Culture Shock of Ari Aster’s “Midsommar”

The new movie from Ari Aster, “Midsommar”, isn’t one of those horror movies you will like. While “Hereditary” became one of the most terrifying horror films, “Midsommar” became one of the horror films set in the daylight. It’s used as the main element of horror. Besides, a 140-minute runtime with the Director’s Cut isn’t easy to go through. Whether you’re very surprised with the ending or don’t understand what’s going on, you never know this film focuses fully on the protagonist, especially the main character’s psychology.

I watched this film at the beginning of October at the cinema and watched it again at the end of October. To be honest, I watched this movie three times until I watch the Director’s Cut as well. The Director’s Cut is much longer and has many extended cuts. It develops more unclear characters. One example is the way Christian, Dani’s boyfriend, was more antagonist, the way Dani stops one ritual at night, and others. But, I want to focus on how this film used culture shock in describing the trauma and psychology of the main character. So, it means that this analysis has spoilers from beginning to end.

Midsommar, a tale of move on and adapted into a new family

“Midsommar” begins its story in a city where we are introduced by the protagonist, Dani. Dani has a hereditary disease where she is very difficult in controlling her emotions. After know that her family died, her boyfriend, Christian, tried to improve his relationship by bringing her to Sweden. Christian, Mark, Dani, Josh, and Pelle go to Sweden where a remote village holds a 90 year festival in Hårga, Hälsingland. In this situation, her friends and even Christian alienated her.

Arriving in the village, they witnessed one of the first events at Ättestupa. It’s a name for a cliff where the elders throw themselves until their deaths. The Americans and the outsiders never know how the incident belongs to the festival. However, for Josh and Christian, it’s an event where they have to collaborate in writing their thesis. Mark also didn’t know that one of the ancestral trees he urinated was part of their culture too.

On the other hand, Dani became more self-aware and comfortable, who at first felt terrifying yet also amazed at the same time, but then gradually began to open up. Dani also feels annoyed with Christian, who is increasingly disconnected from her. He forgot her birthday and felt unemotional with her feelings especially when Dani cried for her family. Pelle came to persuade her not to go home and said that his parents had also died long ago when he was a child. Pelle told Christian that he should be “home” to Dani where he had to take care of her and listen as wisely as possible.

In the dinner sequence, Dani tells Christian that Simon left his girlfriend, Connie, behind the village. She also briefly mentioned and likened what if Christian would do the same to Dani too. Instead of taking it seriously or literally, Christian doesn’t care about it and eats a pie that contains a pubic day. He also didn’t realize that he had drunk water that was more colorful than other waters. Every character in this sequence doesn’t feel at ease from each other, starting from the relationship between Dani and Christian, the thesis of Christian and Josh, and Mark, who is being targeted by one of Swedens because of the ancestor tree. This Hårga festival shifted their relationships, feelings, and impressions with various impacts.

The final section of the movie, from here, begins to become insane. Simon and Connie disappeared as well as Josh and Mark after not appreciating the culture in the village. The day of the Maypole dance begins. Christian and Dani are two survivors and a couple who still survive today. One of the girls also invited her to participate in the Maypole dance. On the other hand, Christian is informed that his relationship has been agreed upon and can have direct sex with Maja. Christian feels that a love affair, especially incest, in Hårga makes him not know what it was. It ends with Christian and Maja with intimate relationships and Dani successfully becomes the May queen of the festival.

Culture shock

In terms of its synopsis, “Midsommar” has many scenes and hints of how culture shock is part of the protagonist’s main psychological key. The first ritual of Ättestupa made Dani feel uncomfortable but at the same time was curious as well as Connie and Simon who couldn’t stand the ritual. However, what exactly is culture shock? Culture shock is an experience experienced by one person when they live in one place and try to adapt to the culture of that place. Culture shock is disorientation between the culture of the person and the new culture because the person lives a different life from the life they have accustomed to. One of the most often experienced by someone when moving to another place is the environment.

