by Jan Bottiglieri
(By the way, the rest of this column is super-spoilery, so if you haven’t seen Midsommar yet, stop reading and go. It’s a horror/relationship/dramedy that is well worth your time, with an outstanding lead performance by Florence Pugh. I can’t believe she was also the lead in another film I wrote about recently, Fighting With My Family! )
Even Dani’s last name—Ardor—is a clue to what she needs and who she really is beneath her shapeless sweaters. It’s also not a coincidence that her first name (and that of her sister, Terri) are names that could easily belong to a man. That is the biggest foreshadowing of that inverted camera angle: the film is about to flip the polarities of some of our most deeply-engrained assumptions.
One of the most personally disorienting reversals, for me, is how Midsommar approaches Dani’s depression and grief. I’m convinced that whoever first said “misery loves company” has never been truly miserable. In my experience, this is one of the most difficult things to manage about both grief and depression: they can be incredibly isolating. Just when you really need to be, as Pelle says, “held” by those around you, that darkness puts up a wall. Not only can you barely stand to be around others—truth be told, many others aren’t thrilled to be around you. When Dani learns of the tragic loss of her family, she breaks down beyond the capacity of speech, wailing into Christian’s lap as he stares silently ahead, unable (or unwilling) to do anything but passively let it happen. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s not surprising; we’ve already seen how incapable Christian is of giving emotional energy to this relationship. He’s already checked out.
Actually, we assume she chooses—the film never actually shows us how this moment goes down. This ambiguity is another reversal: What if a horror movie didn’t show what, in other films, would be a climactic moment of revenge? By my count, there are seven murders in Midsommar, but we only see one: Christian’s, as he sits immobilized while flames engulf his protective layer of bear.