Midsommar’s twisted ending, explained (2022)

Midsommar, the new movie from Hereditary director Ari Aster, is not what you’d call a straightforward, lighthearted summer film. “I keep telling people I want it to be confusing,” Aster told me when I spoke to him about it shortly before the film’s release.

But in truth, the events in most of the film’s 140-minute runtime are fairly easy to follow; it’s in the ending where things get a little wild, grand, and possibly baffling. (Which seems, if you’ve seen Hereditary, to be Aster’s signature move.) However, whether you really lock into what’s happening at the end depends on how attentive you were to what happened earlier, particularly shifts in Dani’s mental and emotional state.

So here’s a quick overview of Midsommar leading up to the ending, what happens at the end, and what it (probably) means, though there are plenty of alternate interpretations available. I’ll presume you’ve seen the film already, which means that there are LOTS OF SPOILERS to come.

If you’re looking for a review of the film, with a few basic plot details but no major spoilers, then read this instead.

Seriously: If you don’t want to be spoiled, abandon ship now.

Midsommar’s twisted ending, explained (1)

Midsommar is the story of Dani’s emotional journey

You can split Midsommar into a few distinct sections.

There’s the overture: everything that happens before the title cards appear, in the snowy undefined landscape, when Dani’s family dies and she is plunged into grief.

(Video) MIDSOMMAR (2019) Story + Ending Explained

Then there’s the first section, which begins two weeks before the group — Christian, Mark, Dani, Josh, and Pelle — head to Sweden, and ends when they walk through the big wooden sunburst and into the idyllic village of the Harga. Throughout this section, Dani is trying to put on a brave face; she only lets out her guttural sobs in private bathrooms, with the doors closed. The mushrooms the group takes upon entering the field before the village nearly unhinge her, but she runs into the woods to hide their effect and is only found by the group after she falls asleep.

The second section begins when the Americans arrive in the village and lasts until shortly after the events at the Ättestupa, the high cliff where the elders throw themselves to their deaths. The outsiders, still reeling from watching the brutal deaths, are seated at the table with the others, and the novelty and beauty of the place has worn off. Josh is mad at Christian for stealing — excuse me, collaborating on — his thesis idea. Mark is convinced that one of the Harga men, who’s glowering at him across the way, is going to kill him for pissing on the ancestral tree.

In this section, Dani has been slowly becoming aware that she’s trying too hard to make excuses for Christian, who seems disconnected from her, forgetting her birthday and generally being inattentive to her emotional state. Pelle tells her that he, too, lost his parents (“in a fire” — the details aren’t clear, but after watching the film, you might have a better sense of how that happened) and asks her if Christian feels like “home” to her, whether he “holds” her. That seems to shake something loose in Dani.

Midsommar’s twisted ending, explained (2) A24

During dinner, Dani tells Christian that fellow outsider Simon left his girlfriend, Connie, behind in the village (or that’s what they think — of course, the reality is something quite different), and then bitterly says that she thinks Christian would do that, too. Instead of replying with reassurance, Christian sourly eats a pie containing what looks to be a pubic hair and drinks from a glass containing a liquid that’s pointedly pinker than everyone else’s. (If you’re confused, recall the cloth the camera panned across earlier, hanging on a clothesline, that Pelle calls “kind of a love story.”)

All that to say, the sheen of this idyllic village has worn off by then. There’s a long shot in which Dani, Christian, Josh, and Mark are sitting side by side at the table, each looking angry. And that’s where the second section of the film ends: The Harga haven’t changed, but the Americans’ impression of them has shifted uncomfortably.

The third and final section of the film starts out feeling like it will be kind of a whodunnit. Simon and Connie have gone missing, and soon after, Josh and Mark both disappear after disrespecting the traditions of the Harga. (Mark wanders off with a girl with whom he has not been approved to mate; Josh sneaks back into the Oracle’s house to read from the sacred book of runes, and is killed by the Oracle, now wearing Mark’s face. Don’t mess with the Harga.)

So when the day of the Maypole dance begins, Christian and Dani are the only outsiders remaining with the Harga. And that’s when things really start to go sideways. Dani is sent with the women to ready themselves for the dance, while Christian goes as instructed to the house of Siv, the Harga matriarch, and informed that he has been approved to mate with Maja.

