Midsommar (2019) | Explanation, Discussion & Spoilers | Film Review
Midsommar (2019) is an American folk-horror film written and directed by Ari Aster. The film stars Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Vilhelm Blomgren, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Gunnel Fred and Isabelle Grill. Midsommar (2019) was distributed by A24 and Nordisk Film and released on July 3, 2019 in the United States and on July 10, 2019 in Sweden.
In the beginning of the film, see that it is winter and we are introduced to Dani (Florence Pugh), a college student who is concerned about her sister, who apparently has bipolar disorder and has said concerning statements to Dani over e-mail or some kind of chat. We see on Dani's computer that her sister's final message to her said something like, "Everything is black, I can't anymore. Mom and Dad are coming too." You can pause it and look at it, but it says something along those lines.
Dani is understandably very worried about her sister and her parents, because her sister lives with their parents and neither are answering Dani's e-mails, texts or phone calls after this very alarming statement from her sister.
After not being able to contact her family and being unsure of what to do, Dani calls her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), who is hanging out a group of his friends, maybe studying or maybe just drinking beer and eating, who can say? Christian's friends, Josh (William Jackson Harper), Mark (Will Poulter), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), aren't exactly supportive of his relationship with Dani, with Mark being the most vocal about his displeasure.
Dani, already worried and crying about her concern over her family, seemingly hides her emotions from Christian, which is at first confusing because I'm thinking, isn't your boyfriend supposed to comfort you and support you, Dani? Unless...he's an ASSHOLE. Is he an...ASSHOLE? Who knows? Probably, based on how he was acting when his friends were complaining about his relationship with Dani, but let's not make any judgments yet.
Except, we immediately find out that Christian is the alleged, dreaded, ASSHOLE. He dismisses Dani's concerns about her sister, telling her basically that it's not a big deal because her sister has made these claims before and nothing happened. It's more like he wants her to stop talking to him and get her off the phone more than anything. If this alone doesn't tell Dani to dump his sorry ass, I don't know what does, but we have a whole movie to get through and it doesn't look like a break up going to happen anytime soon, so let's go back to the show.
Dani concedes to Christian, telling him he is probably right and her sister is just acting up for attention, nothing more, even though she clearly doesn't believe it. She gets off the phone and calls a friend, telling her all about how she's a burden on Christian and how he's probably going to break up with her because she's so needy. Her friend tells her that's basically crap talk and Christian is her boyfriend and he's supposed to love her and support her. She tells Dani that Christian is supposed to comfort her and be there for her when she needs him.
Hey, this friend is probably named Common Sense and she's probably got a good boyfriend because she doesn't date ASSHOLES like Christian or condone the dreaded disease, ASSHOLISM. It's contagious, that's what I heard, and it looks like all of Christian's friends have been infected as well. I'm sure you'll notice not one of them has a girlfriend, so why does Christian listen to their advice? Hmm? Yeah, I have no idea either.
Dani tries to contact her sister and parents again, but doesn't get a reply. We see Christian taking another phone call from Dani, with Mark complaining about it and Christian hears Dani sobbing uncontrollably. She keeps saying, "No, no no." over and over again and we are all of the sudden inside of Dani's parent's house. We see some firemen in the garage and a hose stuffed in a pipe leading to a running car. Dani's sister has apparently killed her and Dani's parents and herself via carbon dioxide poisoning.
They do show her sister and it's pretty disturbing, so shut your eyes when they show Dani's parent's house if you don't want to see her. Basically, her sister has what looks like the end of the garden hose (or some long-ass tube) stuck in her mouth and taped there, with puke everywhere. She basically just looks horrifying and no one wants to look at it, so let's move on. Her parents look like they are in bed sleeping, but we know they are actually dead, so it's pretty sad all around.
What's interesting is there is a flower crown on a picture on the side of their bed, which seems out of place, but we'll talk about that later on in the spoilers.
We then see Christian slowly walking up the sidewalk to Dani's apartment building, hesitating outside like he doesn't want to go in and doesn't want to deal with any of Dani's distress or problems. It's pretty fucked up to see and I'm just like, "Just go away, dude, Dani would be so better off without you." But now Dani has no one, so I guess he feels some sort of guilt and goes in. He sort-of holds her across his lap as she sobs heartbreaking, chest-racking sobs and I feel so bad for Dani, but Christian more or less just looks like a mix of bewildered, confused and maybe a little sadness for Dani.
I don't know about you, but if I was a guy and that just happened to my girlfriend, I'd be crying too. I couldn't watch some I love cry and break down and not feel their emotions too. He's not even saying anything comforting to Dani, which is also telling. I think a lot of people would say things like, "I'm so sorry" or "I'm here for you" or, "I know, I'm so sorry", just to show they are empathetic and provide some sort of comfort. Christian just sits there like a useless lump, no better than Dani's couch cushion.
Another thing is Christian isn't even holding Dani to his chest, she's just kind of leaned over his legs, almost off the couch. If I'm really sad, I go towards my comfort source, I don't lean away from them and they don't let me hang off the couch like a sad blanket. It's telling that Dani seems to inherently know Christian won't support her via her body language, but she doesn't have anyone else, so she clings to Christian emotionally, even when he's being standoffish and cold at a very traumatic and pivotal point in her life.
Sometime later, we see Dani laying in her bed with a picture hanging just above her. It looks like a princess and a bear in a cave, with the bear looking surprised at the princess kissing him on the nose. It's alternately very cute and creepy and is a clue as to what happens later in the film. I actually got the same picture from IKEA, so if you like it, you can get your hands on it too.
Christian comes into the room to see if Dani is asleep so he can apparently sneak out and ditch her, but she turns around when he opens the door and he tells her he's going to go see his fellow assholes. Dani volunteers to come too, because of course Christian doesn't invite her. While they are at whatever shindig Christian was trying to exclude her from, we hear Christian's friends talking about Sweden and how Pelle's family has a festival once a century and how everyone is going (except Dani, of course). Dani is surprised to hear that Christian is going, has already bought his ticket, but didn't tell her.
I mean, I'm not surprised, but Dani looks hurt and surprised. She asks Christian about it and this slimeball obviously doesn't want her to go, but gives her a half-assed invitation so he doesn't come across like said slimeball. It's like he cares more about how he's perceived by her than Dani herself. Ugh. Dump him, Dani. That's what this movie should be called, "Dump Him, Dani". He, of course, expects her to get the hint and say she's not going to go, but she accepts because she is desperate for love from anyone, even an ASSHOLE. Some time later, Dani shows up at Christian's apartment and I guess his friends are his roommates too, so basically everyone but Pelle looks unhappy to see Dani there.
Dani tells everyone she's going to Sweden too, and the only one who is nice to her is Pelle. He tells Dani a little about what the festival is like in his hometown and demonstrates more kindness towards Dani by telling her how sorry he is to hear about her family. It really seems like no one has said that to Dani (um, wtf?!) and the kindness and empathy affect her deeply. She has to excuse herself so she doesn't cry in front of Pelle and we are transported to her struggling not to cry in an airplane bathroom.
We see Dani return to her seat after masking her emotions (yet again) and Christian's dumb ass doesn't even notice she was crying. Um...I can always tell when someone is upset and has been crying. Always. Not only can you see red eyes, wet eyes, a runny nose, a red nose, flushed face, strained voice, etc., I always feel some kind of energy (I would say it feels negative, like sadness) coming from the person. It's never just what they look like by itself. If you really love someone, you know tend to know and feel their emotions inherently, unless you're an ASSHOLE. Something about ASSHOLISM makes it so they only focus on themselves and other ASSHOLES. It's part of the disease process, I guess.
The group is then whisked away to Pelle's station wagon. I'm not sure where it came from, maybe Pelle likes paying for airport parking and just paid a $600 parking bill or some shit, who knows. I mean, wasn't he gone for a semester? I know this kind of stuff isn't important (probably), but I want to know. Anyway, they travel to wherever Pelle hails from and marvel at the pretty Swedish landscape as they travel from the city into the countryside.
The group doesn't say much, but I'd be asking questions the whole time. Where do we sleep? Are the showers communal or what? What's the bathroom situation? Are you the kind of people that install whole IKEA bathrooms or an outhouse kind of folk? Buckets? TP trek into the woods? I need to know. Where's the food coming from? What kind of food do you eat? Are we staying in a bungalow or a tent or what? I mean, they don't ask any of those questions and are going into this completely blind.
At this point, I probably would be dropped off on the side of the road and told to "BEAT IT, BOZO", but you know, that might not be such a bad thing considering what happens in the rest of the film.
