The trailer for this one freaked me out, and when my friend Drew asked if I wanted to see it in the theater when I was living in Hampton Roads, I was doubly inclined to see it.
Essentially, the movie revolves around a group of friends who go to Harga, a remote locale in Sweden where a cult-like group is holding a nine-day festival (which is held every ninety years) in which bizarre rituals are conducted. It takes place in the middle of summer (get it? Har-dee-har-har!).
The reason I add this to the Pro-Single Movie List (it’s also mentioned in Chapter 7 of How to be a Happy Bachelor) is that at its core, it’s a breakup movie. Dani, our protagonist, is involved with Christian, a fellow graduate student. He’s not the standard smarmy villain from your 1980s and 1990s romantic comedies, but he’s, well, kinda douchey. At the beginning of the film, it’s established that he’s on the fence about ending their relationship, but hesitates because “what if I regret it?” After Dani’s sister commits suicide, Christian vows to stick by her (as society says we must do), and he half-heartedly invites her to come to Sweden with him, his loudmouth friend Mark, and his scholarly pal Josh, who’s conducting research on this festival. They’ve been invited by their friend Pelle, a native of the area hosting the festivities.
(SPOILER WARNING) Do not read if you intend to see this movie, as it reveals some major surprises.
It turns out the intentions of this festival are dire. They intend to sacrifice a couple of their own, and they invite outsiders for the purposes of impregnating some of the women; for the men to do so themselves would be incestuous. Mark and Josh are killed, and Dani is made the “May Queen.”
Christian has his own creative fate sealed for him. He’s cold and negligent toward Dani. Examples include:
1) giving her a birthday cupcake the day AFTER her birthday, and not even having a working lighter for the occasion. 2)being generally dismissive toward the grief and trauma Dani’s facing); 3)attempting to muscle in on Josh’s research by mentioning his intent to write about the festival himself. This doesn’t affect Dani, but it shows his character, as well as a symbolic expression of white male privilege (Josh is black).
After Christian is drugged and lured into impregnating one of Harga’s women, Dani witnesses this. On the last day of the festival, Dani has to choose whether to sacrifice Christian one of the villagers. She chooses Christian, and he’s paralyzed by a drug, placed in a disemboweled bear, and positioned in a barn, which is then set ablaze. Dani smiles as she witnesses the flames.
The symbolism in the movie is present in spades. White male privilege, the “ugly American” stereotype (as illustrated when Mark urinates on a sacred tree), and the idea that one doesn’t have to be coupled to be happy. Midsommar gives an extreme example, but it works.