Swedish film reviewers are giving a cautious welcome to Midsommar, a horror film about a bizarre pagan festival in a remote part of Sweden.
Directed by Hereditary’s Ari Aster, the film stars Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor as an American couple who travel to Harga village in Halsingland to observe the midsummer ritual that takes place there only once every 90 years.
The film – which was actually shot in Hungary – has been getting strong reviews since it opened in the US earlier this month. It currently has an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
One critic, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, tweeted that Midsommar would “do for Swedish pagan rituals what Psycho did for showers”.
The film opened in Sweden on Wednesday and the first reviews have been appearing in the Swedish press. So what do the critics there think?
SPOILER ALERT: Potential spoilers are contained in the reviews below.
“Everything is almost comically rural,” said Aftonbladet, Sweden’s biggest tabloid. “Everything in the film is well thought out, with traditional paintings and log cabins that will make us think of Swedish traditions, but of course it is also quite twisted.”
The review in Goteborgs-Posten, the biggest daily of Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg, had some reservations about the film’s depictions of Swedish culture.
“It has to be said: surely this is about cultural appropriation? I have nothing against the idea of gamely borrowing from other cultures… Still, I shift uneasily in the cinema seat. Are you really allowed to deface the nicest thing we have, midsummer, to this degree?
“Is it really okay to distort Swedish traditions like this before an international audience? Play up to the image of Swedes as a homogeneous and strange little people in the north? The answer is, of course, a resounding yes.”
Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden’s biggest dailies, described Midsommar as an “entertaining horror in fantasy version of Sweden”.
“There is an exhilarating exoticism in Aster’s film that has a specific entertainment value for Swedish spectators,” it went on. “It is fun to consider Halsingland as a place as frightening as the rainforest in Cannibal Holocaust.”
‘More bonkers than unpleasant’
Monthly entertainment newspaper Nojesguiden wasn’t feeling the chills. “In Midsommar, the mixture of Swedish traditions with pagan rites… becomes an absurd and sometimes comical Swede fascination seen from an American perspective,” it observed.
“After several dubious rituals, the film feels more bonkers than unpleasant and the movie’s climax amazingly empty. Is Midsommar scary? Not really.”
The reviewer for SR, Swedish public service radio, said: “I like the environments, the clothes, and that he handles the language so well in Midsommar – no made-up dialects here.”
Writing in Dagens Nyheter, Swedish journalist Po Tidholm said that since the film had premiered in the US, he had been contacted by a number of US publications with a sudden, keen interest in Swedish customs.
He said the questions included: “Is it common for old people to commit ritual suicide on midsummer?” “Are you still offering up the village’s virgins to strangers to dilute the gene bank?” and “Are you still writing with magic runes?”
“The image of Sweden is a fragile construction,” Tidholm concluded.