Midsommar (2019)
July 4, 2019 4:52 PM - Subscribe

A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown's fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult. (IMDB)
posted by Countess Elena (68 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The one thing I will say without spoilers was that if Hereditary shook you up, so will Midsommar, and if it didn't, then it won't. It certainly did me, so I went in thinking, "fuck me up, Ari Aster," and he delivered.

I was absolutely taken by the richness of the mythology, much of which has real roots in European folklore. And I loved the color palette, which is really underrepresented in horror. More good-quality horror movies should take place in the sun. Some of the worst atrocities I can think of took place under open skies, in warm weather.

Based on a sample size of two, Aster seems to like to open up the horror portions of his movies with viscerally detailed head trauma. He also has a particular talent for conveying the stiffness, dollness, thingness of dead bodies that have been stuffed or posed in some way, which is the fate of many of the victims in Midsommar. I was particularly impressed by Will Poulter, who was turned into full-body necropants.

It's probably the American in me, but I turned my face away from the sex scene fully as much as I did from the head-smashing scene. How is a man supposed to get the job done under those conditions? It was a magical boner, anyway, I suppose.

Although it was clear that Pelle was a better boyfriend than the one Dani brought, I didn't quite see her heel turn when it happened. It seemed more like the result of madness or drugs than conscious choice. A lot of the latter half of the film seemed to snap in and out of a hallucination, which I think was a deliberate effect. Are shrooms like that?
posted by Countess Elena at 5:11 PM on July 4, 2019 [9 favorites]

Although it was clear that Pelle was a better boyfriend than the one Dani brought, I didn't quite see her heel turn when it happened. It seemed more like the result of madness or drugs than conscious choice.

I didn't see it as a heel turn, exactly, or even really motivated primarily by Christian's myriad deficiencies as a boyfriend. My reading of it was that she was just so starved for empathy that she found the community on offer to be totally irresistible. That she went full May Queen less because she saw her boyfriend cheating, and more because of the way the other women cried with her and shared in her grief afterward.

In any event, I saw it today and really liked it - I think I actually preferred it to Hereditary, a lot of which I find slightly opaque in retrospect. Still, what an interesting voice in Horror Ari Aster is.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:08 PM on July 4, 2019 [28 favorites]

My reading of it was that she was just so starved for empathy that she found the community on offer to be totally irresistible.

One thing that struck me: in the prologue, when she calls Christian the second time, she's screaming and crying with grief and I don't think we hear any response from him at all. He's just an emotional void. Pelle taps into that idea when he asks her later. "Does Christian feel like home to you?" He presents Holga as a new family that will accept her. Then, when she is again screaming and crying in grief later on, she is surrounded by other young women who echo that back, mourning with her. That, I think, was the turning point.

I think I like this better than Hereditary, too. Admittedly, I'm not just enormous fans of either--something about Aster's work just doesn't quite hit with me. But Midsommar left me a bit more to think about, and I think it holds together a bit better. I read somewhere that Aster called Midsommar a fairy tale with horror elements, and I like that way of reading it. It's the story of the orphan girl with the bad boy boyfriend who discovers she is really a queen, and gives her straying man the fate he has earned. You can almost imagine that plot somewhere in Grimm's fairytales--Aster just filled in the details with folk horror.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:23 PM on July 4, 2019 [14 favorites]

It seemed more like the result of madness or drugs than conscious choice.

I thought maybe so, too, until the smile at the end. It seems to me that, at most, the shrooms put her in a frame of mind to let her make the choice she really wanted to make deep inside.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:25 PM on July 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

note that Christian's drink is a different color in the pie scene.

the pictures of the aphrodisiac ritual look more like Dani and Pelle

when she was shown the may queen photos I thought that she would be sacrificed too
posted by brujita at 8:52 AM on July 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I saw this earlier this week and am going for a second viewing today. It resonated with me much more than Hereditary. I have pretty severe PTSD this film has the most accurate, visceral portrayal of panic attacks that I've ever seen. I have spent SO MUCH time quietly freaking out in bathrooms. Oddly, I find this highly validating on an emotional level. Love all the pagan elements, too. It's the Wickerman sequel I've always wanted and never knew I needed.
posted by zenzicube at 8:59 AM on July 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

I didn't watch Hereditary, and can't generally countenance horror at all. Still, Midsommar seemed more horror-adjacent than pure horror, and I find those irresistible. Midsommar is disturbing in many ways, but it's not the sort of scary that's going to haunt me at night (or during afternoon naps). It helped a lot that Dani is the POV character. So much of the movie featured Dani sobbing. It was such a relief when she was laughing with the other dancing women, when she rejected the herring and no one held it against her, when she was singing with the May Queen's court, when the women held and emoted with her. Dani's regular life was a horror film. She had nowhere to go but up. I'm kiiiinda hoping Dani lived happily ever after with the Holga? That's not the sort of feeling I usually have about horror films.

I might've also been primed for weirdness from the TV show Hannibal. This movie is very Hannibalesque. The only thing the Holga are missing is the deliberate sadism -- and considering Christian's end, maybe they have that too.

