A look at how religion affects the main characters in The Lodge, Saint Maude, and Midsommar... Part 3 of 3
Midsommar (2019) is a deceptively picturesque film, where the dark aspects of a Swedish commune creep in, ensnaring the characters who visit. Dani, having just lost both her parents and sister to an untimely double murder-suicide, joins her boyfriend and his friends on a trip to a remote commune in the mountains of Sweden. They do not realize they have been welcomed into a suicide commune, until the two eldest members jump from a cliff as part of an end of life cycle ritual. What they thought was going to be an insightful trip to a festival celebrating the sun turns unsettling, as they learn the commune views such a death as an honorable end endorsed by every follower.
The utopia scenery and serene aesthetic veil the heart of the commune in Midsommar. The aesthetic seems bright and natural, with no hints of horror. Everyone and everything is synced with each other. They move almost in unison, an elaborate slow dance through their daily activities. The commune sacrifices life to create a space for new life, with rituals revolving around cyclical nature-based aspects. This festival is a once every 90 years celebration of Midsommar, the Summer Solstice, in hopes their crops and livestock will be blessed. The first couple to die are completing their 72 year life cycle with ceremonious suicides. As Dani looks on horrified, slowly realizing what is about to happen the woman looks directly at her, somehow resembling Dani’s dead sister. Then jumps. Other outside witnesses begin screaming and protesting with a distant, muffled shouting even though they are standing near Dani, who is unable to look away as the old man jumps. He does not die on impact and begins screaming as he shattered his legs. The commune scream out with him, as another follower bashes his head in with a mallet, resulting in one suicide and one murder… and a return to silence. The bodies are burned and their ashes spread to nourish a dead ancestor tree.
All Dani wants is to leave the commune in Midsommar, but the longer she stays the more her established identity subtly fades away. The commune slowly alters Dani’s appearance to mold her into one of them. At first she joins in with their traditions out of curious politeness, wearing her usual muted clothes with some added floral crowns the commune ladies give her. Everyone dresses in white with blue rune accents. The first time she helps them cook, the women tie a white apron with blue embroidery over her grey-blue clothes. When she joins them for the Maypole dance, she is fully dressed as a typical Hårga woman, in a pristine white summer dress with blue embellishments, hair up, her head adorned with flowers. Her attire signifies her immersion into the commune. As she dances the May Poll, Dani is able to understand another dancer speaking Swedish, symbolizing how in tune with their way of life she is becoming. After Dani is crowned the May Queen, her transformation is nearly complete. Upon completing the blessing ritual, she is cloaked in flowers and an elaborate crown, fully indoctrinated into the commune.
Dani’s reluctant acceptance into the commune in Midsommar is understandable. She has lost everyone close to her, and unknowingly replaces them with her new commune family that makes her feel “held.” Dani knows her boyfriend only begrudgingly invited her along. Even before her tragedy, she noticed he was growing distant and losing interest in her. The commune welcomes her in a way she has never experienced before, both with their traditions and their warm, genuine interest in Dani herself. They share in her pain and her happiness with outward displays of mimicry. When Christian was consoling Dani after her family died, she was openly weeping and screaming from the enormity of her unimaginable loss. Christian was stone cold silent, barely even comforting her and obviously wishing he was anywhere else with anyone else. He does not share her grief. The commune, however, welcomes her into their way of life and takes a genuine interest in Dani as a person. They support her in a way Christian never did and let it known she is a welcome addition.
Dani’s breathing changes drastically throughout the film, Midsommar. She suffers from panic attacks, often leaving the group to walk somewhere isolated, in order to break down in tears, gasping for air. She does not want to burden any of her friends with her grief, save for the night her family died when she sought comfort from Christian. The more intertwined she becomes with the commune, the less frequent and intense her panic attacks become. They teach her their method of a few quick, audible breaths before the beginning of their rituals. The only time she returns to her uncontrollable gasping breathing is when she discovers Christian cheating. The commune women share her grief over Christian’s infidelity, weeping and screaming along with her in unity.
After she becomes May Queen, Dani must decide who to allow the honor of being a living sacrifice… a commune member who has never wronged her or Christian. She allowed all the hurt and loss to convince her it was acceptable to grant permission for Christian to be sewn into a bear, paralyzed and burned alive amongst effigies. He could not get Dani’s birthday candle lit, but manages to light up the yellow triangle house quite impressively. Two other men volunteer to be living effigies and are given drops to ease their passage. The two men could scream out, alerting the commune of their suffering so they could share it with communal screaming. Only Dani’s face showed silent horror. Only Christian couldn’t scream. Only Dani tries to flee, choking and coughing on the smoke, struggling to move adorned with a full cape of flowers. And, only Dani stopped to face the yellow triangle building and smiled, still silent, fully transformed in the story of Midsommar. The film ends here, begging the question: Does Dani burn or jump?
Here for our viewers is the trailer for “Midsommar!”