After the runaway success of his debut feature, Hereditary, one of the greatest horror movies in recent memory, writer-director Ari Aster was contacted by Swedish production company, B-Reel Films, about possibly making a slasher movie in Sweden. Aster initially turned down the offer, as he couldn’t find a way into the story, but changed his mind after connecting it to a breakup.
The visual style of Midsommar is ripped straight from folk horror classics, like The Wicker Man, but its emotional core is Dani Ardor and Christian Hughes’ struggling relationship. Aster has described his ambitious opus as “a breakup movie dressed in the clothes of a folk horror film.”
At the beginning of Midsommar, Christian’s friends encourage him to break up with Dani. They tell him she’s holding him back and he should free himself of her emotional neediness. But Dani’s opening scenes show that she has a suicidal sister who keeps threatening to take her own life, so her emotions are pretty warranted.
It’s clear that Christian is a selfish jerk who couldn’t be less interested in the needs of others, and that breaking up would be best for both of them. From the beginning of the movie, this relationship seems irreparable.
Christian can see that breaking up with Dani is the best option, but just before he can do it, Dani’s sister dies by suicide and kills her parents, although it is hinted at that they are actually killed by the cult and this point remains ambiguous. Nonetheless, he can’t very well break up with her in the immediate aftermath of losing her entire family – she needs more emotional support than ever.
The problem is, Christian isn’t in the business of providing emotional support. It’s obvious that their relationship is unworkable and a breakup is inevitable. Dani’s poorly timed family tragedy just delays that inevitability.
Most of Christian’s interactions with Dani are straight out of the gaslighter’s handbook. He never tells Dani how he really feels; she tries to communicate with him, but he just speaks in vague terms, so he’ll be able to deny it later.
In this regard, the Hårga cult that Dani leaves Christian for is much worse than him. They, too, manipulate people’s thoughts and use emotions as weapons, but they’re much more cunning and effective at it than Christian.