(Video) Midsommar (2019) - Ending Explained!

Midsommar’s twisted ending, explained (3) A24

He seems confused by this, but also — in typical Christian fashion — lacks the cojones to show either enthusiasm or disgust. There has never been a boyfriend who’s more of a wet lump of nothingness than Christian.

(Mating rituals with outsiders are necessary to the continuation of the Harga because of their strict incest taboo, except the carefully planned inbreeding needed to create the Oracle. This could, incidentally, be read as a nod to Sweden’s history; when they first land in Sweden, Mark remarks crassly on how beautiful Swedish women are, and Josh tells him it’s because the Vikings dragged the most beautiful women from other lands back with them.)

Meanwhile, Dani has been dressed in the white dress and flower crown the rest of the girls are wearing, and she lines up to get a small dose of potent, pungent tea before the dance begins. And that’s when things really get cracking.

The end of Midsommar shows that this has been a fairy tale all along

The events of the end of Midsommar are fairly straightforward, even though there’s a lot that happens offscreen (like most of the deaths, for instance, and clearly some Harga machinations and plotting as well). Dani dances with the other girls, is the last one standing in their apparent competition (sort of by accident), and becomes the May Queen. During the feast following, Dani is led away to bless the crops, while Christian is led away to, uh, mate with Maja, surrounded by a dozen naked women in a semicircle who sing and match Maja’s breathing. Dani discovers Christian in flagrante and finally lets out her howling grief, surrounded by a half-dozen girls who match her keening with their own. Christian finishes the act, then runs out of the mating house naked and discovers, in a chicken coop, what happened to Simon.

The next day, following those twin fertility rituals (one for crops, the other for humans), the Harga announce that as the culmination of their great, once-every-90-year edition of a midsummer’s celebration, nine human lives will be sacrificed: four of their own, four outsiders (Simon, Connie, Josh, and Mark), and one to be selected by the May Queen. She can choose between Christian or a Harga selected by lottery, and she chooses Christian. He’s put into a bear carcass and wheeled into the previously off-limits yellow pyramid-shaped building, surrounded by the other eight sacrifices. The whole thing is set on fire; the Harga scream and yell; and the film concludes on Dani’s face, as she slowly, broadly smiles.

What the hell?

Midsommar’s twisted ending, explained (4) A24

Midsommar is not the kind of film where there’s a puzzle or a mystery to be solved. But I think the best way to think about what’s happening in this last section is through some of the clues dropped throughout the film about Dani’s journey throughout Midsommar.

(Video) Midsommar's "Happy" Ending, Explained

In the early scenes, we see the inside of Dani’s apartment, and it’s useful to note how it’s decorated. On either side of her couch are two paintings: one of a series of moons (indicating the passage and cycle of time, presumably) and one rather wild-looking one that appears to be a woman running across corpses. There are also plants all around Dani’s apartment, in stark contrast to the snowy landscape outside.

Later, when Dani is lying on her bed, we see that there’s a large print hung above it. That print is “Stackars lilla Basse!” (“Poor little bear!”), which is an illustration by the Swedish painter and illustrator John Bauer, who died in 1918. He illustrated a number of fairy tales, including Oskuldens Vandring (translated something like The Walk of Innocence), a fairy tale by Helena Nyblom about a sensual but innocent young girl walking through a forest. In this picture, she meets a bear, kisses his nose, and calls him a poor little bear.

The image doesn’t literally foreshadow the coming events in any way, but if you take all of these things together, you get hints of the story that’s to come. There’s the plants (when she’s on a mushroom trip, Dani sees grass growing through her hands and feet, and there’s a flower breathing in her May Queen crown). The moons (signifying the phases of time and light and darkness). The carnage and howling (self-explanatory). And, of course, the bear. It feels as if Dani is fated to become the May Queen, something that Pelle (who clearly has feelings for her anyhow; he speaks kindly to her, remembers her birthday, and kisses her full on the mouth) perhaps senses, and that’s why he’s so delighted when she decides to come to Sweden with the group.

