The Lowdown On The Midsommar Director's Cut
Traditionally, Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, but Ari Aster and A24 are keeping the summer festivities going via a Director’s Cut of Midsommar. The new cut of this disturbing sun-bathed drama adds roughly 24-minutes to the original’s already lengthy (147-minute) runtime and features new scenes and extended footage. We take an in depth look at the new footage and how it impacts the characters, story, and overall reading. BEWARE: there are SPOILERS in here, so enter at your own risk!
What’s the new material include?
While many Director’s Cuts intentionally deviate from their theatrical versions (like Blade Runner), Midsommar’s additional footage and extended scenes serve as a supplement to what’s already present. The new material includes:
Extended arguments and conversations between Dani and Christian.
This includes Christian (Jack Reynor) inviting Dani (Florence Pugh) along to Sweden — something that isn’t explicitly shown in the theatrical cut, which implies it’s Dani who maybe invited herself along — and a nighttime Hårga confrontation where Dani asks if Christian if he still loves her, he doesn't really respond, but Christian turns it back on her, saying that everytime she does something nice for him (he mentions the example of her picking him flowers), he feels in debt to her and claims it's something she's purposefully doing.
Extended car ride and entrance to Hårga.
The car ride mostly shows off Will Poulter’s comedic chops, but Dani also receives a text from a girlfriend telling her happy birthday. It also shows Josh (William Jackson Harper) reading a book with a swastika on the cover, which is he says is because Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) told him he should learn the runic alphabet. This sequence also makes Pele’s motives more calculated and manipulative; Danie jokingly claims that Pelle brainwashed the others boys into coming, to which he responds: “Josh was already brainwashed when I found him.”
The groups’ walk into Hårga and the festival’s inauguration is extended (the latter is even handled differently in terms of shot composition and overall coverage). The most important aspect here seems to be when a Hårga resident (the man in the self-proclaimed feminine attire) looks at Dani specifically and delivers some subtle foreshadowing. “Welcome home,” he says.
Extended and additional Hårga rituals.
These sequences give the viewer a richer look at Hårga’s culture. Notably, we learn that the Hårga’s fire — which is not a prominent fixture of the original — is something that’s always been burning and it’s the Hårga villagers’ job to keep it going, and get some new info on how Hårga’s new life replaces the old. We are told that infants will take the name of those who commit suicide via the ättestupan.
We also see a brand new ritual — a nighttime water ritual — that shows the type of “theatrics” Pelle initially alludes to, which is light fare compared to the ättestupan that precedes it, and also provides some context to a visitor’s demise, which we’ll discuss more below.
Other notable additions include a new lunch sequence that shows us more directly that the seating is in the shape of a rune and an extended meeting between Christian and Siv (Gunnel Fred) regarding the sexual proposition between Christian and Maja (Isabelle Grill) where Siv assures Christian that Dani won’t know and seduces him with his thesis, saying that this opportunity will provide a “unique glimpse” into Hårga’s mating ritual.
Christian’s anthropology thesis is given more time.
Christian’s thesis dilemma has a lot more screen time in the Director’s Cut. We get to see an extended confrontation between Christian and Josh following the ättestupan that includes a funny JSTOR joke (for all you scholars out there) and paints Christian into an even more manipulative asshole. We also see Christian interviewing more villagers and learning new details about Hårga and its culture.
How does it impact the story?
Overall, the new elements make the film into a richer and more complex experience, but they also throw off the graceful and tight pacing of the theatrical cut. With more screen time devoted to Hårga and its rituals, the Director’s Cut has a sharper anthropological edge and makes the villagers and their motives a bit more sinister. The additional focus on Christian and his thesis slightly obscures the story being about Dani and her journey, as it gives both characters even screen time. The flip side to this is that it also makes the film’s finale a bit more of a mysterious.
The nighttime ritual, wherein a boy dressed like a Christmas tree offers himself as a sacrifice (by drowning in the river) only to be “saved” by the villagers, gives us context into a few things. On the surface, its obvious grooming by the villagers to prime the youth into being willing to offer themselves for the community — something that is necessary for the ättestupan but also the voluntary sacrifices we see in the end — but on a more subtle level, it gives the viewer insight into Connie’s death, which still occurs off screen.
How does it impact the characters?
In terms of characters, Christian is the one who’s mainly impacted by the new cut. The new material presents him as an even more manipulative gaslighter and gives us even more reason to hate him. We actually see that it’s Christian who invites Dani to Sweden by trying to pawn it off like a surprise — something he also accuses Dani of ruining — and how he lacks the balls to really cut the cord on the relationship. Having his decision to have sex with Maja under the guise of his thesis gives his motives a more calculated unethical edge; it’s clear a passive aggressive maneuver to force the end of the relationship so he doesn’t have to be the “bad guy.”
The nighttime confrontation between Dani and Christian following the water ritual presents Dani as a stronger character. We understand that she sees through his bullshit to the point where she actually calls him out on it.
The Director’s Cut also makes Pelle more sinister and conniving. It’s more clear in the extra scenes by how he interacts with Dani that he’s got her marked as a future mate. The attentiveness he shows Dani is in direct opposition to Christian, and his methods are subtle enough for Dani to be unsure whether its all calculated or genuinely sweet.
Are the extra materials crucial to reading the film?
Absolutely not. Everything the Director’s Cut presents us can be gleaned in the theatrical cut. If anything, the new cut makes the film more about the toxic codependency of Dani and Christian’s relationship, but it pushes Dani out of center focus, making the film less about her personal journey and more about the death of a bad relationship. It also presents the Hårga community as less of a materialization of Dani’s inner needs and more of a culty group of manipulative recruiters.
The final verdict:
For fans of the theatrical cut, it offers a richer experience, but the pacing and messaging are slightly more askew. The theatrical cut is superior in pretty much every way, but we’re glad this version exists as a supplement. Looking at the two films side by side, it’s easy to see the power of editing and the importance of pruning a film.
If you missed your chance at catching the Director’s Cut in theaters, you haven’t missed out entirely; the Director’s Cut will be available exclusively on Apple TV. If you purchase the pre-order on iTunes, Ari Aster’s extended and unrated director’s cut. You’ll also be able to go behind the scenes with the cast and crew of Midsommar in an exclusive featurette, and watch the creation of Hälsingland in time-lapse footage of the elaborate and meticulous set construction.
What did you think of the Director’s Cut? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!