Some weird side stuff: the lady who led the celebrations mentioned that this midsommar celebration was the hottest ever! I wonder if the Holga think about global warming? Also: am I overthinking the situation with Pelle's brother who brought the two Brits along? He mentions that they were dating until she met her fiance; she corrects him that they were becoming friendly when she started dating her fiance. It was an interesting mismatch of history. The Holga are portrayed as serene and otherworldly, but no society is free of strife...it feels a bit like Pelle's brother brought them along as sacrifices because he'd been rejected by the girl he liked.
posted by grandiloquiet at 2:19 PM on July 5, 2019 [15 favorites]

I am conflicted on whether I liked it or not overall, but some things REALLY worked for me (Pelle; the characterization of that ultimate shitty boyfriend; the scene of the women grieving together; the male nudity which is so unusual in a film but worked so well here!). On the bad side, there wasn’t any narrative tension and I didn’t care much what happened to any of the characters. I didn’t understand any of the non-commune characters’ motivations or choices. The violence seemed over the top and fake meaningful. And the beginning of the film felt like a totally different movie than the rest.

Frankly the one thing I can’t stop thinking about was how beautiful the costumes and settings were. I wish I could live in that barn and wear only florals and embroidered white linen.
posted by sallybrown at 3:03 PM on July 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

when she rejected the herring and no one held it against her

I loved that part! There were lots of little touches like this that were great. Christian and the Holga leader sitting down in those chairs that were too close together (hah).
posted by sallybrown at 3:08 PM on July 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Pajiba translates some of the runes used in the film. Also -- because I'd wondered how they got an R rating with full-frontal male nudity -- apparently their first attempt at cracking the MPAA included a much longer sex scene. (The MPAA ratings board is famously prudish about naked men. I wonder if Christian's death made the nudity okay for them?)
posted by grandiloquiet at 4:35 PM on July 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hey so no spoilers, but: if you're in the market for traumatically graphic grievous head injury props, I can say with an extremely high degree of confidence that Ari Aster knows a guy.
posted by jameaterblues at 8:28 PM on July 5, 2019 [18 favorites]

It's really a good thing Christian died, because he was apt to end up with some very complicated and difficult to explain fetishes.

"Maybe if we could get a naked elderly woman to push my ass cheeks?"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:12 PM on July 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Something I liked: early in, when Mark asked what game they were playing, they said "Skin the Fool."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:25 PM on July 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

The visual effects were great.

There were two bits which they hinted at but possibly cut. Thankfully the scissors placed under the baby's pillow were not revisited. And there were murals with blue (blood) coming out of a person's back, and later people wearing costumes with the same symbol, led nowhere. So a bit of misdirection.
posted by ecco at 5:57 PM on July 8, 2019

My understanding is that the practice of putting a knife under a baby's pillow is to "cut" his teeth and end his teething pain, but this is a vague understanding of a Southern practice that I never actually saw. I expected that was why they were doing it with the baby who couldn't sleep.

Apparently a lot was cut from the original script, such as further animal sacrifices, including dogs. I think that was a good call. I expect that an American could maybe handle ritual suicide, but the second a dog was killed they'd be tearing through the woods barefoot to get to the police. I know I would.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:14 PM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Was the other young woman killed or just taken to the station? She was not in the barn and the sacrifices seemed to be all male?

This is basically a revenge pic aimed at All the Shitty Boyfriends Who Were Never There for You But Would Not Just Break Up, Because They Were Shitty.

(And His Little Shitty Friends Too, For Good Measure)

Also, the bit where, AFTER they have seen Bad Shit Go Down, Christian and Josh get in a pissing match over who will get to write up this juicy anthropological find makes their fates easier to take. Take that, petty academic squabblers!

I did think at the end that maybe Pelle's parents were Barn Sacrifices and that's what he meant by "lost them in a fire" but then that would have been 90 years ago. Unless this village was into other sacrificial stuff between the 90-year ceremonies, which is easy to believe. We know everyone has to die at 72, so I guess some of that happens every year.

Basically I want all the backstory, and the myths, and to see every single painting in that barn in detail.

Other random stuff:

Pulsing flowers!
It seems unfair to attribute Dani's sisters' homicidal impulse to being bipolar.
I also want to see all the artwork on Dani's walls of her apartment
Loved LOVED the way the camera went upside down as they got closer to the village
Also the overhead panning shot of them walking through the forest was good at making you feel disoriented
posted by emjaybee at 8:12 PM on July 8, 2019 [10 favorites]

Was the other young woman killed or just taken to the station? She was not in the barn and the sacrifices seemed to be all male?

She was killed. The four outsiders sacrificed were (1) her, (2) her boyfriend, (3) Josh, (4) Mark. Then the four from the village were the two old people and the two who volunteered. Dani picked Christian to be the ninth. I'm pretty sure Connie's body was in the barn, but disfigured enough to be hard to recognize.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:53 PM on July 8, 2019

Ok so: what would have happened if Dani had spared Christian? They wouldn't have let him go back home knowing what he knows, surely?
posted by emjaybee at 11:34 PM on July 8, 2019

Connie's body was the first one you see being carted in the wheelbarrow towards the barn. Took a second viewing for me to sort out all the folks in the barn; most are nearly unrecognizable.
posted by zenzicube at 7:08 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Are we just going to ignore the bear?"
"...It's a bear."
posted by yellowbinder at 7:24 AM on July 9, 2019 [13 favorites]

I really enjoyed this movie.