The group finally stop and start hoofing it to some field, where they meet up with Pelle's friends. Wait, wait, wait. Where exactly did Pelle park if they aren't at his village or whatever? Did everyone park on the side of the road? Why do they have to walk to a field to do drugs? What is going on here? Doesn't anyone care that the car could get sideswiped by some Swedish maniac?
I guess I have to let this go since it's not my car.
We see that Pelle's friends have also brought people from wherever they were before and it seems very strange that all of the people that traveled from Sweden to other countries have brought just about the same amount of people with them. They immediately offer Dani and the group some drugs (great start, Dani) and Dani, not knowing how they will affect her, declines. Christian also declines to take the drugs in order to seemingly show solidarity with Dani, but we all know this is for show, not because he really cares about what Dani wants.
Dani, sensing Christian's fake enthusiasm to do what she wants, tells him to go ahead and take the drugs without her. Mark, wanting everyone to take the drugs at the same time, basically tells Christian to ignore Dani and take the drugs anyway. Dani, not wanting to be disliked, agrees to take the drugs. They take what I assume is LSD or acid, and Dani sees grass growing out of her hand. That seems pretty benign, but it would still freak me out. I mean, I've never taken any drugs, but LSD seems like the worst one I could personally take. Who knows what kind of weird or scary shit I'd see? My imagination is crazy enough without drugs, thanks.
Mark stupidly starts talking about how the group is his family and Dani, not wanting to think about her own family, starts to panic and it seems like she is worried she is going to cry in front of the group. She gets up and walks off, with Christian letting her go, telling her halfheartedly that he will follow her, which she waves off. She goes into a bathroom where she looks in a mirror and sees her sister behind her, which freaks her out (no shit), so she starts running.
She later wakes up in a field and Christian tells her she slept for a while and they found her asleep in the field. Wow. Way to follow her anyway after she told him not to follow her. So, he had no idea where she went and eventually looked for her? Wtf. He sucks.
Everyone starts walking to wherever Pelle and friends live and they eventually come upon a big open, extremely bright and sunny field that has a bunch of (cultists?) people in white dresses and shirt/pant combos, playing music with flutes or something.
Okay...this is weird too, but what about the cars? Why is no one concerned about how they are going to eventually leave? Is there a big parking lot I didn't see? Are they just parked on the side of the highway? Assuming everyone had a car, that seems like it'd be quite a few to just leave several miles behind. Unless they don't want anyone to be able to access a car later...hmm...that's probably it. Maybe someone comes back to the cars and moves them later. I guess we'll find out soon enough.
The people greet the group warmly, but tell Dani, "Welcome home, Dani". It's pretty weird because they basically already know who Dani is and are telling her this is her home. Has Pelle told his family all about them or what? Why would he tell them about Dani if he didn't know she was coming until the last minute? They only said that to Dani, so it's especially weird.
The rest of the film follows Dani and the group as they discover what Pelle's family is really like and we find out what they have planned for the Midsommar festival.
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*Discussion contains spoilers and explanations for the film.
We see as the group looks around, there are people in groups doing all sorts of things. They don't all appear to be concerned about new people arriving, so it seems like everyone knows they were coming ahead of time. The place is kind of odd, to be honest. It's super bright and pretty, but there's weird stuff going on.
There's some kind of cow on the loose, who appears to be just chilling in the middle of everyone, like it's their pet or something. People are walking around, playing flutes or some similar instrument. There are a bunch of buildings here and there with no real sense of what they are or what they're used for, but they must have some meaning to Pelle's family because they are oddly shaped.
I mean, I'm not even sure how some of them were even built. I don't see any giant ladders or construction equipment, so these sneaky fucks are up to something, I just know it. Everything seems just too perfect and disturbingly so. Who gives you drugs when they first meet you? Motley Crue? Ozzy Osbourne? Maybe. Probably. But also, Pelle's family, also known as The Harga, also known as THE CULTY PEOPLE OF SWEDEN or THE CULT for short.
Some of the women come up and take their luggage, to presumably rifle through their shit (not really, but maybe!) and see what they can find. For some reason, everyone has brought shitty duffel bags and yoga mats instead of suitcases and sleeping bags. I was a poor college student once too, but I had the wherewithal to get a suitcase, and not procure a duffel bag straight from 1982.
Do you want your giant jar of Skippy you presumably bought from Costco for the trip to get decimated by airport bag handlers? No, you don't. Because then everything will be coated in peanut butter grease and shame. Get a suitcase and there will be no peanut butter shame, easy as that.
While the weird culty women are rifling through their shit, looking for the good stuff, Pelle greets some old guy who's wearing some kind of a dress and goes by Father Odd. Well, that makes sense. At least he's up front about it. Might as well get right to the point. He seems nice enough, but he also hugs Dani (only her) and tells her "Welcome home". He tells the group that Pelle has an "immaculate sense for people", whatever that means (oh, it definitely means something). Why is he called Father Odd? Well, I'm guessing he's the cult leader or one of the many cult leaders running around.
Next, we see that an older woman named Siv (Gunnel Fred) is saying some things in Swedish to an older man and an older woman on some kind of large circular platform. She hands them unlit torches, but the group is unsure of the meaning since none of them understand Swedish. Siv speaks a little bit in English, making it seem like whatever she just did is part of their festival, but the two older people look super serious and kind of sad, so it seems like something more serious is occurring, despite what Siv tells the group.
We are then introduced to a young woman (Isabelle Grill) looking at herself in a mirror, fixing her hair. She seems to be preparing for something (kind of like when you meet someone for the first time and are nervous) and does this weird backwards breathing thing, which is something all the Harga do, apparently. It seems like they all do it when they are getting the courage to do something difficult. I'd probably join the Harga and take it up when I'm about to unload a five pounder into the toilet after eating a large salad, personally, but I digress.
Sadly, the young woman doesn't unload a five pounder, but we learn a couple of things from this. First, they have bathrooms. No outhouses here! They are kind of shitty, with wood walls, so probably a lot of spiders and centipedes in the summer (no thanks, I'll unleash my five pounders in the woods until winter). The second thing is, there are some runes carved into the bathroom door. You'll start to notice that runes are found all over the film: on walls, doors, stones, people, etc.. I'd recommend if you are curious to look those runes up because they all have meaning and signify different character's journeys in the film.
The young woman goes outside and stares at Christian, who is sitting with the group across the field and he looks back at her, seemingly interested. The weirdo Hargas start dancing some kind of jig, joined at the elbows, around the field and Pelle tells Dani to join in (she says no, apparently not cool with public humiliation). He doesn't tell anyone else to join in, so it comes across as Pelle wanting Dani to become part of his family.
The young woman, who is also now part of the long line of riverdancing/conga/jig dancing, kicks Christian right in his kidneys and smirks at him. Good shot, but I would've aimed for the head. Christian, who we learn likes getting kicked in his organs, stares at the woman until he notices Dani looking at him, then hurriedly asks Pelle if he can join in the cult dancing and show off his mad skills to his new woman (not really, but he's probably thinking it). Dani is basically like, wtf, but says nothing and he takes off. Good riddance. He looks like Chucky with a good haircut anyway. Byeeeee bitch. (Waves with a middle finger raised high).
Dani watches Christian scurry off to be the ASSHOLE that he is, and Pelle gives her a picture he drew of her with a flower crown (more on that significance later) (also, who knows when he did that, kind of creepy, dude) for her birthday. It seems like only he remembered and didn't tell Christian about Dani's birthday to make Christian look bad (Christian doesn't need any help in that area, trust me, Pelle).
You better watch out, Christian, Pelle is making moves on your girl. I mean, really, go for it Pelle, Christian sucks and I doubt he would mind unloading Dani onto someone else so he can pretend to be a victim and the good guy while successfully getting out of a relationship he didn't want to be in for at least a couple of years.
Pelle's friend or brother, who knows, is also sitting in the group, along with the people he (tricked) brought with him. We learn their names are Simon and Connie and that they are a couple who plan to get married. Sounds like you guys are more like cannon fodder than people about to get married, but I can remain hopeful, right? Even though I have common sense. Even though I know that's totally not going happen.
We learn Pelle's buddy is named Ingemar and he had wanted to date Connie, but Simon swooped in and scooped her up because he is taller and better and has an English accent, all things Connie prefers, apparently. Ingemar is obviously jealous and it seems like Connie was Ingemar's choice for May Queen, but now that she's chosen another, he's hiding his anger and biding his time to do whatever it is the cult will do with these two. The group walks around the field and sees a yellow A-frame in the distance. They are told that it is a temple and group basically shrugs and takes it in stride. Um, excuse me, what.
