In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Midsommar, we will explain the film’s ending.
- Dani Ardor – Florence Pugh
- Christian – Jack Reynor
- Josh – William Jackson Harper
- Mark – Will Poulter
- Connie – Ellora Torchia
- Simon – Archie Madekwe
- Pelle – Vilhelm Blomgren
- Ingemar – Hampus Hallberg
- Maja – Isabelle Grill
- Ulf – Henrik Norlén
- Inga – Julia Ragnarsson
- Written by – Ari Aster
- Directed by – Ari Aster
The end of Midsommar explained
The end of Midsommar begins after Dani wins the dance battle to become the May Queen (a symbolic fight against the Devil-like entity known as the Black One). One of the Hårga women tells Dani she’s family now, that they’re like sisters. Dani then goes off to bless the crops and livestock. While she’s doing that, the rest of the Hårga have Christian meet up with Maja for a procreation ceremony. Dani returns and glimpses Christian in the act. This triggers a panic attack that her new Hårga sisters support her through.
After the procreation ceremony, Christian flees. We see Josh’s leg planted in the soil. And discover Simon suffering from a blood eagle ritual. An elder blows magic dust in Christian’s face. When he wakes up, paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair, the Hårga have commenced the final part of the festivity. The sacrifice portion. They already have eight, four outsiders, four Hårga. It’s up to the May Queen to choose the last person. Dani could pick anyone. She picks Christian.
The sacrifice involves putting the nine “offerings” into a special barn then burning the barn to the ground. Before they light the fire, an elder says to Christian, stuffed into the skin of a bear, “Mighty and dreadful beast. With you, we purge our most unholy affekts. We banish you now to the deepest recesses, where you may reflect on your wickedness.”
Once the barn is on fire, the Hårga outside begin to cry out and writhe as if they were the ones in flames. Dani is initially incredibly upset, after all, it’s because of her that Christian is in there. But she stops to observe the Hårga. The outpouring of pain and passion. Then she turns to the barn and watches as it collapses. She smiles.
There’s a simple and complicated explanation to the end of Midsommar.
The simple explanation is that Midsommar is just an exaggeration of Dani breaking up with Christian and starting a new chapter in her life. Ari Aster said part of the reason why he wrote Midsommar is that he had gone through a break up and wanted to work through it. Through that lens, all the Hårga stuff is artistic hyperbole for a story where a guy cheats on his girlfriend then she finds out, dumps him, and meets other people who support her. Christian is the beast that Dani purges from her life.
Ari Aster heightens what is a very common, relatable story by defamiliarizing it through the horror genre. Things that would be metaphorical become literal.
In a standard drama, someone might call Christian a beast as part of a tongue lashing. In a horror movie, you can actually stuff him into a bear carcass. Different genres allow for different opportunities. In Titanic, Rose is engaged to an absolute jerk named Cal. No one stuffs Cal into a bear costume because Titanic is not that kind of movie. His comeuppance is far more mundane. He goes broke in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an action-romance. It defamiliarizes the dating process by having Scott fight the romantic interests of Ramona Flowers. Each victory represents Ramona’s increased interest in Scott. It walks that line between being ridiculous yet familiar.
With this in mind, you don’t have to understand all the literal happenings of Midsommar to get the larger story. Why do the flowers pulse? Why is there a scary face in the trees? Did Pelle have something to do with the death of Dani’s family? Why did they do that to Simon? While those are all interesting talking points, they’re inconsequential to appreciating the core intention of Midsommar. How do we process grief? How do we move on? To Aster, the answer is in our support systems.
But say you are someone who is into the literal happenings. What the hell is going on? I said this is more complicated, and it is, but it isn’t. Midsommar is mostly just weird customs that we have to take at face value. That’s it. The people of the Hårga commune are, like most cults, a bit wonky. They have beliefs that they take too far. Especially when it comes to the power of their rituals. They could very easily perform mock sacrifices. Like burning a scarecrow instead of a person. But nope. They use people. A lot of their practices are creative and shocking (like the blood eagle). It’s freaky but it’s not complex.