EVERYTHING is foreshadowing. It's great! Before they leave on the trip his friends tease Christian about all the Swedish babies he's going to make, the head cult guy tells Dani 'welcome home' when she arrives, the tapestry love potion, etc.

What I like most about Aster's films is that at the center there is an actual horror, of cult or witches or whatever, but so much around that actual horror is horrific. Like, being trapped in a loveless relationship because you can't break up because her family all just died. Or finding out your sleeping arrangements are a giant communal hut with every baby in the community.

There's a lot of humor in the cultural differences, that at first are just goofy and awkward 'we don't sit until it is time to sit' type stuff but quickly build to 'our seer is the mentally challenged planned offspring of incest' and then back to absurd with the sex scene and shared feelings. Fun stuff.
posted by graventy at 1:45 PM on July 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Ok so: what would have happened if Dani had spared Christian? They wouldn't have let him go back home knowing what he knows, surely?

He goes right into the bear cage for a life of solitary confinement and occasional stud services, I suppose.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:29 PM on July 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Wow someone did THEIR HOMEWORK on art history and European folk tradition - I honestly wonder what this was like for people who didn't devour The Golden Bough in high school cause I spent the entire time going :Oh yep, yep, that's gonna turn into ...and there it is."

Like the camera going upside down as they approach the village is a direct reference to "World Upside Down" a common saying for peasant festivals and the like, its referenced in some Brugehls!

I really liked how the movie was able to replicate the feeling of the acts they were depicting. Like that's the reason the movie exists more then the plot, which again anyone with a European Peasant Tradition handbook could've seen coming from frame one. I left the theater feeling an echo of the times I've been in a picket line or march where you march in circles for hours chanting the same thing until your brain goes runny. It;s the same kind of feeling from big dance events, religious revivals, or ...cult indoctrination. Break down the barriers between people. It's kind of amazing a movie basically about collective mania/ecstasy managed to make me feel a little of that using the repetation and the movement and pace.

Also while directly implicating the viewer as just "an observer" when we're also being swept up and emotionally involved. The real horror of the Holga isn't that they kill people , it's that they're so good at manipulating outsiders. The couple from London wasn't told about the rite to give them an excuse to "leave" after they got so upset about it.

It's also funny, all the shitty relationship stuff drew big laughs in my theater. Liz Lemon was right, graduate students are the worst. Aster is really good at keeping plausible deniability, matching a *tone*. In Hereditary you don't know if it's demons or if she's going mad from grief until the very end. Here, the pervasive drugs/cult indoctrination stuff means you can't actually tell if they're casting spells and invoking rites ...but also it's moot cause all of this is extremely real for the Holga. Also the final pitch black joke that the yew tree juice doesn't do shit.

Such a trip, and so pretty to look at aside from the shocks of gore. And from a mythology/folklore perspective wow they have ALL of it, at once, twice.
posted by The Whelk at 9:05 PM on July 9, 2019 [22 favorites]

Also Christian being a shitty boyfriend SHOULDN'T be cause for his fate as he is the Least Shitty of the grad students but the mood of the theater was much, much more on Dani's side.

or as the joke went when the movie came out, the central theme of Midsommar is DUMP YOUR BOYFRIEND
posted by The Whelk at 9:10 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hey, kids! Get yours today!
posted by rewil at 8:48 AM on July 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

Comrade Doll noted that Dani's entire wardrobe is reproduced faithfully from the Sad College Girl Who Has Just Stopped Trying Collection. It was nice that the depressed person dressed like a depressed person instead of in an incongruous string of sexy outfits chosen for the male gaze.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:12 AM on July 10, 2019 [24 favorites]

note that Christian's drink is a different color in the pie scene.

The love potion was comprised of the pubic hair in the pie and menstral blood in the drink.
posted by cazoo at 9:19 AM on July 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

Has there been much discussion of why these grad students were so oblivious to the narrative they were being drawn into very clearly spelled out literally everywhere around them?

Obviously they don't know they're in a creepy movie, so they don't know to look around for warnings...but c'mon, I feel like any art history or English/lit grad student would have been, at a minimum, dissecting the hell out of the dormitory walls, especially after the first ritual death. And going NOPE NOPE NOPE.

(Minor quibble - I was under the impression they were Ph.D. students, but throughout the movie they kept talking about deciding on a thesis topic. Master's students do theses, doctoral students do dissertations. Or am I missing something?)

Maybe they were just too scatterbrained after watching the cliff divers - certainly, the quality of their questions to the elders suggested some unfocused thinking-on-the-fly. And being mildly drugged at all times - I assume everything they ate/drank was altered in some way - wouldn't help. But of all people, you'd think they'd take a look around and realize, wow, these horrifying images on the wall keep actually happening. These are, in my experience, people who make a show of unpacking bathroom wall graffiti.

Unrelated: Everyone I've talked to who's seen Midsommar reports at least one walkout. Mostly after the cliff jump, one during the tapestry reveal, a couple during the mating-lodge scene.