So, you're telling me you have someone wearing a dress who's like in his 60's named FATHER ODD, who is very odd, you all look like cult members, everyone is smiling for no reason, they all do drugs and offer drugs to strangers upon meeting them, aaaaaand you have a temple, which is like at least 1,000 ft (I'm guessing here, I don't have a gd tape measure) from the rest of the buildings. Sure, sounds great. I'll stay. Nothing odd here. Um okay, so...gotta take an LSD shit, byeeeeeee.
The group starts walking around the field and observes a bear in a cage. I mean, they do say something along the lines of, "So no one is going to say anything about the bear?" And yes, no one says anything about the freakishly large bear imprisoned in the middle of the field. In a wooden cage. You can't tell me that bear can't get out of that. If a real-life bear can find beer and cocaine and get wasted in real life, a movie bear can definitely get out of a flimsy wooden cage.
At this point, why isn't anyone worried about where they are going to sleep? I'm certainly not sleeping outside with the possibility of getting my face eaten off by that bear. It's probably planning murder and mayhem along with the Harga culty people. Well, as soon as it figures out how to get out of the prison they trapped it in. Which brings up another question...how did they get it in there? Oh waiiiiiit, I know...drugs, that's how. Trick the humans and bears with drugs, easy as pie. Duh. I have to start thinking like cult members.
Connie and Simon ask Ingemar to show them some kind of cloth mural thing hung up on a makeshift clothesline or some shit and Ingemar complies. As they walk over to the mural thing, Ingemar tells them it represents a love story. Yeah, Ingemar, a fucked up love story involving some kind of witchcraft or spell. It shows a guy being stalked from afar by a girl, someone stuffing something under a pillow, being hypnotized because the girl puts her nasty ass menstrual cycle blood in his DRINK (wtf?!) and clipping some crotch clippin's straight into his food. Then he's like, in love with the chick. The end.
I mean, W. T. F. No one says anything, or at least they don't show what they say, but now we pretty much know what's in store for Christian. Well, at least some of it. I mean, he's being watched and has been kicked in the kidneys so far (that wasn't on the mural, wtf?), now we have to wait for him to get something stuffed under his pillow, drink some nasty shit and eat some crotch clippin's, then get hypnotized and fall in love.
The rest of the group are led to a big house with two stories, which are filled with beds. Well, it's better than a tent or sleeping in an open field, high as fuck off of drugs, getting eaten alive by mosquitos, ants, and that imprisoned bear (who may or may not have a file baked in a cake he got for his birthday). I mean, who the fuck knows what else lives around there, they're already pretty cool with having loose cows and imprisoned bears around, slipping on cow patties and narrowly avoiding death and shit.
Once the group is in the big house, Pelle explains to Josh, who is a douche-y anthropology major, that the Harga consider stages of life to be "seasons". 0-18 years old is considered spring, They go on a Pilgrimage between 18-36 years old, which is considered summer. 36-54 years old is working age and is considered fall, and 54-72 they are considered a mentor and that's winter. Dani asks what happens after 72 and Pelle makes a throat cutting gesture and laughs. I mean, after what I've seen so far, I'm pretty sure he's not joking. I haven't seen any particularly elderly people around and the older people that are around are pretty spry.
I'd like to note that all of the ages individually sum up to equal nine (1+8, 3+6, 5+4, and 7+2), which is an important number to the occult. I know Ari Aster (writer and director) does a lot of research about history and the occult and there was a lot of true history and facts about the occult in Hereditary (2018) and this film is much the same.
Based on the amount of runes in the film and their importance, the rituals they perform throughout the film and some of the spells they perform, I imagine the numbers that are meaningful to the Harga have links to the occult. Are they necessarily satanic in nature? I'm not sure, but I don't think their beliefs lean mostly that way. It's hard to tell, because despite their smiles, easy nature, helpfulness and apparent happiness, they are truly evil.
They probably don't believe they are evil, especially if they were raised that way and are mostly isolated from society, but they are. I mean, real-life cults act much the same way and a lot of the tactics they use on Dani demonstrate how real-life cults operate, including how they recruit, isolate, brainwash and retain people.
Inside of the big house, there are all kinds of what looks like hand-drawn pictures on the walls and Mark remarks (ha) that there are a lot of dicks on the walls. He's right, there are a lot of dicks on the walls. There are dicks from floor to ceiling, as far as the eye can see.
Looking closer, there are also a lot of other disturbing things on the walls as well and something isn't right here (what's new, right?). If you look closely, they depict exactly what Pelle's family (cult!) has planned for the group. Seems like the future holds a lot of murder and mayhem, possibly a little witchcraft and possibly a good ending for one person. It's very blatant and scary, but it's like the idiots in the group don't want to see what is right in front of them, even though the Harga aren't trying to hide it much.
Dani wanders over to a wall that has a bunch of portraits of women in flower crowns and stares at al the women in the pictures. Pelle takes the opportunity while Dani is away from the group to tell Christian he's a dumbass and he forgot Dani's birthday (okay, he doesn't use those exact words). Christian again just seems more worried about coming across as an ASSHOLE than actually being an ASSHOLE.
Dani calls over and asks Pelle what the pictures are all about. Pelle walks over to her and tells her that they are May Queens and that they have a different May Queen every year via a dancing competition, which will occur while the group is visiting. Hmm...seems like Pelle drew Dani as a May Queen, kind of like he expects her to participate in their May Queen dance competition and expects her to win.
After looking at those pictures, then remembering the creepy picture Pelle drew and what it really means, I'd be like, "Please excuse me, Pelle, I have to unleash hell on earth from my bowels because I did LSD on an empty stomach. I'm sure you know my peanut butter was destroyed because I used a duffel bag instead of a suitcase, so without the comfort of hydrogenated oils and subpar ground up peanuts in my belly to soften the cushion of whatever the hell is used to make LSD, I now have the LSD shits and must go." Then I'd fucking find out where those cars got to, or just you know, try to escape the best way I could.
At the entrance of the big house, a young woman walks in and tells everyone some of the Harga (including kids) are watching Austin Powers and if anyone wants to watch it, they can come. Um, excuse me, which Austin Powers movie? Because the third film was terrible, the second film was the funniest and the first one was pretty funny too, so I'd definitely watch the second one and maybe the first because I haven't seen it in a while and it's super boring in the Harga village so far.
Also...they have a tv? And a VCR? Or DVD player? How the fuck do they have electricity? How much are they hiding here? Why are they trying to portray it like they are living in the 1800's, yet they watch modern movies, have some sort of electricity and let kids watch kind of inappropriate films like Austin Powers? Um, what. And no one, YET AGAIN, says anything.
Mark, being Mark, thinks the young woman is flirting with him (she is) and basically says he wants to hump her. Christian, being the ASSHOLE that he is, pulls Dani aside and presents her with a little cake he pulled out of his ass apparently, because he didn't know it was her birthday and wasn't carrying anything before. It's kind of like in a video game where they tell you to pick up a giant ass car battery and your character stuffs it in their back pocket and it disappears. Maybe Christian also has a magic Mary Poppins back pocket that makes shit temporarily disappear and reappear when he takes it out.
He tries to sing happy birthday and light the candle in the cake, but Dani is kind of over his shit at this point. I mean, I'm guessing Pelle probably gave all this shit to him, but who baked the cake for Dani in the first place? She wasn't supposed to even go to Sweden, remember? Also, now that I'm thinking about it, how did Pelle put a piece of freshly cut cake, a plate, a candle and a lighter in the big building before they walked in? He never seemed to leave the group, so someone else must have put all that shit there before they even walked in there, which demonstrates very careful planning and observation of the group, making it even more creepy.
Dani knows Christian forgot her birthday and that he was probably reminded of it by Pelle. She really just seems exhausted by their relationship at this point. You can definitely see the relationship is at its end, but it wasn't going to end until Dani decided it was over. Christian strikes me as the type to just do whatever is easiest for him at the time and wants to be seen as the "good guy", instead of doing what is right, even if it is difficult. I really think it's at this point Dani sees who he really is and it's from here that she starts detaching herself emotionally from Christian.
In the background we see a group of women standing very close together, with one in the middle holding a baby. They are all singing to the baby and swaying in unison. As usual, Christian and Dani act like it's just something totally normal and smile at the group. I mean, I'm sorry, singing to babies is totally normal. Dancing (carefully, don't start breakdancing) with a baby is normal. Standing in a group super close together, singing like creepy cult members and swaying in the middle of a field is creepy as fuck.