That the bear image comes from a fairy tale also reminds us that Midsommar is more of a fairy tale than anything else, though — as Aster pointed out to me in an interview — it’s also clearly a folk horror film, in which outsiders visit a foreign place and start disappearing in pagan rituals. But thinking of it as a fairy tale helps sort out the ending.

(It’s worth noting that in the Harga community, and throughout Midsommar, images are constantly used to foreshadow events, whether in the images at the very start of the film — which literally tell the entire story of the film — or on the walls in the building where the young people sleep. The paintings above the beds that Christian and Dani sleep in depict what will happen to them, like a kind of prophecy.)

Dani, at the beginning of the film, loses her family tragically — she is orphaned. That’s a classic opening to a fairy tale (think of Cinderella or Snow White, for instance). She’s also a future queen. She travels to a faraway country and endures hardships and trials, but eventually, she finds a family. Yet she must rid herself of what an elder Harga calls their “worst affekts” — and finds that the ceremony of the Harga is precisely what she requires.

Midsommar’s twisted ending, explained (5) A24

Her worst “affekts” — affections and emotions, in other words — are, as it turns out, all tied to Christian and the ways she’s been forced to sublimate her intense grief in order to keep him from leaving her. (Remember her conversation with an unseen friend on the phone, where she worried that someday her need for Christian’s emotional support would be a burden? Remember his horrible friend Mark saying that Dani was “literally abusive” for asking her boyfriend of more than three years to support her emotionally during family crises?)

(Video) The Ending Of Midsommar Explained

The Harga seem to see this, and decide to use Christian, who is an “ideal astrological match” for Maja, for his genetic material, and then, as long as Dani picks him for the ceremony, for purging the worst affekts of the whole community.

Which is what is happening at the end. With the yellow pyramid building aflame, the whole community gathers outside, howling as they did at the Ättestupa. But this time, they also clutch at their faces and bodies, almost dancing, as if something bad is leaving their body. This is a purging ritual; they are allowing everything bad and dark inside themselves to be let out.

For Dani, though, the purging is complete. She is spent. And Christian is going up in flames before her eyes. As she watches, she realizes that he is gone. She is free. She smiles.

Dani — an orphan — finally has a family.

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(Video) The Ending Of ‘Midsommar’ Explained | Pop Culture Decoded

FAQs

Why did she smile at the end of Midsommar? ›

There's no sympathy here, of course, with Dani's reaction to Christian's death being a big grin. She has reached catharsis by confronting her fear of loss, finding a new family to help her through the aftermath. Midsommar is available to watch on Netflix.

Why is everyone screaming at the end of Midsommar? ›

Dani has just seen her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) having sex with another woman from the commune, and it causes all her pent-up rage and grief to come pouring out of her. The other women reflect her emotions back at her by screaming and crying as well.

What does Dani become at the end of Midsommar? ›

In the final act, all of the outsiders except Christian and Dani have “disappeared,” and the midsommar ritual continues with a maypole dancing competition—which Dani wins. After the competition, Dani is crowned May Queen and is carted around the commune to bless their crops.

Is Dani happy at the end of Midsommar? ›

Ari Aster's Midsommar ends with a smile creeping across the face of its protagonist, Dani (Florence Pugh). The grisly finale feels like a moment of triumph for this character, who's spent the whole film enduring emotional torment.

What mental illness does Dani have in Midsommar? ›

A potentially traumatic event death of Dani's parents and sister drastically transforms Dani, leaving her psychologically traumatized. Later on, Dani develops posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder caused by this distressing event.

Is Pelle in love with Dani? ›

For all his flaws, he seems to genuinely love Dani and want the best for her. He is there for her when she goes through her severe anxiety attacks. Pelle is nothing but affectionate to Dani, he always sketches her in his sketchbook and even draws her as the May Queen.

Was Dani meant to be May Queen? ›

Ari Aster's 2019 folk horror film Midsommar features a plethora of foreshadowing that reveals that Dani was destined to become the May Queen. Ari Aster's 2019 folk horror film Midsommar ends with the crowning of Dani as the May Queen, but throughout its entirety it foreshadowed that she it was her destiny all along.