Also unrelated: Pelle's grooming of the group, they way he used their desires to prepare them to be ensnared, reminded me of The Female in Under the Skin...except that she eventually develops a weary despair over her role. I don't think Pelle is going to get there. The stakes are too high for him. (Which brings up another question: have there been defectors? People who, after living in the outside world and getting to know people, decides the community is monstrous?)
posted by Caxton1476 at 1:17 PM on July 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

As a history student, I trekked to some fairly remote Eastern European villages to do the "hahaha that thing from 500 years ago was so messed up" college tour of Europe, so it worked for me. Especially since they knew and trusted Pelle! Dani and the Londoners did try to leave when they experienced the cliff jump...and I buy the film's premise that a couple of budding anthropologists would be too excited by the discovery of a new hidden society (and too self-centered) to connect it to their own fate.

Usually when you hear about people falling out of cults, it's because they have family or friends on the outside. If people like Pelle were sent out for the sole intent of integrating fresh DNA and picking up sacrifices, I doubt they're ever in the right frame of mind to fall out! But I find Pelle and his brother ("brother"?) fascinating and I would take another hour of material on them...

No one walked out of my theater, but mine was an early and quite empty showing. I think if you go to a horror movie before noon, it's not a spontaneous choice.
posted by grandiloquiet at 3:35 PM on July 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Do we think that Dani winning May Queen was a setup? I have a hard time believing a college student who'd spent most of a semester in bed has more endurance than a cow-milking, field-planting peasant girl.

And Pelle definitely wanted her to win. Having her make the ultimate choice also seals her fate; she would be unlikely to go back outside and confess "oh yeah, I agreed to have my boyfriend sewn into a bear carcass and burned alive."
posted by emjaybee at 7:43 PM on July 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

From the very first scene with Pelle it's clear Dani was chosen long, long ago. He gets so many laurels at the end! He brought the best new bloodline in! Two of them! The Holga are very concerned with that after all, how else would they make oracles?
posted by The Whelk at 10:14 PM on July 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

"how else would they make oracles?"

Do you buy that that's how they make oracles? I found it really interesting that they tell Christian that they carefully avoid inbreeding by keeping bloodlines separate and accepting outsiders, and they tell Josh that they specifically do inbreed for oracles. The contradiction made me not trust anything they told any of them.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:24 AM on July 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

EVERYTHING is foreshadowing. It's great!

Yeah, I loved how upfront the movie was about what was going to happen - it never presents the various murders as a surprise twist, but rather as something that you always knew was coming.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:04 AM on July 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

the ritual panels look like the charm casters urine is added, not blood. everyone else's drink in the pie scene was yellow and I observed that Christian didn't seem to notice anything strange about how his drink tasted.


I had to pee during the mating scene and didn't see what happened between the time Christian got on top of Maja and her telling him to finish. Was she on her period? Her blood added to Christian's drink?
She'd be less likely to be fertile then.
posted by brujita at 7:34 PM on July 11, 2019

There was no evidence she was having her period and I think you’re right about the urine. The sex scene mostly consisted of the cultists writhing and moaning sympathetically, one kneeling to sing directly as Christian, and eventually one seemingly getting a little tired of how long it is taking and sitting behind Christian to push his butt.
posted by maxsparber at 4:13 AM on July 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Do you buy that that's how they make oracles? I found it really interesting that they tell Christian that they carefully avoid inbreeding by keeping bloodlines separate and accepting outsiders, and they tell Josh that they specifically do inbreed for oracles. The contradiction made me not trust anything they told any of them.

I don't think it's a contradiction to say that they carefully avoid inbreeding, except in the one specific case of conceiving a new oracle.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2019 [10 favorites]

Saw this one today, and really liked it. Visually, it was such a nice change from most horror movies, to be drenched in sunlight and bucolic beauty, and how that became sinister and eerie in context. It's great to mine horror and unease from the lack of darkness, how disorienting it is to have what feels like an endless day, only punctuated by occasional twilight.

I will say that the real horror of this movie for me wasn't in the pagan murder commune, which had a sort of fairy tale logic that, for me, was more enthralling than frightening. The actual horror here was in Dani and Christian's relationship and Dani's grief, and all the more mundane horrors of both of those things. The movie was so good at turning Dani and Christian's arguments and interactions into tense and claustrophobic moments, fraught with the mundane and dread-filled reality of watching a relationship fall apart with something like inevitability. Also all the awkward moments with Christian's friends! The too-long silences, the stilted conversations--social anxiety nightmare fuel.

All that really helped to make the movie's moment of catharsis effective. After like two hours of seeing Dani isolated from Christian and his friends by virtue of her grief (and her gender), it was so powerful to see her screaming and crying with women who screamed and cried with her, who accepted and mirrored her pain rather than looking away from it, how there was nothing pretty about it, it was just visceral and raw. And too, it reminded me of the kinds of screams and groans a woman makes when in labor, an impression strengthened by the way Dani doubled over and got on her hands and knees.

Also, a thing I appreciated: no weird male gaze that I noticed! There was nothing there that was meant to be titillating, even the sex ritual wasn't especially sexy. It helped prevent me from feeling alienated from the movie and its narrative.

Oh, and one other thing: at one point, Dani's cries blend into the strings of the soundtrack, until they're indistinguishable from each other. Great sound design.
posted by yasaman at 10:29 PM on July 13, 2019 [16 favorites]

Saw this yesterday - I am not generally a horror person, but I have been wildly intrigued by everything about it so I dug up a similarly minded friend, got trigger warnings about the cliff scene from trusted horror enthusiast friends, and off we went.