I mean, if I was there, everywhere I'd look would give me danger signals. It's like no one has a sense of self-preservation. I'm all for learning about different cultures and experiencing different ideas and ways of living, but I also have morals and boundaries and know when something is hinky. This shit is all out of whack and everyone is like, oh the Harga are so cute and everything is so perfect...blah, blah, blah. I'd be with the group and saying everything is fucked and they'd be like, "OMG Angela, you are so dramatic, calm down". And that's why I'd leave and be alive and they'd be dead as fuck. Well, actually...I'd be cast out of the station wagon on the side of the road for asking too many questions (ha).
A bunch of the Harga and the group go to bed in the big house and Pelle tells them that the first of the big ceremonies start the next day. He mentions attestupa, which is a ritual where they basically make people who are deemed too old to take care of commit suicide. Now we know what happens after 72, thanks a lot Pelle. Of course Josh knows what the term means, being a douche-y anthropology major and all, but he doesn't tell the others what it means and Pelle doesn't tell them either.
I mean, that's some sociopathic shit, if you ask me. Like, hey, I know you've been through some serious trauma involving suicide and murder, Dani, but we just won't tell you there's going to be some suicides tomorrow for kicks. The others probably don't need to be warned if you ask me. Christian will probably sort-of be neutral about it, but act like he's shocked for appearances and Mark will probably think it's cool.
Just a note, there are supposed locations in Scandinavia that were locations where communities were involved in attestupa, but no one really knows if it really happened. In these communities, the elderly were either forced to commit suicide or voluntarily did so. I imagine that no one would admit to participating in attestupa even if they did because it's a horrible, shameful, evil practice. I really hope that never happened anywhere, but you never know, people are capable of terrible things.
Josh looks like Christmas morning is the next day, while Dani looks somewhat confused by Josh and Pelle's enthusiasm for the next day's activities and everyone goes to sleep for the night. The next morning, Dani observes the cult doing weird culty shit, like dancing, folding sheets in a weird way, and someone leading a cult group in a weird cult group class that involves what looks like some cult version of Tai Chi. Or something similar. Cult Chi probably.
Everyone gathers at a table for breakfast and I notice that the table is in the shape of a rune. The rune in this case is in the shape of Othalan, which means inheritance, heritage, tradition and nobility. At the head of the table are the two elderly people we saw Siv talking to on the circular platform earlier in the film. The elderly man and woman are clearly the guests of honor as they are at the head of the table. I imagine since attestupa is taking place, they are 72 or going to turn 73 and must engage in attestupa. The rune table suggests attestupa is a tradition and part of the Harga heritage, so it is considered an honor to commit suicide for the good of the Harga.
There is also something to note about winter and the following spring. If the cult believes that a sacrifice is needed to have good, plentiful crops and new life, then they must believe that suicide is a needed sacrifice to enjoy a fruitful life. If the Harga who are in their "winter" season sacrifice themselves, they are making way for spring to come for the rest of the Harga. I think though, that once anyone gets to 72, maybe they don't really want to commit suicide. It's one thing to believe in cult teachings, quite another to actually have to commit suicide when the time comes. The two elderly Harga look scared, sad and are clearly upset by what's about to happen to them, despite their belief system.
At the table, Mark looks over and sees the same young woman who flirted with him before and notices she keeps looking at him and smiling. Meanwhile, the young woman who is trying to hypnotize Christian is etching something with an knife of some kind. We can't really see what it is, but it probably has something to do with whatever she's about to shove under his pillow.
The two elderly people stand up and make some sort of announcement in Swedish. Everyone looks sad and serious and we realize they are essentially saying their last words before they commit suicide. The group is clueless, completely unaware of what's about to happen (except Josh, he just looks excited like a total psychopath). Dani seems to understand something very serious and important is happening, but lacks the knowledge to understand exactly what it is.
As the elderly people are making their announcements, we see that both are wearing garments that kind of resemble tunics or dresses with different runes on them. The male is wearing a rune Ansuz, which means prosperity and vitality. The female is wearing the Tiwaz rune, which means honor and victory. So, I take this to mean they are sacrificing themselves for the prosperity and vitality of the Harga, as well as viewing their sacrifice as an honor. Both do the weird breathing thing, as if they are trying to draw power and strength for what they are about to do.
Siv stands up after they are done talking and toasts both of them. It's a very sad and moving scene and you can see how scared and sad the elderly man and woman are. I can't imagine knowing you have to do something like that and going through with it. It also points to how this film is so horrifying. Everything seems so beautiful and peaceful, but you have all these horrifying things going on, right in front of you. It's just so blatantly out in the open, yet everyone acts perfectly calm and happy.
No one is going to stand up and say, we don't have to do this, this is completely unnecessary. No one is going to try to save anyone's life. Every member of the cult completely believes the sacrifice is needed and it is an honor. For the viewer, it's like knowing a train is going to hit a car which has stalled on the train tracks and not being able to do anything about it. It gives you a desperate, sick feeling and it made me feel very sad and protective of the elderly people and Dani.
Several of the Harga, who are dressed in dark blue dress things, carry the elderly people away while in their chairs. Mark tells the group he is going to take a nap and the group follows the Harga to wherever the attestupa is going to take place.
We see everyone standing at the base of a cliff and Dani, unsure of what is happening, looks around confusedly. Some guy is holding a long mallet and everyone is standing, looking up with their hands at their sides, palms out, which seems to be part of the ritual. She sees the elderly people arrive at the top of cliff and gets more upset.
The elderly people have their palms cut by the Harga and the elderly woman goes up to a rock slab with runes etched into it, presses her bloody palms together and wipes them on the stone while bowing in supplication. The runes on the stone are: Raidho (journey on horseback, movement, growth, work), Perthro (destiny, faith, occult, fortune), Algiz (protection, guardian, courage, defense-although in this case, the rune is reversed, which indicates the meaning is the opposite of what is listed). We again see the rune that was on the woman's frock, the Tiwaz rune.
In the case of the five runes shown on the stone, I think they represent Christian, Dani, Josh, Mark and Pelle. Raidho represents Dani and Pelle, who are on a journey of movement, growth and spiritual work. Pertho might represent Josh or Mark, since it seems like their destinies are supposed to be a sacrifice for the Harga and their occult beliefs. Their deaths will bring the Harga fortune, so to speak. Algiz is probably for Mark, Josh and Christian, but most likely mostly for Christian. It seems to indicate Christian is in serious danger, as well as the others and the sacrifice the elderly couple are making is key to their demise.
It also seems like Pelle chose these people very carefully to fit certain roles for the Harga sacrifice. Remember Father Odd saying that Pelle has an immaculate sense for people? He must have chosen people to bring with him for a specific reason and each person most likely represents some needed sacrifice by the Harga. It also means to me that Dani was chosen carefully a lot further back than we even realize. Remember the flower crown we saw next to her parent's bed in the beginning of the film? I can't say for sure, but it makes me think if that was supposed to be real. I think Pelle put that there and had something to do with Dani's sister Terri committing suicide and murdering her parents.
Now, he could've manipulated Terri into committing suicide and murder, especially since he is a manipulative person and can read people well, but there is also the indication that he might have even done it himself and made it look like a murder/suicide. He could've murdered the family a lot earlier in the day, then met up with Christian, Mark and Josh at wherever they were in the beginning of the film, we just don't know the timeline exactly.
We do know that Dani received the message from her sister a lot earlier, but it was through a chat or e-mail, not voicemail, allowing Pelle to write the message without anyone knowing the truth and giving Pelle time to leave before anyone knew he was there. Christian would definitely have told everyone about Dani's sister because he's an ASSHOLE, so I feel like Pelle would've known about her history of mental illness and how it affected Dani and her family.
He would have also known that Christian treated Dani like crap and that Dani clung to him because she didn't think she deserved any better. Additionally, Pelle would have known that she only had her family and Christian, so she would've clung to Christian even more if she lost her family, causing her to travel to Sweden, as well as be a good person to indoctrinate into a cult because she was alone, vulnerable and emotionally broken, desperate to be loved and belong. So yes, if all of that is true (I really think it is), Pelle really does have an immaculate sense for people.
After seeing Dani's sister Terri, I questioned why she would put the garden hose or tube into her mouth and die so horribly. People usually fall asleep and die from breathing in the carbon monoxide while they are unconscious. She most likely would have known that if she threatened suicide many times before and had looked into ways of doing it, so why tape it to her mouth?
It's so needlessly cruel and almost violent in a way, it's just so out there that the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it would be something Pelle would do and think he was doing the right thing. As if he is doing Dani a favor because her sister always threatened suicide and worried Dani, stressing her out and upsetting her. With her parents still alive, she would be missed if she went to Sweden and didn't come back, so Pelle got rid of them too.
