his chest, Christian is deaf to Dani’s pain, hearing only his misery. Her every wail is met with a retreating affection. There, there, Christian, give it time, you’re almost at the finish line.
Ari Aster‘s latest A24 trauma is an agonizing, emotional outburst detailing humanity’s essential craving to be held, to be known, to be loved. In transplanting Dani and Christian’s inevitable erosion from the wintery wasteland of America to the excruciatingly sunny terror of Swedish folk horror, Aster relates an everyday hurt to honest, relatable suffering. The catastrophic sentiment was absolutely attainable in the theatrical cut, but the newly released Extended Cut expounds on the misery felt by both members of the couple and allows a deeper glimpse into the alien culture they are drawn into.
We’re not talking a measly four minutes here. The Midsommar Extended Cut is not the Spider-Man: Far From Home Extended Cut. Aster has returned a full-thirty minutes into his film, including entirely new sequences as well as critical extensions to various other scenes. The early chapters play out as you remember them, but when Dani and Christian touchdown in Sweden, along with their pals Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), Mark (Will Poulter), and Josh (William Jackson Harper), Midsommar begins to amplify seriously.
Their car ride from the airport to Hälsingland is edited to isolate Dani further from the rest of the gang. Aster pins his camera to Dani’s profile staring blankly into the middle-distance as those around her rant endlessly. Pelle and Josh debate anthropology while Mark grossly descends into tales of porno mythology. Dani inquires about a book Josh is reading when she spies a swastika on its cover. He says he was encouraged by Pelle to explore the Uthark runic alphabet which was used by the Nazis in World War II and is similar to the language of the Hârga community to which they’re traveling. Dani asks Pelle if he’s trying to brainwash Josh, and he states, “Josh was already brainwashed when I found him.” Easy pickings.
Shortly after their arrival at Hârga, we learn that the fire at the center of the town must never be extinguished. In fact, the fire has raged all of Pelle’s life, and it is the same fire in which the bodies of their dead are cremated so that their ashes can be added to the ancient tree on the outskirts of the village. The travelers are taken to a series of tables arranged to form the runic letter of R, symbolizing a significant journey. A mentor stands and sings a song of thanks for the weather and the harvest. The group responds to the song with a resonant tone. Pelle explains that it was not a prayer, but an address to the harmony that binds life.
The Extended Cut also features an additional pagan ceremony beyond the Ättestupa elder suicide ritual. At night, Dani and the rest gather beside a lake. The community tie jewels around a tree and plunge it into the water. They celebrate, but a lone citizen steps forth and asks the crowd if they heard a rumbling? No, they did not hear a peep? The citizen suggests that they better listen more carefully. They do not want to anger the goddess with their pathetic offerings. Her favor demands precious life. A young boy named Bror steps forward. He’s covered in wreaths and jewels. He presents himself to the goddess. Dani asks, “What’s happening?” No answer. One man grabs Bror’s feet and another his head. “What’s happening?” A third man places a large boulder on his stomach, and they begin to swing him towards the water. “No!” Dani screams. “Stop!” A woman from the crowd assists her influence and convinces the others that the goddess was fed enough tonight.
The lakeside event is one ritual too far. Whether she’s an ugly un-cultured American or not, the time to leave has come. She goes to Christian, but he’s already decided to mooch off Josh’s Hârga thesis. The allure of the community is too strong, and he’s been unknowingly targeted for mating by Maja (Isabelle Grill). One should never drink a glass pinker than those around it. That’s college 101. So, when she says, “We have to go,” he says, “No. Period.”
From the downed foot, a deadly question arises, “Do you not love me anymore?” Christian, the coward, cannot possibly answer. He continues his usual tactic – evasion. He turns her verbal assault into one of his own, exclaiming every gesture she offers is a not-so-passive attack on his failings. He labels her “the wounded party” and storms off in a huff. No victors, just losers.
However, finally unleashed, Christian’s anger plants Dani’s feet to the Hârga soil. The ninth day of festivities arrives, and Dani willingly partakes in the maypole dance. Gulping down a glass of spring water containing “special properties,” Dani lets her defenses fall away, and she opens herself to whatever nature has to offer. She spins the maypole, remains upright, and is crowned queen. Then she spots Christian succumbed to the hips of Maja, and she must expunge every last ounce of that relationship through a howl. Her dancing partners collapse on the floor beside her and hold her shaking, raging body. They do not mirror her pain, but share it, sense it, and make it their own. That’s a love she has never known.
Christian cannot possibly compare to such compassion. As queen, given the choice of selecting his flesh for sacrifice or one random Hârga, she happily picks the man who claimed the word “love” as a societal duty. He is a beast; a mindless bear to be gifted to the goddess. He burns as a smile stretches across her face, and any audience member who was ever caught in an emotionless relationship of erroneous obligation matches her expression.
The theatrical cut gets you to that smile, but the extended cut puts you at Dani’s side; inhaling her exhaustion, her sorrow, her bliss, and her ultimate acceptance. We required that second Hârga ritual to drop the “love” word at Christian’s feet. The scene is his last out, and we needed to see him choose avoidance over honesty and culpability. Midsommar takes your Western/cinematic concern towards pagan ceremonies and flips the script. Dani does not enter the villain’s lair. She goes home to the family she never knew she had.
Anyone doubting the heroic climax need only listen to the golden oldie playing over the film’s credits. The Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” obliterates the subtlety of the message. A person is an empty husk without another to know them. When love leaves your life, the celestial bodies refuse to function. The sun stays away. The moon stays away. “Loneliness is the cloak you wear.”