(speaking of the cliff scene: Ari Aster knows he’s got a peculiar hang-up about head trauma.)

It’s beautiful, of course - the scene at the end with Dani dragging her mountainous gown of flowers past the burning temple while she sobs those deep, primal moans is one that’s sticking with me. And Florence Pugh needs SOME kind of award for her gutteral pain-screams, because I was racked with anxiety every time she COULDN’T let her pain out, and more when she COULD. They twanged some empathetic string deep inside.

Will Poulter did such a good job being the Super Asshole White Guy that when I finally realized he had a vape pen in his hand I couldn’t stop myself from rolling my eyes and saying aloud, oh of COURSE he vapes! We really couldn’t wait for him to die. Was he also an anthro major? Because it seems if he were he really would have been more understanding about why it was bad he peed on the tree.

Could not help but giggle when Josh is giving Christian grief about the thesis thing and one of his points was, “It’s unethical!”

I may watch too much Scandi Noir, because I recognized two of the actresses from work they did on Bron/Broen. And while I did understand a bit of the Swedish dialogue without subtitles... were Dani and the other girls really speaking Swedish while they were dancing and tripping balls? It sounded a little more like gibberish than the other times Swedish was being spoken, to me, but maybe it’s a dialect thing.

I think I got the most creeped out when Dani was crowned May Queen and was walking through the Hårga people and they were saying, “We love you!” in Swedish. Nobody bothered to put subtitles for that, for some reason, and I don’t understand why. I thought it would be an additional signifier that they were taking her in, adopting her into the commune. They don’t know her, but they love her and she belongs with them now. I shuddered.

anyway bets on how many Americans are going to run off to the more bucolic countrysides of Sweden this summer and next looking for midnight sun, girls in embroidered linen dresses, and a side of peculiar rituals with psychotropics? sorry, Sweden.
posted by angeline at 2:00 PM on July 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

HEY actually I am super confused by one point.

They burned the elders, we saw them put them on a pyre, we saw them gather the ashes to put on the tree. But then later we see the upper torsos of the elders stuffed with fruit and with antlers mounted on their heads. They didn’t look skinned when they were put on the pyre, what did I miss?
posted by angeline at 7:36 PM on July 14, 2019

I thought those were effigies of the elders, not their actual bodies.
posted by yasaman at 10:12 PM on July 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I agree they were effigies, because when they were picked up they looked light.

There was no evidence she was having her period and I think you’re right about the urine.
posted by maxsparber

I can't believe I'm typing this, but when Christian ran out of the orgy building, his penis looked like it had blood on it. But I feel like the Holga would have been timing the sex for when she was ovulating? So I don't know.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:30 AM on July 18, 2019

I assume that was from her hymen tearing, as it was her first time.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:58 AM on July 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

Gang I, uh, don't wanna be the one to point this out, but you can save menstrual blood for later. No reason it had to be fresh that day.
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:10 PM on July 18, 2019 [13 favorites]

I love you guys.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:35 AM on July 19, 2019 [7 favorites]

were Dani and the other girls really speaking Swedish while they were dancing and tripping balls?

No, they were not. It was all made up gibberish.
posted by gemmy at 7:31 PM on July 20, 2019 [7 favorites]

Ok, so this movie was made for me. I'm Swedish and was an anthro major in college in the US. I saw it alone this afternoon, and it was really good, and I really enjoyed it. I specifically liked its sly digs at cultural relativism, given how Josh and Christian talked themselves into being pretty OK with the ättestupa suicides because they saw it as part of the local culture, something that they could study without having to get involved...

As a Swede, it was interesting how many elements of Swedish culture they weaved in, borrowing heavily from the actual normal pagan-style celebrations at midsummer (like the maypole and the flower wreaths, although the traditional folk costumes on offer are more Hungarian, where the movie was filmed, rather than Swedish). I have a few stray random thoughts:

- The style of the artwork on the murals in the young people's house and other artwork around Hårga looked right and very familiar to me, which I think is because it has similarities to various medieval imagery in churches I've visited back home. For example, see some of the remaining interior paintings in the church in my northern Sweden home town of Husum, built in the late 1400:s.
- The background talking in Swedish (Pelle greeting his brother and other family members, the background chatter that isn't translated, etc. all sound very much like how you talk to your family and it's all innocuous. When Pelle talks to his brother Ingemar at first, for example, they are talking about how skinny he has become.
- The way the tables have been laid for meals - in a style called långbord (long table) - is spot on. The beer glass, the snaps glass, the artfully arranged food... I have sat at many similarly decorated tables in my life. However, the fact that there are no nubbevisor (drinking songs) means that it doesn't feel right at all.
- An ättestupa is actually an old legend, suggesting that in prehistoric times the elderly would off themselves when they couldn't contribute to the household. There are lots of places with that name; I've visited a few. Probably not a real thing, though, but rather spreading from the Icelandic Gautreks Saga from a popular translation in the 1700s.
- When the girls danced around the midsommarstång (may pole), there was one dance in particular that caught my eye. It was very similar in the way they weaved around each other to a ring dance called "Lasse går i Ringen" (link to a terrible example, there aren't any good ones). (At my confirmation camp, we tried to set a Guinness World Record of the longest continuous such ring dance. We didn't succeed and stopped at around 9 hours, although we had a lot of fun with it.)
- Hårga is a real place, and Hårgadansen - where girls would dance for the devil until they died - is a real legend. I really wish they would have played Hårgalåten - the folk music that goes together with that legend - rather than what they did play. All of the singing and the music in the movie were not Swedish. The lyrics were definitely not, and I didn't recognize any of the music they played.
- However, when Dani is stumbling away to cry after taking mushrooms the first time, she thinks a group of young people are laughing at her. In the previous scenes, that group is in the middle of singing a very famous song by Swedish composer Carl Michael Bellman. Sadly, I can't recall exactly which one... I'm going to have to go see it again to see which one!
posted by gemmy at 9:12 PM on July 20, 2019 [34 favorites]