As everyone continues to watch from below, we see the elderly woman approach the top of the cliff and look up to the sky, raising his arms above her. She appears to be looking for reassurance and gathering strength for what she is about to do. Dani looks extremely worried, surrounded by her "friends" and the Harga. What's interesting here is Pelle isn't looking up at his family member, rather, he is looking right at Dani, as if extremely interested in her reaction to what is about to happen. I'm guessing if he wants her as part of the Harga, he's trying to see if she'll accept what is happening.
This behavior reflects exactly how cults operate, where the cult engages in more and more questionable activities, isolating and excommunicating those who question and further indoctrinating those who accept and believe.
The elderly woman looks down, seemingly right at Dani. Dani, who had been hyperventilating, slows her breathing as she stares back at the woman. Suddenly, Dani lets out a gasp and steps back in shock, grabbing Christian's arm. We see the elderly woman has jumped from the precipice, landing face-first onto a flat rock that has been conveniently placed below her.
I guess someone forgot to put the mattress or trampoline there and definitely forgot to attach the bungee cord. That's what happens when you do drugs all day and are busy trapping bears in cages for the guests, I guess. Anyway, this scene is very shocking and gross because the woman's face basically explodes and boy do we get a close up of that gore. It's kind of in slow motion, so don't be sitting there eating meatballs when you watch this. But wait, it's about to get worse. Hold on to your butts, as Samuel L. Jackson once said.
I think it's worth noting Christian doesn't turn to Dani or grab her to make sure she's okay. He basically stands there, in shock, but doesn't try to comfort Dani or find comfort in her, demonstrating just how "dunzo" their relationship is. It seems only Dani, Simon and Connie are reacting properly to this shit, with Simon asking what the hell is going on (yeah, I know, right?). Dani looks like she really just experienced the same amount of trauma she just went through with her family, but it's almost like she accepts it in a way, making me wonder if she is open to accepting the cult, which, I'm also sure, Pelle is wondering.
Everyone looks up again, and we see the elderly man approach the precipice. Well, three guesses what's about to happen. I only need one, actually. He, of course, jumps, but he doesn't have the same aim as the elderly woman and falls badly, breaking his leg. It basically looks like brisket before you cook it, so don't look at this part if that grosses you out, because it's about to get a whole lot worse than that. Remember that giant mallet I talked about? Well, Siv calls for the mallet guy to bring forth the giant mallet and that guy gives it to another guy, who is joined by three other Harga, who take it and go to town on the elderly guy's face, killing him instantly.
Dani, at this point, looks like she's lost her mind. Josh looks at Christian and gives me the feeling that he just thinks the whole thing is cool and shocking. Christian acts like he is shocked, but doesn't care about anyone but himself (shocking, I know). The Harga seem to act like they are in the same amount of pain as the elderly people, which is interesting, as it seems to point to their shared beliefs, emotions and ideas.
Connie and Simon tell Siv they are leaving and this situation is completely fucked (agreed, but I'd sneak out, not announce that their entire belief system is nuts and giving them the idea that I'm most likely going to tell the whole world about it). Look, if someone is nuts, you don't tell them. You act like you think everything they think and do is completely normal, acceptable and great. You make up some excuse about peanut butter LSD shits and leave, steal one of their cars and book it. I mean, use some common sense Connie and Simon.
Siv tries to calm Simon and Connie, telling them attestupa is long-observed custom of the Harga and seen as an honor to the Harga. It allows those who grow old to die with dignity, as opposed to possibly dying in a bad way. Okay, sure, but it's not like they are given a choice either way, right? So, how would you know everyone views it as an honor, especially since I bet no one ever leaves the cult and they are almost always indoctrinated from birth? Cult logic, I tell you.
As the Harga walk towards the village, Christian catches up to Dani, who is again hiding her emotions. Christian, who doesn't care, basically tells Dani he'll catch up with her later and jogs off towards Josh, Connie and Simon, who are far ahead of the line of Harga. As Dani walks quickly towards the big house, she starts crying, finally releasing some of her sorrow, trauma and sadness. She crouches near one building, holding her chest, as if trying to comfort herself. It's very sad to see, and we know Dani is breaking down because she feels she has no one except herself.
We see Christian catches up to Josh, who is sitting on his bed, using his laptop. Christian tells Josh he has decided he wants to do his thesis on the Harga and the customs. Josh, who is doing his thesis on the midsommer customs and traditions, is appalled and tells Christian he doesn't want him to do his thesis on the same topic. I'm appalled these assholes don't care about anyone but themselves. I mean, they just do not care.
It makes me sick. They just witnessed two people who were made to commit suicide and one didn't die immediately, so he was killed in a pretty brutal way. Also, how can they not see how much danger they are all in? They must not have consciences or souls. Even Chucky has a soul. Think about that for a minute. Charles Lee Ray has a soul and these choads don't. All they care about it their thesis. What. The. Fuck. At this point, I don't really care what happens to them. They are disgusting human beings.
We see Mark outside a building with Connie, Simon and Christian, and all he does is complain that they didn't come and get him for the attestupa ritual. Color me shocked that he cares more about missing a double suicide rather than the horror of what actually happened. We see Josh approach Pelle and ask him about doing his thesis about some of the Harga customs (and bitch about Christian).
Pelle tells him the Harga are very protective of their customs and won't let anyone directly refer to them or their specific customs. Josh says he won't use names and Pelle asks him what the point would be, since he couldn't get it peer-reviewed if he didn't use names or locations. Then he changes his mind and tells Josh he'll ask the elders.
Okay, Josh, you do realize he basically just decided you're going to die, right? Pelle tells him there's no way they will let him talk about the Harga, then says he'll ask? Basically, like, sure, I'll humor you, you're going to die anyway, so there's no risk either way.
We then see Dani in the big house at the base of her bed, quickly packing her bag. Pelle walks in and she tells him she doesn't know why he invited them there (ooh, ask me, I do!). She's struggling not to cry and Pelle gets her to sit next to him. He tries to get her to sniff something to calm her down (which she refuses) and he tells her that he was most excited for her to come. No shit. He basically arranged some murders and sacrifices for her to come.
Pelle tells her he knows what she is going through because he lost his parents when he was a boy. He tells her they burned up in a fire (more on this significance later). He tells Dani he wasn't truly abandoned or orphaned because he was taken care of by the Harga and had always felt "held". He tells Dani she deserves to feel held as well and asks her if she feels held by Christian (no, a resounding nooooo). He also asks her if Christian feels like home to her.
For anyone who has ever been in a shitty relationship, this hits home. When you find someone truly good and right for you, they do feel like home and you do feel held by them. You know the difference inherently, even if you have never experienced a truly good relationship. You can see the revelation in Dani's eyes as she realizes she has never experienced true love or comfort in her relationship with Christian and that is what she desperately needs to feel whole.
Next we see the elders who committed suicide, with their faces looking like Hamburger Helper, so look away if you don't want to see that nasty shit, because it is abrupt. They roast them on an open fire, like marshmallows. All of the Harga stand and watch as they burn, honoring their sacrifice.
We then see Dani sitting in a field by herself, at dusk. Christian approaches and tells her it was a tough day and asks her if she's okay in some half-assed way. Dani makes a face (good for her!) which basically says, "What the fuck, dumbass?" and asks him if he was disturbed by what happened earlier. He tells her of course he was disturbed (yeah, right), but that it's cultural and that they should just try to acclimate.
Dani turns around and makes another face, a face that I often make when I encounter stupidity at an insane level. It's like when someone says something so stupid you can't even answer because you are going to lose it and they are too dumb to get it anyway.
Everyone heads to bed and Dani asks Josh if she can have a sleeping pill. She takes it and has a nightmare about everyone leaving her in the middle of the night in the mysteriously missing station wagon from earlier. As the car pulls away, a bunch of black smoke pours out of Dani's mouth as she tries to scream for them to come back.
This is interspersed with pictures of Hamburger Helper faces, stills of her family standing in their house and in their beds, as well as her three family members, dead at the rock where the two elders fell at the base of the cliff. Damn. I wouldn't take any more sleeping pills if you're having dreams like that, Dani. They are bad news for real.
The next morning, we see everyone asleep in their beds except for the young woman who is stalking Christian. She walks over to his bed and stuffs something under the base of his bed. She thinks no one has seen her, but we see Josh open his eyes after she leaves.
We see later in the morning the Harga outside, collecting the Hamburger Helper ashes from the burn pit, which they take and shovel over the base of a dead tree which has been placed near the edge of the woods. Mark and Josh wander around outside, looking for Pelle and spot him working in a garden. It looks like he's growing a bunch of the drugs they've been giving people, but what do I know? Maybe they are just flowers. But, like, yeah, right, right?