There are surreal aspects to Midsommar. The primary example being the moments near the end where the flowers breathe and pulse. Viewers might wonder if something more supernatural is happening. But it’s just drugs. The Hårga have drugged both Dani and Christian. Because they’re our perspective characters, Aster chose to let their altered perspective affect what we see. Even though the camera stays third-person, it’s influenced by the subjective experience of our POV characters. In Aster’s previous film, Hereditary, things got very supernatural. Spirits, spells, demons—all real. That’s not the case for Midsommar. The answer is always just “shocking ritual” or “drugs”.
There’s also the moaning, chanting, and collective writhing. This isn’t addressed explicitly but it is addressed. At one point, Pelle has a serious talk with Dani where he mentions how he lost his parents in a fire. He tells her, “I never got the chance to feel lost, because I had a family here. Where everyone embraced me and swept me up. And I was raised by a community that doesn’t bicker over what’s theirs and not theirs. That’s what you were given. But I have always felt held. By a family. A real family.”
Now fast forward to Dani becoming the May Queen and the random Hårga woman telling Dani that they’re family. Sisters. It’s not given a lot of emphasis but it’s the reason for the group of women that surround Dani when she freaks out after seeing Christian and Maja. Because she’s in pain, they’re in pain. They empathize totally and shamelessly. It’s the same reason the women with Christian and Maja moan with Maja. It doesn’t matter if it’s pain or pleasure—the family supports one another. And it’s the reason why everyone goes to pieces at the very end, as the barn burns. Because Ingemar and Ulf are in there, in pain. The family experiences it too.
It’s a really dark subplot but also beautiful. The idea of being that seen and supported is kind of amazing.
What are affekts, you might be wondering? When Josh talks to the elder about their sacred text, the elder mentions how there are 16 runic letters and each stands for an affekt. Each affekt is “graded from most holy to most unholy. This one, for example, is about grief.” Affekts aren’t made up. It’s the concept of music’s ability to stir emotion. So when you hear the delicate piano of “Für Elise” there’s an emotional quality to it that differs from the guitar in Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”.
So when the elder at the end mentions purging the most unholy affekts, he’s talking about the Hårga cleansing themselves of their emotional baggage. Like grief. Which ties back to Dani’s whole character journey and why she smiles at the end. The ritual worked. Being part of the Hårga family helped her. She feels held. She feels at home.
I would assume Dani decides to stay at the Hårga, converted to their way of life through the midsummer festival and the sense of renewal it unlocked. It would make sense, too, that since everything started with her losing her family it would end with her gaining a new one.
As much as we can frame Midsommar as metaphoric and somewhat triumphant, there is a reversal. In a comment, user DPEsposito makes an argument for the exploitation Dani suffers at the hands of the Härga. Her grief makes her malleable to their indoctrination tactics. Instead of reading the film as her overcoming her grief, shouldn’t we view it as far more tragic? Her grief leaves her so broken that she succumbs to a cult’s brainwashing.
Not only that, when Christian cheats on her, Dani has a choice to save him or sacrifice him. She chooses sacrifice. And we have to imagine it’s out of a sense of revenge. In the previous sections, we discussed the dichotomy between grounded and defamiliarized. And did that through a lens of “the glass is half full.” So Dani’s choice of Christian as the sacrifice was simplified to the normal and harmless idea of breaking up with him. But. There’s the glass half empty reading that embodies the reality of domestic violence. Every day, there are stories where someone in a relationship snaps due to jealousy, anger, ego, etc. When read this way, Midsommar is not this Grimm-like fairy tale that skews positive despite its horrors. Instead, it’s just as bleak as Hereditary in its presentation of grief.
While acknowledging that, I still lean toward Aster wanting to have a darker take on healing and catharsis. But whatever the authorial intention was, that negative reading is very viable.
What are your thoughts?
Is there more to the ending that you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for Midsommar? Leave your thoughts below and we’ll consider adding them.
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