I thought that his dick was red from too much friction....healthline seems to corroborate this.
posted by brujita at 11:06 AM on July 25, 2019

saw it in a theatre where there happened to be a bunch of teenagers who burst out in horrified giggles during the sex scene. Just imagine your mom reaching out to grasp your hand and singing to you as you lose your virginity and grandma going behind the man to push him into you? God, for a teenager that has got to be more horrible than a thousand bashed-in heads.

Anyway, were screaming horrified giggles and then the whole theatre was laughing at the gigglers, meanwhile the crazy sex scene was still happening. It was quite the thing.
posted by IwishIwasFordMaddoxFord at 4:42 PM on July 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

I feel like it says something about car dependency in our society that the car time between Fertility Cult Land and a train station was cited as 35 minutes, probably no more than 35 miles, and yet none of the healthy twenty-something Americans in the movie were like “let me just grab my pack full of camping gear along with a few pubic pies for the road and walk far away from these nutters.”
posted by Gymnopedist at 5:35 PM on July 29, 2019 [7 favorites]

I thought about that during the movie and decided that it would have been futile for them to walk, as they would have been easily chased down and recaptured. We see a colt, so I'm assuming they either have saddle horses or carts, if not cars somewhere.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:58 AM on July 31, 2019

Some dudes just have red dicks.
posted by maxsparber at 4:21 PM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

Never saw the theatrical cut, but saw the Director’s Cut last night. Would be interested in knowing more from someone who has seen both. From reading a couple of articles, the differences mostly have to do with Dani & Christian’s relationship, but I’m having a hard time understanding how the final scenes would have landed emotionally in the theatrical cut.

The additional scenes provide a lot of emotional context for what ends up happening. Absent that context, was Dani’s decision just a total WTF moment? Did the fate of the British woman make any sense? It seems like the lead-in scene at the lake would be important...
posted by FallibleHuman at 9:10 AM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

FallibleHuman in the theatrical cut you just kinda assume that the British woman is killed offscreen when she tries to leave, and while you can see that her body is among the dead at the end, you don't really see her for very long - some people register that she's dressed a specific way, but it doesn't present itself as a point of confusion.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:56 PM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Re: Theatrical vs Directors cut. Seen both now, and while it was interesting to have some 24+ minutes of additional relationship moments fleshed out, there weren't any *major* reveals that the original cut didn't cover. Notable changes:

- The fight with Christian & Dani over D finding out that C was going to Sweden was extended, and his extending an 'invitation' to her was cringingly shitty ('you ruined the surprise!')
- The seeds for C stealing Josh's thesis idea are planted a little earlier. In the theatrical cut it comes almost out of left field, but that fits C just being a shitheel and looking to stir up drama and avoid reflecting on his own failings.
- The post-ättestupa ritual sequence with the pageantry fake child 'sacrifice' and C/D fight afterward weren't in the theatrical cut
- I'm pretty sure a full half of the added minutes are solely devoted to Mark being a phenomenal douchebag and aggressively vaping at things in what was an absolutely hilarious fashion.

Small details in general I absolutely loved:
-all the artwork clearly depicting exactly what was going to happen to everyone, if you're looking.
-i believe the opening song playing around D's family murder-suicide is the same song being performed on the morning of the ättestupa ritual, tying together those strands of parental sacrifice.
-I'm fairly sure the only hallucinogens being fed to the visitors are the ones they're explicitly told are drugs - the shrooms/tea in the beginning, the 'dancing tea', even the beverage (probably more dancing tea) are all spelled out clearly. When they offer C the drink, she even explicitly says 'this makes you more suggestible and easygoing' or whatever, and he decides that's what he'll do in order to justify having ritual sex with a fifteen/sixteen year old.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:42 AM on September 4, 2019 [8 favorites]

Only director's cut here. Having only a barest understanding of the movie, I went in expecting a kind of current take on Wicker Man. Was not disappointed.

What a beautifully composed movie, so full of color and light. The folk art adorning the walls so rich, I wanted to hit a pause button to really examine all the imagery. The sund and music brilliant. I really liked that slanted wooden church/building. This movie sits better with me than Hereditary, where the supernatural seemed so casually thrown in, like of course this it's all supernatural.

Perhaps you could file this one under: He doesn't deserve you. Maybe that's a bit too harsh. Christian is a shitty boyfriend, but then again, the movie starts out indicating that Dani and Christian haven't really been much of a couple for a while. Dani's own characterization of their relationship, as she's taking to an unseen friend on the phone early on, actually seems pretty realistic, and it's not quite "Christian's such an asshole" take, either. Christian's biggest failing, for both of them ultimately, is that he can't call things off, which he perhaps felt was a sort of kindness toward the fragile Dani, that simultaneously reveals his ineptitude at relationships, and cowardice.