There are four stages of how culture shock can be illustrated. There are a honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and adaptation.

Honeymoon

In the honeymoon period, there is a boundary and differentiates where old and new culture is a lamp of romance for someone. One example, in this film, is where the Americans and the outsiders initially wonder why there is no night. However, during the first day, they began to look pretty at the culture, sets, and costumes they used. Just like when we watch this film. We feel cheated by the beauty of color in its festival. The people in the village are also very friendly and polite so we start to feel comfortable in this first stage.

Negotiation

Negotiation usually appears in the middle of the month or more depending on how the individual made it through the honeymoon stage or didn’t succeed. It occurs because there are feelings of anxiety, intolerance, and unpleasantness of the new culture. When someone is more excite about the new things in that place, negotiation can also occur. One of the effects of why are language barriers, feeling alienated in the public, the limit of food, and the quality of being in the new environment and new people. Because of these, a person can experience insomnia or feel tired during the day and just want to sleep instead of socializing. New terms such as food, places, medicines, and drinks are the main causes of this period too.

This is what happened to the Americans and the outsiders in “Midsommar” where there is a language barrier when the festival starts using Swedish. The movie also doesn’t have a translate of what they say. It creates a common sense between character and audience as if the audience also feels alienated at the festival. Because of feelings of alienation too, we feel that we must be forced to follow the lifestyles of that culture. Living in a different country without support, especially from parents and friends, is difficult. What’s more, you have to know a lot about the culture because you don’t have to feel intentionally alienated so people in that place want to accept you.

Adjustment

This period usually occurs when someone starts to get used to the culture and routine in the place. The person knows how they should respond to what happens next and no longer feels this is new to them. The person immediately knew the bases in the place and everything seemed normal to him/her. They learn new things and no longer see everything negatively. For example, one of the women invited Dani to the Maypole dance. In the scene where all young women dance, Dani feels happy, isn’t feel alienated anymore, and feels happy with the people around her. She even understood Swedish a little, a language she had never learned even a little. Dani no longer has to look negatively and the negative reactions are reduced. All of this then becomes the final stage where Dani accepts her new family as her new home too.

Adaptation

Someone begins to participate fully, feel comfortable with their new culture, and feel familiar with these people. They mastered it all, mastered the language, mastered the routine of the place, and others. Adaptation also often referred to as the bicultural stage.

One of the most examples you might see at the end of the movie. Dani has now become the May queen of the festival. The festival closes with the sacrifice of nine people. The first four victims are Josh, Mark, Connie, and Simon. The next four victims are cult members; two sacrificed elders and two volunteers: Ingemar and Ulf. Dani, as of May queen, has chosen the ninth and final victim either Christian or a villager. Feeling angry at what Christian did, Dani finally chose Christian. Initially, Dani cried and let out all her emotions as much as possible. Until finally, she smiled and had moved on with her old family, her old boyfriend, and had found a new family.

Conclusion

“Midsommar” isn’t a kind of film like “Hereditary” or horror films in general. The daylight setting is probably one of the unique things of a film. But, I think this movie is rather difficult to say as a horror movie. Ari Aster also said that this is a movie about moving on. He gets this inspiration when he feels broken up. Aster also really likes the concept of trauma, family, and tragedy. The trauma in their new culture defined the main protagonist and other characters. Aster emphasizes more violence to their characters while most of the time focuses more on psychological effects.

It’s a fascinating movie this year and to be honest, I watched this movie three times. I think this is a good thing to analyze and review this film more in using cultural shock theory. The movie is also more impressed by cultural identity, a theory that emphasizes the feeling and identity born of certain groups. Although many say that “Midsommar” isn’t scary whatsoever, I’m more frightening with movies like this rather than most horror movies in general. In conclusion, this movie is more than you think and it’s the best thing I did when writing this analysis.

References

About the author