Let’s just start by saying if you haven’t seen Midsommar yet, then this is not the article for you, as we’re going to be sharing some huge spoilers.
Ari Aster’s follow-up to the deeply harrowing Hereditary arrived in cinemas earlier this month, and has already divided cinema-goers (including those on the HuffPost UK team), but whether you loved or hated it, you can’t deny that the director left a lot to unpack.
Film fans have already begun sharing their own theories about the film, as well as subtle details they picked up on while watching, on social media and Reddit, leading to a lot of conversation.
Here’s a selection of the incredible small details you might have missed...
The significance of the main characters’ names
The first talking you hear in Midsommar is the answering machine message from Dani’s family, the Ardors. Their surname is presumably no coincidence, as Ardor is derived from the Latin word for “to burn”, foreshadowing the film’s rather unsettling ending.
Similarly, the name Christian is a bit of an obvious one, contrasting the idea of modern religion with the Hårga’s Pagan rituals (which Jack Reynor’s character obviously winds up becoming the victim of).
Meanwhile, Dani’s first name means “God has judged”, which could be related to the fact she – as the newly-crowned May Queen – has the ultimate say in who is sacrificed at the end of the film… but we’re also fully happy to concede we might be clutching at straws with that last one.
Breathing is a recurring theme throughout the film, whether it’s Dani’s breathlessness during her panicked moments or the early asphyxiation of her parents near the beginning of the film (Ari Aster has even revealed that in the stage directions for the mushroom trip when the group first arrived in Sweden he wrote that the trees should look as though they’re “breathing”).
The most obvious example of prominent and unusual breathing in Midsommar is the Hårga’s “hoh-hah” gesture, a signature sound to this film in the same way Charlie’s tongue-click was in Hereditary.
Fans of the film have suggested this very specific breath sequence could relate to the Hårga’s beliefs about the circle of life, it starts with an outward breath followed by a sharp intake, symbolising an “out of the old, in with the new” mentality.
Others have pointed out that it might just be the Hårga’s way of checking that people have actually ingested the “special properties” tea they give everyone, though.
The character of Pelle has already proved to be a divisive figure among Midsommar viewers, with some singing his praises for being the only character to show kindness to Dani and others pointing out that he is, y’know, responsible for the deaths of most of his friends.
Truly a complex character.
One thing many have picked up on is the fact that Pelle confides in Dani that he lost his parents in a fire, prompting many to speculate they were among the sacrifices in a previous midsommar ceremony.
There are also theories that Pelle was more responsible for the film’s events than we might have realised, with some pointing out that at the site of Dani’s parents’ death, a flower crown can be seen on their bedside table, next to a family photograph.
And then there’s his comment to Christian about “all the Swedish girls he can impregnate” that summer – a coincidence or a sinister hint at events he knew would be coming later?
After the shocking sex scene, Christian flees naked to a nearby chicken coop, where he discovers the horrific fates of both Josh and Simon, where one of the male Hårga blows the mysterious substance in his face that eventually leads to his own demise.
Some eagle-eyed fans have spotted that Pelle is lurking in the background of this scene, too, showing he’s more in on the events of Midsommar than you might realise at first glance…
At the group feast (you know, the one with the pies…), it’s shown that Christian’s drink is a slightly different colour to everybody else’s at the table. If it wasn’t clear to you exactly why this is, we think we have an explanation.
Shortly after arriving at the festival, a mural shows that a Hårgan custom is to not only cook pubic hair into a man’s food to make him fall in love with you, but also to try and sneak menstrual blood into his drink.
And so… that’s most likely why his is a darker shade than the others’.
The pie he’s given to eat – complete with Maja’s pubic hair – is also the only one with a leaf underneath it, presumably to set it apart from the others, and make sure it’s Christian who eats it.
Surprisingly, there are actually a fair few laughs in Midsommar, compared to your typical horror film, a lot of them courtesy of Will Poulter’s character, Mark, who delivers most of the comic relief.
It’s fitting, then, that in his final appearance he’s seen in a jester’s hat, although the fact he’s without his innards is a bit more of a thinker.
As you may well recall, near the beginning of Midsommar, Mark is intrigued to hear about a game of “skin the fool” being played by some of the Hårga, presumably not realising that he would become the skinned “fool” in question by the end of the film.
And as he’s led away, the woman in question cryptically tells him “I’ll show you”, which some have interpreted as a throwback to his earlier questions about the game “skin the fool”.
Why a bear?
The image of Christian burning to death engulfed in a bear’s skin is one that we won’t forget in a hurry, leading many to question what the significance of the bear is.
As it turns out, no one really seems to know for sure, although some have pointed out it could just be to add to the “fairytale” feel of Midsommar (despite its horrific visuals, Ari Aster has repeatedly said he considers the film to be a fairytale from Dani’s perspective, even suggesting parts were influenced by Disney).
One early scene also shows Dani in front of a painting by Swedish artist John Bauer, depicting a little girl in a crown kissing a startled bear on the nose, both of which serve as a foreshadow for how Dani and Christian would be depicted by the end of Midsommar.
A Heaven’s Gate reference?
Before Josh’s disappearance, he’s seen getting into bed with his trainers on in a shot that lingers on his feet for a noticeably long time. While the HuffPost team were torn over whether this was some clunky exposition to show he was planning to run off or some less-than-subtle New Balance product placement, other fans have suggested it’s actually a reference to the Heaven’s Gate cult...
After the mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult members, they were all discovered in bed wearing matching sweat pants and trainers, which some have suggested Ari Aster called back to in Midsommar, a film about another group with cult-ish tendencies.
“Everything is black”
Before taking both her own life and those of her parents, Dani’s sister sends an email in which she says that everything feels “black”, a curious turn of phrase, which crops up again much later in the film.
When Dani and the other women take part in the dance competition to win the May Queen title, the ceremony is introduced with a speech about how it’s intended as a deliberate defiance of “the black one”, presumably a reference to the devil or another evil Pagan spirit, with some suggesting these two things are linked.
Shortly after winning the contest, Dani also sees a vision of her mother among the villagers, again calling back to their grisly death near the start of the film.
That bizarre Austin Powers reference
No, you didn’t imagine it, they really did reference Austin Powers completely out of nowhere in the middle of Midsommar.
For seemingly no reason, one of the Hårga invites Dani, Christian and the others to join them for a showing of Austin Powers, should they wish. This throws out a lot of questions like “what?!”, “why?”, “how” and finally “why?” again, but sadly no one seems to have any answers.
All anyone has been able to come up are a few choice moments involving the International man of mystery that are actually surprisingly relevant to Midsommar
Midsommar is out now at UK cinemas.