Seems a great stoke of luck for Pelle that Dani comes along for the trip. I'm trying to think if this was something he could have orchestrated, but that seems unconvincing to me. Mostly a great deal of (mis)fortune. It's not clear that anyone other than Christian needed to go. Except maybe Mark... Pelle probably figured Mark deserved a trip to the Hårga.

In the ättestupa scene, we have our instance of People In Horror Movies Being Stupid. Specifically Christian and Josh. Despite being shaken by the brutality of the ritual, only Dani has the presence of mind to realize, "they aren't going to let us leave after witnessing this." Here, Josh and Christian both surpass anything Sgt. Howie could ever muster on Summerisle, in terms of curiosity, foolishness and willful blindness. All of a sudden, Christian has a light bulb go off regarding his thesis. Dick move, dude. Our Londoners are reacting more realistically. Dani might have reacted more like them had it not been for the trauma of the prior months and disorientation of the latitude and hallucinogens. But she's got enough sense to know what time it is.

Kept wondering if those meat pies were Simon put to good use, and the blood eagle treatment looked like he was still breathing(!).

I was amused with the "yew, to dull the pain" stuff. I actually knew yew was poisonous, but I wasn't sure if they were expecting to die before the fire, or if perhaps it had some kind anesthetizing effect. Either way, looks like joke's on you two guys. Earlier in the film, our outsiders learn that the commune supports itself, among a variety of other ways, partly with homeopathics. Perhaps our two volunteers got a schmear of homeopathic yew paste?

And lastly, Dani's only smile... finally done with that guy.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:05 PM on September 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

I envy those who saw it someplace with better projection. I saw it and thought it was a very dark film, in both senses (it seems The Playhouse Cinema calibrated its projector for the sun-drenched 90% of the movie, as any scene with low lighting was a muddy mess. The early texts/e-mails between Dani and her sister were unreadable, the only clear image of the discovery of her family was the face of her mother being zipped into a body bag, and what I surmise to be the opening titles were a grey smear. Reading about it afterwards, I discover that sharp-eyed viewers may spot a floral crown in Dani’s parents’ room — a possible clue to Pelle’s involvement in setting this into motion. For me, this clue might as well have been in a locked cupboard.

Luckily most of the film is still visible in this situation, but any dark scene (e.g. Josh’s nocturnal trip to photograph the book) was nigh-impenetrable and things that should have been shocking or disquieting (“OMG it is someone wearing Mark’s face”) were less so (“someone is there in the doorway... who is that? Is it a villager? Is it someone we have seen before?”

blood eagle treatment looked like he was still breathing

Horrific image, yes. Dunno how well that would work without one’s diaphragm to power the breathing.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:30 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I got the feeling that Pelle was into Dani from the beginning and was thrilled she was going to Sweden with the group. So Pelle is, well seducing is a strong word, but definitely demonstrating his interest and concern for her. For a scene where Christian fails Dani, Pelle has a scene that shows his care. Examples include the birthday gift, and following her into the forest when she is freaking out. In the end, she discards Christian and embraces Pelle. I don't know if this a relevant but Mark's jerk comment that Vikings brought back the most beautiful women to breed with is a weird foreshadowing of Pelle bringing Dani to his village where she is greeted with, "Welcome Home."

I went into this film for horror but ended up with a quirky love story. Uh, a sun-drenched, love story that involves human sacrifice. Well, it reminds me of the joke about the Swedish farmer who loved his wife so much he almost told her.
posted by jadepearl at 2:58 AM on January 9, 2020 [10 favorites]

Knowing that they were headed to a pagan cult ritual, it was a nice chuckle to just go ahead and name the bf Christian.

It's perfect that even though Christian clearly wants to follow Maja at the end, he won't do it until a literal primrose path is laid for him and the whole village is looking at him going, "Well...?" I am not sure if it's right to say he is weak and spineless and leave it at that, even if that is true enough. Social pressure is very strong, and he tries to do the right thing. He just... does not have virtuous impulses, there is not much good in him.

I thought by May Queen time, Dani was pretty much over him, so I didn't buy that she would need to go look in the building or be devastated by it, though I believe her reaction switched to the grief over her sister and parents. They had made Christian so unlikable that Dani's residual attachment and hesitation felt dragged out.

Anyway, I am side-eyeing Ari Aster a little because for two movies now it's been like, "You know what's scary? Matriarchy! Strong but mentally shaky women and the weak men they devalue and murder." It doesn't stand out because it is kept individualistic and nothing is overt. IDK, like if you told me Ari Aster was a big MRA I would say, makes sense.

Do we think that Dani winning May Queen was a setup? I have a hard time believing a college student who'd spent most of a semester in bed has more endurance than a cow-milking, field-planting peasant girl.

I was thinking the thing haha! Then I thought, well, she does win because the last two competition crash into each other accidentally. Some of it might be tolerance of the drug, too -- the first girl out stumbles out and throws up, and they haven't been dancing that long. Also, a lot of it is mental.. a very good portion of them probably don't want to win. Like in my high school the set of people who actually wanted to be prom queen and queen was much smaller than the whole student body if they somehow made us all get together and do a dance-off. So it's some kind of group will working itself out. Dani wins because she has special status, she's oblivious the social context of winning, and the women like her. Who's to say if it's luck, design, or fate.