Who was wearing Marks skin in Midsommar? ›

“When Josh sneaks away to photograph pictures of the 'Rubi Radr' holy book, he thinks that he sees Mark standing in the doorway of the temple; it is in fact Ulf (the man who screamed at Mark for urinating on the ancestral tree) wearing Mark's skin.

Who was the deformed girl in Midsommar? ›

In the cinema cut, Connie (Ellora Torchia) and Simon (Archie Madekwe) freak out and want to flee after they see two of the Harga community leap of a cliff to their bloody deaths.

Is Midsommar a true story? ›

Ari Aster's Midsommar is partially based on a real-life Swedish festival, but the customs don't involve the same violence and pagan cult activities on show in the horror movie.

Who is in the wheelbarrow at the end of Midsommar? ›

They are one — her pain is their pain. This betrayal breaks the dam, and provides Dani with the will to move forward. An unconscious Christian wakes up slumped and immobile in a wheelbarrow, staring up at Dani, now clad in a sumptuous dress made up entirely of flowers.

What did Dani's sister do in Midsommar? ›

Florence Pugh stars as Dani, a young woman whose sister killed their parents before dying by suicide through carbon-monoxide asphyxiation by running a rubber tube from the car exhaust into her mouth.

What did they do to mark in Midsommar? ›

Mark's Death Represents Fire

Mark's death was somewhat foreshadowed in the initial scenes of Midsommar, as the children playing "skin the fool" is a direct reference to Mark's skin being peeled off later on, owing to the incredibly foolish act of urinating on a sacred artifact.

What is the symbolism in Midsommar? ›

All the symbolic meanings and what the tablet meant. Ari Aster's Midsommar, is a dark take on a pagan festival full of rituals and ceremonies. We see runes used repeatedly throughout the film, but the main one you'll see looks like an F 'Fehu', which means wealth, power, or charisma.

What was Pelle drawing Midsommar? ›

One of the comments on the thread, posted by user u/hobbessss, added that Pelle draws pictures of the feasting table that Dani and co. eat at in Hårga. The Oracle foresees events through images, so it's pretty strong evidence that Pelle was prophesying before they all went to Sweden.

Why was Dani happy at the end of Midsommar? ›

For Dani, we see this before our eyes. Now free of the burdens she's struggled with, she realises she's free, and that's why she smiles.

What happens to the May Queen Midsommar? ›

Whomever is left standing last is declared that year's May Queen - and this Midsommar, that person is Dani. She is given a flower crown and pride of place at the May Queen feast, and then taken to bless the harvest and animals.

Why did Dani smile at the end of Midsommar Reddit? ›

As a result, when Dani smiles in the last shot, the audience is supposed to feel happy for her that she is now an important member of this group, is free of her boyfriend, and has a new family.

What happened to Danis family? ›

We shortly find out that Dani's sister and parents are dead, in an apparent double murder/suicide, and from the looks of it everyone thinks that Dani's sister is the culprit.

How old is Dani Midsommar? ›

All of these factors combined mean that Dani Ardor is most likely between the ages of 24 to 26. In Midsommar, Dani is in the midst of formulating her graduate thesis, celebrating her birthday during the mid-summer of her life, and travels to the Harga festival in Sweden.

Why is Midsommar called Midsommar? ›

It's a word found in Swedish, Germany, and other European languages that translates to midsummer, but actually refers to what is technically known as the first day of summer or the summer solstice.

Did Dani go crazy in Midsommar? ›

That betrayal drove her to that state of disorientation on display as Christian meets his fiery end. Dani likely never recovered emotionally or mentally from the events of Midsommar, so she probably happily continued on as a member of the Hårga cult.

How is the May Queen decided? ›

A May queen is selected from a group of 13 upward girls by the young dancers. She returns the next year to crown the new May Queen and stays in the procession. The largest event in this tradition in modern Britain is the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Is Hårga a real place? ›

Hårga is a real place in Sweden. But the reality of the fictional Hårga people's practices is far from the film's portrayal. If you visit Hårga on a real Midsummer Holiday (the holiday celebrating the summer solstice) [3], you won't encounter the horrors of their rituals as the film shows.

Who was hanging in the barn in Midsommar? ›

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.

