So, What Really Happens At The End Of Midsommar?

Photo: Courtesy of A24/IMDb.
Warning: This story contains major spoilers for Midsommar.
All hail the May Queen! Midsommar, Ari Aster’s sunny Swedish folk festival break-up movie, is finally in theaters. If you’ve made it to the end of the two-and-a-half-hour run time, you probably have some questions.
The director’s follow-up to Hereditary stars Florence Pugh as Dani, an American psychology student struggling to cope in the aftermath of an unbearable family tragedy. So, when her long-term boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) reluctantly invites her along on a guy’s trip to a Swedish folk festival celebrating the summer solstice, she accepts, hoping this will be the key to repairing their frayed relationship. But what starts out as a mellow, drug-filled, flower crown kind of vacation soon takes a dark turn, and it becomes increasingly clear that there might be something sinister lurking underneath the community’s friendly, welcoming facade.
The best way to understand Midsommar is as a twisted, horrifying version of a traditional fairy tale. In this case, the girl doesn’t end up with the handsome prince — rather, she condemns him to death, sewed into the bear's skin. (And if you’ve ever read the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales, you’ll know that’s not far off. They are gruesome AF.)
The outcome is foreshadowed everywhere you look: in paintings, oral folklore, colorfully stitched quilts, and pastoral scenes etched on the walls. In the film’s earliest scenes Dani has three paintings on the walls of her apartment. One is of two large circles, surrounded by smaller revolving orbs — evoking the cycle of the planets around the summer solstice. The next shows a girl running through a woozy swirl of color, seemingly foreshadowing the hallucinogenic drug trip the group — Dani, Christian, Hårga native Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), Mark (Will Poulter), Josh (William Jackson Harper), and British couple Simon (Archie Madekwe) and Connie (Ellora Torchia) — partakes in early on in their stay, which breaks down their defenses for what’s to come. But the last painting is the most revealing: A small woman, wearing a crown, stands face-to-face with a large bear, whose sheer size threatens to overwhelm her.
The murder-suicide of Dani’s sister and parents has left her adrift and alone in the world. She can’t cling to Christian for support, because he’s in a state of perpetual limbo, wanting to break up with her without actually taking the plunge. When they leave for Sweden, they’re at an impasse, unable to move forward or backwards.
Ultimately, Dani does receive the support she so craves, not from her partner, but from an adopted family that welcomes her with open arms. Every event during the nine-day festival is a stepping stone to her eventual catharsis. And as an audience, we know that will come at a price. We watch, along with Christian, Dani, and their friends, as two elder members of the community sacrifice their lives so their spirit can enter the new generation to come. And we also see what they don’t: Simon’s body trussed up in a temple, flowers sewn into his eyes; Connie’s disappearance; Mark’s rebirth as something akin to the skin suit alien from Men In Black; Josh impaled on one leg in the garden.
Things come to a head when Dani participates in a dancing ritual around the Maypole. As the last woman standing, she’s crowned May Queen and seated at the head of the feast table. Meanwhile, Christian is served a concoction that makes him hallucinate, and ends up having culty sex with Maja, one of the Hårga girls, who needs him in order to procreate without incest. The process of rebirth has begun.
Dani’s position at the core of this community becomes clear when she sees Christian in the throes of passion, and starts wailing. The women around her immediately mimic her reaction. 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. One of the community elders explains that nine sacrifices are required to close out the festival, one for each of the days: four volunteers from the community (Two young men cheerfully join the two elders who died earlier in the film), four from the newcomers lured into the festival (Connie, Simon, Mark and Josh) and another, chosen by the May Queen herself.
Faced with the option of picking someone at random, Hunger Games-style, or sacrificing Christian, Dani, imperious in her new role, doesn’t hesitate. Christian is taken, adorned with the skin of a dead bear, and brought to the yellow triangular temple in the center of a field — the same one the Americans had been forbidden from entering. Now we know why: The room is filled with the other artfully decorated bodies of those chosen to die for the cause. Three hooded men set fire to the building, burning it, and everyone inside to ash. Outside, Dani smiles. Freed from the burden of a bad boyfriend, she has finally found her tribe.

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