I don't feel the village elders outright told them to let her win, anyway.

Has there been much discussion of why these grad students were so oblivious to the narrative they were being drawn into very clearly spelled out literally everywhere around them?

I'm not an anthropologist but I thought the sacredness of hospitality is pretty widespread, and so maybe when Father Odd tells them they are guests, welcome welcome welcome, that put them even more at ease as anthropologists than they would have been otherwise as foolish Americans in a horror movie.

Also: am I overthinking the situation with Pelle's brother who brought the two Brits along? He mentions that they were dating until she met her fiance

Yeah I bet Ingemar got it twisted whilst in London, and chose to essentially orchestrate a murder-suicide on Connie, Simon, and himself.
posted by fleacircus at 7:40 AM on January 16, 2020 [4 favorites]

Fairly certain this want the intended effect, but the sex scene kinda helped me with my body image.

All those creepy cultists, totally naked, unashamed, living their best creepy cultist lives...
posted by meese at 8:42 AM on June 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

Once again late to the party, but had an observation to share:

Just imagine your mom reaching out to grasp your hand and singing to you as you lose your virginity and grandma going behind the man to push him into you?

This is a Classic Mythological Archetype, used to great effect in this scene, The Maiden, The Mother, and The Crone
posted by mikelieman at 2:47 AM on August 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

Late to the party as well, I've read a lot about how nice it was that the women imitated her cries and how that made her feel seen, but man it really read as creepy to me. I didn't see it like that, it almost felt the reverse where it was erasing her emotions by trivializing them.
posted by Carillon at 11:10 PM on August 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Finally just catching up with this film as well... sadly on way too small a screen. I really liked it.

Some thoughts...

Dani is the only USian in the movie with any emotional core. "Do you feel held by him?" Of course not: Christian (love the name) has no substance. It's not his fault: his vapidity stems from the same cultural void and alienation as do the violent deaths of Dani's family. Dani herself is an exception, which Pelle correctly recognizes from the start.

I thought it was appropriate that Aster didn't explain the deaths of Dani's family, which Connor Habib correctly named a murder suicide last year on Horror Vanguard. Compare and contrast those deaths with those at Holga in terms of visual style and significance in the narrative.

The scene where the woman surround Dani in her grief and rage: personally I hate being touched when in an extreme state but I see how it could work to feel "held." I don't think it trivialized her feelings.

Western modern capitalist void or medieval death cult? Hmmmm....

I would hate the dorm room despite the pretty pictures.

So glad to see how much of the production design was apt.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:59 PM on August 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

I should also mention how frequently funny this movie is, right up to the yew not working as described. Looking forward to Aster's next flick.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:06 PM on August 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just saw this and really liked it. I haven’t seen hereditary yet and had no idea what this was about (funny enough, I watched this during the day time on a large TV with terrible light interference from the windows that the TV directly faced and was worried I would t be able to see the whole movie. Not a problem!)

Re: Pelle’s parents who died: they could have been one of the sacrifices. They needed two volunteers, maybe one time it was them. Also, Pelle died because he brought such a good batch of sacrifices, seems a little unfair to have to burn to death for doing a good job, but I guess it’s an honor.

I felt like this was an increasing anxiety movie more than a horror (like the feeling from Mother!). It’s incredibly uncomfortable but I like that kind of horror. What kind of horror is this genre? Possibly social horror? Polite horror?
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:16 AM on July 25, 2021

It’s usually referred to as psychological horror. The Invitation and Get Out are other good examples.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:26 AM on July 25, 2021

Also, I would argue, Krisha.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:27 AM on July 25, 2021

I would actually maybe disagree, or call it a subcategory of psychological horror. It’s more that there is a lot of breaking social rules while the main character tries to remain acting within the social rules or blatantly calling them out, while everyone else acts like nothing is going on or tries to minimize it. It’s really more blatant boundary pushing or rudeness.

In this movie, she is encouraged to go along because it’s a foreign culture so you think there needs to be some leeway but no they’re just crazy and you were right.

A little spoilers for Get Out:
(The Invitation I would characterize like that but Get Out I wouldn’t, only because the villains weren’t really breaking social rules. They were polite and friendly and fairly normal, even the racist parts were kind of already within our societal rules. The blind man, he was the only one that actually broke a social rule. The rest of the weirdness came from those who were already victims.)
posted by LizBoBiz at 4:06 PM on July 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm comforted that others didn't particularly find this to be a horror movie. The first half of the movie is about how awful the people who are going to have bad things happen to them are! The movie pretty clearly spells out what's going to happen in advance, there's not even a lot of tension around it. Like, Josh studies similar cultures and seems to have known they're into human sacrifice and he still broke a religious taboo? That's natural consequences, that's not horror.

I am curious how the procurement of newbloods works over time. It sounds like the sacrifice is annual and the Great Feast is a more elaborate version of it? Do the young men just go to grad school and make friends with people they dislike and bring them home year after year?

I also appreciated how many of the buildings at the commune are off-square, contributing to the disorientation even when there aren't cinematic "these people are high as fuck" effects.
posted by momus_window at 10:04 AM on September 29, 2021

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