Pelle tells Josh the elders approved Josh's thesis on the Harga and tells him that he can't use names or locations, but he must share it with Christian. I guess Pelle just expects them both to take a dirt nap, so it doesn't matter what they write about. Pelle tells Christian that he thinks his sister Maja likes him and Christian asks him if she's the redhead, which Pelle confirms. He also tells Christian she has just gotten her pants license, so she's allowed to have sex. Christian tries to act casual, but you can tell he's super interested in having sex with Maja. Ugh.
Meanwhile, Mark goes to take a piss and we see his dumb ass decided to piss on exactly where they just shoveled the ashes of the elders. One of the Harga, Ulf, runs over to Mark to try to stop him, but dumbass Mark doesn't understand and tries to zip up his dick in his pants. He tries to apologize, but obviously no one can apologize for something like that. Why was that idiot pissing in front of everyone anyway? How dumb can you get?
We then see Connie walking hurriedly towards the big house, tell everyone she and Simon are leaving, grab her stuff and walk out the door. One of the Harga tells her that Simon left with one of the Harga for the train station because the truck only holds two people. Two? What truck holds two people? Also, ya'll had a motherfucking station wagon and probably other vehicles all over the place when they got there. Where the fuck did those get to? No one asks that, but Connie basically loses it, telling the guy that Simon wouldn't have left her and definitely wouldn't have left without telling her anything. Uh-oh. What actually happened to Simon? No way they took him to a train station. Which means Connie is probably next.
Connie tells the Harga that she could have sat on Simon's lap and the Harga agrees, but tells her they obey traffic laws, so that wouldn't happen. Yeah, right, mofo. Traffic laws? Don't make me laugh. Murder is okay, but traffic laws are to be obeyed at all costs. Sure, Jan. Dani stands at the entrance of the big house, watching all of this go down. The Harga basically shrugs as Connie tells him what he said was bullshit and storms off. He looks at Dani and tells her lunch is in a bit, like he could care less about Connie and Simon.
Dani finds Christian, who is questioning one of the Harga about their customs. Dani interrupts his Spanish Inquisition and tells him Simon left Connie and he calls Simon a dick, then proceeds to question the Harga about incest. Dani makes another face that makes me bust out laughing, demonstrating how much of a dick she thinks Christian is.
Christian turns around and stares at Maja walking into a building with an older guy (maybe it's Father Odd, it's hard to tell). It's so blatant and he obviously doesn't care Dani sees him doing it. While he is staring, the Harga is telling him they make sure the bloodlines don't mix and invite outsiders to mate occasionally to make sure the Harga don't turn into the three brothers from Wrong Turn (2003). Hmm...I wonder where this is going, ha. Certainly the guy isn't telling him it's okay to bone Maja and everyone there expects him to. Certainly not. Nope, not the plan at all.
I don't get why Dani doesn't punch him in the throat and dick at the same time. It's the perfect opportunity. He's completely vulnerable and he'd never guess in a million years Dani would know how to do a one-two punch, much less try it out on his dick and throat. Bonus, once he inevitably falls on the ground, she can assert her dominance and sit down and fart in his face. New foods can fuck up your gut, so I'm sure she has a couple of stinky farts ready to go.
Dani leaves Christian's dumb ass and walks around. As she walks past some kind of kitchen building, a girl comes out and asks if she wants to help. Dani's a nice, helpful person, so she says yes and goes in to help and we see they are making some kind of pies. Hope it's not Mrs. Lovett's mince meat pies. We know what those had in them. I guess we don't know for sure that these people aren't cannibals, but I kind of doubt it.
As she is helping, we see Maja is in there too and she makes a pie that she separates from the others. Ah, the infamous crotch clippin' pie. So, the thing to bespell Christian was stuffed under Christian's bed overnight, which made him more aware of Maja and less aware of Dani (something that was already there, but it seems his inhibitions have been lowered). He is about to eat some crotch clippin' pie and have some menstrual blood beverage of some sort, then he'll be hypnotized and fall in love. Got it.
We are then whisked away to some eerily lit building where Josh is being shown some book by one of the elders. The elder explains that the book is sacred to the Harga, written by an oracle that is purposely bred via inbreeding. Great. This sounds awesome. He tells Josh (who isn't surprised by anything since he's apparently a sociopath) that the books are never-ending and they have hundreds of books.
The elder tells Josh that the current oracle, Rubin, draws pictures and the elders interpret. He also says that Rubin is unclouded and open to the source, whoever that is. It seems like there's a whole lot of room in these so-called interpretations for the people in charge of the cult to say whatever it is they want to say to have the power over everyone they want to have.
How convenient their oracle is inbred and colors random pictures, then they interpret their drawings. Looks like a bunch of scribble-scrabble hooey to me, but hey, it's coming from a "source". They don't even say who the source is, whether we're supposed to believe it's a good or evil source, if it specifically refers to God or the devil or what. But the elder does refer to the book in 16 sections, from Holy to Most Unholy, so it seems like it has basis in Christian concepts.
Rubin just stands outside of the building and stare in at Josh and the elder, so I'm not sure what to make of him or what he thinks about the Harga or the situation in general. Josh asks the elder if he can take a picture of the book and the elder freaks out, telling him it's not possible. Ugh, Josh just doesn't know when to quit.
We see Mark walking back and forth casually near the yellow temple and in the background, we see female Harga carrying in bundles of greenery to the temple, like they are preparing for something. I mean, Mark doesn't even watch what they are doing or try to figure out what the hell they are up to (nothing good). All he notices is the same girl from before eyeing him up and feeling awkward that she keeps looking at him. He hears a sudden scream in the distance, which sounds like a female, but no one else reacts except for him. He listens intently until a kid walks up and tells him lunch is ready and we are suddenly seated with everyone at a table for lunch.
Um, let's get back to who screamed and probably just got mur-diddly-urdered. I'm going with Connie. Someone got her and this cult murders so many people, they don't react when they hear screams in the distance.
We see everyone is being presented pies (only Christian gets a pie with crotch clippin's, fortunately) and we see that Christian's drink is slightly darker than the others. Here we go, there's the infamous menstrual blood drink we heard so much about. Gross. They start talking about Connie and Simon left and Christian says how it was probably just a miscommunication between Simon and Connie.
Dani finally stands up for herself and tells Christian that she could see him doing that. We see Pelle looking like he's trying not to smile and it's gratifying to see Dani finally pointing out Christian's many faults and defects. He seems shocked because Dani has never stood up for herself. He asks her what she means and she tells him, never mind. It's awesome.
Christian is still looking at Dani angrily, but she refuses to meet his eyes or even look his way. Mark looks across the table and sees Ulf looking at him like he wants to murder him and is obviously scared and uncomfortable, noting the man is still angry about him pissing on the tree (no shit). Josh, the sociopath, has no insight or empathy to either situation with his friends and asks Christian if he found out anything about the Rubi Radir, which refers to the books with drawings the elders interpret. It's such a weirdly manipulative statement, because Josh is just trying to show Christian that he viewed the book and Christian didn't and he wants to know what Christian has learned.
These people are so obviously not friends, it's ridiculous. What kind of "friends" have no empathy for each other? It would be a lot easier to collaborate on a thesis, especially with a real friend. If your other friend made a big mistake, like Mark, you'd show empathy and comfort them. You'd notice that a Harga is giving him a death stare and you'd give a death stare back, in solidarity. You'd know that your friend's girlfriend had a horrible tragedy happen to her and show empathy, tell her you're sorry about her loss, support her and Christian. No one does anything resembling that. Everyone here is so cold, selfish and empty.
The terrible thing is Dani isn't headed towards anything better. The Harga are just a veneer. She's supposed to think they are a true family that support each other, don't fight, have supreme empathy, share everything and would do anything for each other, but they are really just people that murder, lie, manipulate, force suicide, invite incest and probably do a whole lot of other things that are horrible. At least she's free to leave Christian and his friends and find better people. If she joins the Harga, she either has to become part of them and their customs, know she has to murder people and commit suicide at 72 and who knows what else, or die.
Christian takes a bite of pie and pulls out a pubic hair. Mark immediately notices this and tells him that's nasty (it is). Pelle is basically laughing and while it is funny in a way, it's disturbing to watch. It's like someone getting joy out of wrecking your life and getting away with it. Ingemar is sitting right next to Pelle, kind of laughing too. Like he didn't have a hand in whatever happened to Simon and Connie, sure.
Dani looks over at Pelle and he rearranges his expression to look more serious as he looks back at her, but as she looks back at Christian, she sees Christian taking a drink. We see Pelle laughing again as Christian makes a face and puts his drink down, obviously tasting something nasty (period blood, ugh).