Was Simon still alive in Midsommar? ›

In Midsommar, Simon is very much alive and breathing when Christian finds him.

Who jumped off the cliff in Midsommar? ›

Film Deaths

Midsommar (2019) [Dan]: Tries to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff due to turning 72 years old. This only breaks his legs and his head is then crushed with a mallet by other cult members.

Where did Simon and Connie go in Midsommar? ›

Simon and his fiance Connie were invited to Hälsingland, Sweden by Ingemar to attend a midsummer celebration at an ancestral commune, the Hårga.

Who is the deformed girl in Midsommar? ›

In the cinema cut, Connie (Ellora Torchia) and Simon (Archie Madekwe) freak out and want to flee after they see two of the Harga community leap of a cliff to their bloody deaths.

Was Dani meant to be May Queen? ›

Ari Aster's 2019 folk horror film Midsommar features a plethora of foreshadowing that reveals that Dani was destined to become the May Queen. Ari Aster's 2019 folk horror film Midsommar ends with the crowning of Dani as the May Queen, but throughout its entirety it foreshadowed that she it was her destiny all along.

Who is wearing marks face in Midsommar? ›

When Josh sneaks away to photograph pictures of the 'Rubi Radr' holy book, he thinks that he sees Mark standing in the doorway of the temple: it is in fact Ulf (the man who screamed at Mark for urinating on the ancestral tree) wearing Mark's skin.

Is Midsommar based on a true story? ›

Ari Aster's Midsommar is partially based on a real-life Swedish festival, but the customs don't involve the same violence and pagan cult activities on show in the horror movie.

Was Simon still alive in Midsommar? ›

In Midsommar, Simon is very much alive and breathing when Christian finds him.

Who is the monster in Midsommar? ›

Upon subsequent viewings of Midsommar, it becomes even more apparent that Pelle is a monster in his own way. He invites Christian, Dani, Josh, and Mark to the Swedish festival with little warning of what they are about to experience.

Who are the nine offerings in Midsommar? ›

Now the fertility rituals have been completed the Harga announce that the 90-year-old event has come to its culmination, but nine people have to die. Four of their own will be sacrificed alongside four outsiders - Mark, Simon, Connie and Josh - and one selected by the May Queen, Dani.

Did Dani go crazy in Midsommar? ›

That betrayal drove her to that state of disorientation on display as Christian meets his fiery end. Dani likely never recovered emotionally or mentally from the events of Midsommar, so she probably happily continued on as a member of the Hårga cult.

What did Dani's sister do in Midsommar? ›

Florence Pugh stars as Dani, a young woman whose sister killed their parents before dying by suicide through carbon-monoxide asphyxiation by running a rubber tube from the car exhaust into her mouth.

How is the May Queen decided? ›

A May queen is selected from a group of 13 upward girls by the young dancers. She returns the next year to crown the new May Queen and stays in the procession. The largest event in this tradition in modern Britain is the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Who was hanging in the barn in Midsommar? ›

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.

What were they eating in Midsommar? ›

In Midsommar, Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh) ingests hallucinogenic teas and is offered a full fish to swallow, while her boyfriend Christian (Josh Radnor) eats a pie with a pubic hair in it and drinks juice spiked with menstrual blood.

What happens to the May Queen Midsommar? ›

Whomever is left standing last is declared that year's May Queen - and this Midsommar, that person is Dani. She is given a flower crown and pride of place at the May Queen feast, and then taken to bless the harvest and animals.

How do Swedes feel about Midsommar? ›

The answer is, of course, a resounding yes." Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden's biggest dailies, described Midsommar as an "entertaining horror in a fantasy version of Sweden". "There is an exhilarating exoticism in Aster's film that has a specific entertainment value for Swedish spectators," it went on.

Do the Hårga exist? ›

Hårga is indeed real, but the Hårga people, insofar as Aster conceived of them for his movie, are not. There is no direct analog to this quasi-cult with discomforting rituals around death and bearskins.

What religion is Midsommar based on? ›

From the mind of writer and director Ari Aster, Midsommar details the Pagan rituals of a Swedish cult called the Hårga. Following a group of graduate students, the film presents a world made up of mystery, wonder, and hallucinogens.

Videos

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