On August 25th in Birmingham, Alabama during the second day of the 21st Sidewalk Film Festival, a unique location was picked for the only second viewing in the United States of Ari Aster’s MIDSOMMAR’s Director’s Cut.
It was a packed house at the historic Alabama Theatre that has been a city stable since it’s opening in the 1920s. For a showing of any special horror film, especially MIDSOMMAR, was a gift from the Goddesses. If you’re reading this and have not seen the original, MIDSOMMAR is a folk horror film about a group of graduate students who travel to a midsummer festival on the outskirts of Sweden. It’s also about a terribly toxic relationship between Dani and Christian.
For the director’s cut, Aster added about 22 minutes of footage, some extended scenes and another subplot that didn’t really change the meaning of the film but still adds more deepening understanding, especially with Dani and Christian’s relationship.
Throughout the original release of the film, it’s pretty clear that there are odd tensions between the two that was just growing and seemed about to burst when they arrive in Sweden. An added scene in the director’s cut shows a new fight between the two, just letting everything out in the open. This then leads to the last question in that fight scene Dani asks and Christian’s answer that prompted me to have a moment of deja vu. Even though it was a new scene, I just knew what that felt like for Dani at one point in my life and just like Dani, we were just in denial.
After the ritual cliff suicides, Aster then adds a nighttime scene. Yes, you read that correctly. A scene that was clearly at night, which we never saw in the original, was added to the film. Two men throw a tree with carvings on it into a lake as an offering to the goddess. After that, a young boy comes forward offering himself to the goddess and the adults comply and weigh a heavy rock on top of him before putting him in the lake. This makes Dani yell out for them to stop and the ritual ends without any deaths. But actually, I think this shows a practicing if you will, of children ultimately knowing that eventually they too will be up there on that cliff doing the same thing. It teaches them the willingness to sacrifice themselves.
There’s also an added scene that shows how much Dani and Christian’s relationship is dying, Dani just randomly collects wildflowers and gives them to Christian. What happens afterward honestly, if it was even possible to despise Christian even more, will make you despise him even more.
Most of the other director’s cut additions were mostly exposition and scenes that emphasized details we missed. We see more detail about the community. The competition with the thesis actually starts earlier in the car ride through Sweden and it cuts to more information that plays out. The final fight that takes place in the sleeping quarters was honestly the best because who doesn’t love a good JSTOR burn (as an old art history major in college I laughed out loud at that). However, we had already had the point and didn’t really need to elaborate on it.
But the best takeaway of all is that the final sequence thankfully remains fully original. From the moment Christian awakens from the drugs to the shot of Dani smiling at the burning building, that all remains there in its glory.
I want to fully respect the vision of this director and all the details he put into this. I can not imagine the task he had of editing the footage to tell this story. You bet I listened and watched closely to every new moment I found. Even the running time didn’t feel longer than it did in the original. I asked a friend who saw the film for the first time ever if it felt long and she laughed and said no, she could have seen more.
And that’s what we got. I believe that what Ari Aster chose to add in the film had to have been influenced by smart and creative reasons. And, for that, I can respect that and hope that MIDSOMMAR gets fully released as it should have been via the Director’s Cut.
Tickets for the exclusive nationwide release of the Director’s Cut of MIDSOMMAR are available to purchase here.