The girl who had been staring at Mark throughout the film comes up to him and tells him she wants to show him something. I'll bet. Probably the business end of a machete or a giant mallet, not her boobs, Mark. He stupidly bumbles off, following her and no one really seems to care that he's leaving with a stranger. I'll bet that's the last time we see Mark alive. Mmm hmm.
We see Josh looking down at his lame notebook while he's at the table and we transition into nighttime, where everyone is getting ready for bed. Dani asks if she can borrow another pill from Josh and he complies. I'm sorry, but "borrow"? Are you planning on giving it back once you digest it and shit it out? No. At least I hope not. Wow, I really hope that's not her plan. I can't handle that. The movie is almost off the rails as it is.
Josh gives Dani the pill will hopes of never seeing it again and we see that he gets into bed with his shoes on. Gross. I hope this is a nod to him going off and looking at that book and not a nod to him wearing his dirty beat-up sneaks to bed on the regular. We see in short order that he is sneaking out to read the book o' Oracle a.k.a. cult manual. So stupid. I guess he's okay with taking dirt naps. He sneaks into the building with the book in it, on display with a light shining on it, like it's not a trap (it is). He starts reading it and hears something behind him, turns and sees Mark at the entrance.
He tells Mark that they need to be quiet or they'll get caught and realizes Mark isn't exactly...Mark. It's someone wearing Mark's skinned face and hair! Gross! Also, from an entirely curious-in-a-grossed-out-and horrified kind of way, how did they get Mark's skin off in one piece? Practice, that's how. Lots of practice.
Making skin suits is a time-honored tradition by the Harga and in every generation there must be a chosen one, one that craftily removes people's stuck-on skin coverings from their bodies, and I guess Ulf is the chosen one of his generation because it appears he's wearing Mark. I guess he was still super, super, super pissed-off about that tree Mark pissed on.
Just a note, earlier in the film, when Ingemar met the group, they were talking about how the Harga kids were playing a game called "Skin the Fool". Mark, being the fool or main dumbass, was said "fool" and got skinned, so his fate was predetermined by Pelle and the Harga as well.
As Josh tells Mark he's being the equivalent of a one-man marching band, he gets bonked in the head by the giant mallet (that thing is useful!), bleeds out, then gets dragged away quickly. The next day, at breakfast, an elder Harga (maybe the one who bonked Josh, who knows) tells everyone that the Radi Radr is missing (book o' Oracle or cult manual) and ask that someone please put it back. Nice. Make it look like Josh stole it and left, not like you murdered him and Mark. Cult tactics 101.
Two of the elders confront Christian and Dani, asking where Josh went and tell them it looks suspicious that they both disappeared around the same time. Christian defends Mark and says Mark went off with a girl, who Pelle confirms is Inge, but says it sounds like something Josh would do. He also tells them they don't associate as friends of Josh and didn't make a plan to steal the book o' Oracle.
Dani's like, wtf? as she looks at Christian and all his radiant shitty energy, all ready to throw his friends under bus to get what he can get and appear like the "good guy". The elders kind of ignore this because they know exactly what happened to Josh and Mark. They tell Dani she's to go with the Harga women for the day's activities and Christian is to go meet with Siv.
We see an elder Harga woman grinding up what looks like flowers in a mortar and pestle, then mixing it into water to make "tea," which everyone lines up and drinks. Sure, it's "tea". Looks a lot like the shit Pelle was tending to in his "garden". More hallucinogenic shit, surprise, surprise. Dani obviously doesn't want it, but feels pressure to drink it, so she does (weak sauce, just say no Dani).
One of the Harga women teach her how to drink it by linking arms and doing the backwards breathing thing, so she can engage in a little cult magic with the Harga. It's very obvious the tactics they keep using are to push Dani's boundaries further and further until she accepts shit that's completely nuts to most people. It's like, hey drink this tea, oh no thanks, drink it, well, okay, that's not that bad when I think about it. But if you didn't want to drink it, then did, they got you to push past your own boundaries and do something you didn't want to do. Where does it end?
It's like hey, we desperately need rain and crops or we'll die, so we just have to sacrifice someone and we'll be good for 90 years. It's just one person and they are a really bad person. No one will miss them and we really need this or all of our people will die. They are your family, Dani. I could see how she could eventually get to that level of thinking once she's fully indoctrinated. She would say, this isn't so bad or that isn't so bad, these are good people, blah, blah, and rationalize things that can't be rationalized, especially if the alternative was to be either abandoned (Dani's worst fear) by the cult or killed by the cult.
All of the younger Harga women line up around a Maypole and we see the effect the "tea" is starting to have on Dani. No one else seems to be as affected yet, so it seems like they drink this tea often. As Dani looks down at her feet, she again sees grass growing through her feet, which freaks her out. As she looks down, we also see runes stitched on her shoes and in this case, the rune is Dagaz, which means dawn, day, awakening, hope, balance, growth, and new beginnings. So, the Harga are either going to let her win the May Queen competition and become part of their cult or they expect her to win because they feel she is destined to win.
An older Harga woman starts to tell the group a story about the history of the competition, telling them that a long time ago on that very field, the "black one" lured the young women out there and seduced them into dancing until they died. (That's a great story, so far, very uplifting). They now dance in defiance of the black one, dancing until they fall. The last one standing is the May Queen.
This story tells us a few things. One, that they do believe in good and evil and they believe themselves to be good. Two, that they believe in something called the "black one", who is probably the devil. Finally, by including Dani and eliminating other competition (Connie), they fully expect her to become part of the Harga and already think they have her in their evil clutches. They start to dance and it looks like a lot of fun, you know, despite what the meaning of it actually is.
While Dani is outside dancing, Christian is sitting in a small building with some questionable wallpaper on the walls. There is a bear on fire, screaming on some part of the wallpaper, which Christian appears to be examining closely. Before he can look too closely, Siv comes into the room and gestures for him to enter another room. Christian looks around the room at the strangely horrifying wallpaper, yet says nothing. I'd be like, wtf is going on with your wallpaper? Then again, after everyone disappearing and dying and shit, I'd actually keep that thought to myself and plan my escape instead.
Christian is told to sit down by Siv, who sits uncomfortably close, pushing his boundaries, yet he still says nothing. He nervously tries to explain he doesn't know where Josh is, obviously thinking he is about to be in a lot of trouble over Josh's apparent theft of the book o' Oracle. Siv interrupts him (rude!) and tells him Maja wants to take him to the bone zone and in a jiffy.
I mean, Maja can't wait or what? And why is basically her grandmother, brother and whole family all telling Christian she's ready to get down and bone and pushing it so hard? Yeah, Maja, bone a complete stranger and lose your virginity. These people are fucked up and something else is afoot besides wanting Maja to get some swinging sirloin from a guy who has a girlfriend who is right there.
Christian comes out of the building and goes to watch Dani, obviously thinking about boning Maja and how he's going to (literally) do it without Dani finding out. With eight girls left in the competition including Dani, Dani joyfully looks at Christian to see if he is proud of her success so far, but is heartbroken to see he is turned around, looking at Maja.
I wouldn't be heartbroken. I'd yell, "Hey, CUNT!" and run at him, aiming for his balls the whole way. I'd definitely have the advantage, him being turned around and all. I'm not saying he'd be unconscious for a week after I got to him, but I'm not saying he wouldn't be either.
One of the Harga girls comes over to Christian with some "tea" and offers it to him. He doesn't want it, asking what it is and she tells him it is spring water and has "special properties." Mmm-hmm, sure, special properties. You mean "hallucinogenic properties", you shady bitch. You know, to lower your inhibitions so you don't mind boning Maja on top of a roof or something, right in front of Dani. We're so close to a break-up, I can feel it. The girl straight up tells Christian the tea breaks down "your defenses" and "opens you up to the influence". Yeah, the influence of the cult and their murderous intentions.
He says no, but he looks over at Maja and seems to decide that he really does just want to bone her without guilt, so he drinks it, much to Pelle's delight. Every time Christian makes a bad decision or is led further into whatever plan the cult has for him, Pelle laughs. You can pretty much tell how much delight he gets out of fucking Christian over and ruining his life.
However, it's not like Christian is innocent in all of this, you know? He didn't have to stay with Dani, he could've broken up with her a long time ago, way before her parents were murdered and her sister was either murdered or committed suicide. He could have told Dani what the Harga said about Maja. He could've told her what kinds of things Pelle was saying to him about Maja. He could've done a lot of different things, but he made a bunch of decisions to get himself to this point and I'm interested to see where this all leads.
One thing that came to mind as Dani was finishing the competition was: how did the Harga just happen to have one extra dress that fit Dani perfectly, extra shoes with a rune that was specifically for their ritual that also fit Dani perfectly and an extra flower crown? Knowing her measurements points to Pelle being in her house, because despite all the information he probably got about Dani from Christian, it still wouldn't be enough to know her exact measurements. They seem to make all of their clothing, so they would've had to know everything about her body to make a dress for her. It's so creepy when you think about all the planning that went into getting her there and making sure she'd accept the Harga and be a part of their cult.
The last of the Harga girls fall and Dani wins the competition. The woman leading the competition brings over an elaborate flower crown that conveniently fits Dani's head perfectly and she is congratulated by all of the Harga. Dani looks around confusedly as the Harga put a perfectly fitted little shawl of flowers around her shoulders and lead her to a spot where they all pose for a group picture. They don't really explain anything and she's forced to comply, even though she has no idea what's going on.
Christian stands like a total dork outside of the group, purposely left out from the celebration and Dani looks to him for an explanation. That dipshit never knows what's going on, so he's no help. Random Harga start coming up to her after the picture is taken and kiss her and she looks totally bewildered by the turn of events. Maja comes up and congratulates her, but sadly Dani doesn't take the opportunity to give her the old one-two to the ovaries when she has the chance, like I would have.
Dani is tripping hard and we see through her eyes that as she looks at the Harga, their facial features are moving around like a Picasso painting. She also sees her mom and dad walking around, giving her kind-of dirty looks for some reason. Pelle, seeing his opening to mack on Dani, comes up and grabs her face, kissing her right on the chops. Whoa, Pelle, I guess he knows when to make his move. Dani doesn't seem too appalled by his behavior, so I guess she's pretty much over Christian.
The Harga usher Dani onto some kind of circular platform that she balances on and carry her off while leaving Christian behind. At first, she seems scared and very unbalanced, but she quickly regains her composure and stands up straight, looking ahead, as if she has accepted her fate. They carry her over to a table laden with flowers, plates, food, drinks and silverware and set her down.
I mean, if I won and they were acting like I was their queen, I'd direct them to start running while carrying me around the table (at least twice before I puked from being high), then fart loudly to assert my dominance, then announce that I'm the boss and I do what I want. That way they know who they are dealing with. Then if anyone argued, I'd call them a cunt and head butt them while giving them the old one-two. They would immediately regret bringing me into the fold, let me tell you. I'm about the same size as Dani, maybe a little smaller, so it'd probably be really funny to watch, but I digress.
She sits down at the table, tripping balls and starts to fondle the flowered chair she sat down in while everyone waits for her to start eating. She starts to eat and everyone else starts too, except for Christian, who is also starting to trip balls. One of the young Harga women comes over to Dani, grinning as she tells Dani it's a tradition to eat a whole herring tail first. It's pretty funny and who knows if they are just fuckling with her for their entertainment or if it's actually some weird ass cult tradition, but Dani tries to eat it (sort-of) and basically lets it fall to the side in disgust.
Christian, not sure of who his real father is (Charles Lee Ray, probably), what size shoe he wears or what the hell just happened, asks an older Harga man what's going on. Instead of answering, the Harga man claps in his face rather rudely and Christian, looking like he's going to cry, asks him why he did that and the Harga man ignores him, looks towards Dani and smiles.
A girl near Dani tells Dani she's so excited Dani is her sister and part of the Harga family now, further indoctrinating Dani. Christian looks across the table to see Maja looking at him like she's going to jump on him and hump him through his jeans or something worse. She gets up from the table, gesturing for him to follow her and passes by Siv, who is also creepily staring him down.
Dani watches this entire exchange with distaste, seemingly disgusted but unsurprised by Christian's behavior. Siv stands up and tells Dani that it is tradition for the May Queen to bless the crops and that she is doubly lucky because she tried to eat the herring. It's true that in Scandinavian tradition that eating herring is good luck, so I guess they really do believe that. I imagine blessing the crops is another time-honored tradition as well, but Siv is also trying to get Dani away from Christian so he can go bone Maja. Dani, seemingly sensing something is about to happen with Christian and Maja, asks Siv if Christian can come with her, to which Siv replies that the Queen must go alone.
To that, I'd reply with a raucous fart and demand that I, from that day forward be referred to as Queen Angela, that Christian and Maja be referred to as "That Cunt" or "Those Two Cunts Over There", or even, "Chucky Spawn", that someone better start growing watermelons, cantaloupe, cucumbers and fennel, because dems be my favorite, someone import ribeye steak and calamari and I get to sleep in a little shack of my own, complete with a fan because I know they have electricity and I need white noise at night. I think those demands are reasonable and you know, as Queen, I can say those things and expect results.
Dani, sadly, doesn't make any demands, accepts her fate and goes off with the Harga women. They lead her to a carriage, which is pretty intricate and makes me wonder where they got it from. She gets in and they take off, carrying her to another part of the property. A young Harga woman drops flower petals leading from one building to where Christian is sitting, with all the Harga at the table looking at Christian and smiling.
Christian gets up somewhat reluctantly, also resigned to his fate. Dani arrives at some location where a small dirt pile has been dug up and the Harga put some grains, a steak (they do have steak!) and break an egg over the steak, then they cover it all with dirt. They tell Dani to repeat after them and sing a pretty cult song, which Dani copies.
Meanwhile Christian, who we find out has been led to a place in the building where they've given him a robe, is given some smoke in a jar to breathe in, with the Harga telling him it's for his vitality. Vitality? Sure. Or to make him high as balls so he doesn't hesitate to give Maja the hot beef injection. It makes him stop shivering and shaking and he straightens up, still looking higher than a kite, but resolute in boning Maja.
An old guy, who appears to be wearing some kind of disguise he made out of a mop and red felt, opens some inner door and we see a bunch of naked women, most of them standing with linked arms and Maja, laid out on the floor in front of them with flowers surrounding her, ass naked. I mean, is Christian supposed to bone everyone?
Were the drugs meant to keep him from leaving when he saw that spectacle? Or to prevent his Dick Johnson from going limp? Because that shit is beyond weird. He goes in, obviously thinking everything in that room is super weird, but is determined to bone Maja anyway. One of the women walks over to him, taking his robe off, obviously wanting to get the show on the road, so to speak.
He goes over to Maja and gets on top of her while the cult women sing and sway in unison. As they start to have sex, Maja looks scared and reaches out for one of the women for comfort and the woman comes over and sings to Maja. It truly demonstrates how fucked up the cult is, manipulating a scared young woman into losing her virginity to a stranger, so she can get pregnant to keep the cult from becoming too inbred. She was also taught in a way that the only way to get a guy is to manipulate and drug him into being with her. No wonder she is scared and confused.
The women writhe and moan, as if experiencing what Maja is experiencing, but it comes across as theatrical and creepy instead of supremely empathetic. We see Rubin, sleeping in a bed, which may or may not be in the same building (wtf?), seemingly watching the whole thing go down. The other young women with Dani bring her near the building in the carriage and Dani hears moaning coming from the nearby building. Sensing something is afoot with Christian and Maja, she goes over to the building and looks through the keyhole, seeing Christian and Maja making the beast with two backs, horrifying Dani and causing her to run away to the big house.
She finally breaks down, letting out all the pain and sorrow she's held in for so long, with the young Harga women mirroring her pain, allowing her to feel "held" and supported for the first time since her parent's were killed. It's false though. They can mirror emotions like a sociopath can, but they don't seem to actually feel them.
Back in the building with Christian and Maja, we see an older Harga woman walk over to Christian and push on his butt comically, in an effort to get him to finish. He does finish and as Maja curls up and tells the other women she can feel the baby being made inside of her, it's here where Christian seems to finally realize his role in the cult, how much danger he is in, and how fucked up the situation became.
He runs out, trying to find a place to go, but there's nowhere safe. As he runs outside, he sees Josh's leg, stuck upside down in Pelle's garden with a rune painted on his foot in what appears to be blood. He then runs into a hut with some chickens in it, only to find out what happened to Simon. Apparently, Simon has been turned into a "blood eagle", a form of Viking torture that may or may not have been used in the past. Basically, the ribs are separated from the spine, the lungs are pulled out the back to make "wings", all while the person is alive.
We see that Simon is alive and breathing (not sure how that could possibly be, but whatever), suspended from the ceiling while his lungs inflate and deflate, with flowers poked into his eyes and chickens jumping all over him while they take chicken dumps and lay eggs and shit. Christian walks underneath of Simon and takes all of this in, by the way.
As Christian sees what might be in store for him, he tries to leave the building where he found Simon, but a man stops him and blows some kind of drug dust in his face, incapacitating him. The man looks angry as he leans down in Christian's face, physically closing each eye for him (aww, that's nice).
I assume Christian passes out or something because the next thing we know he's being awoken by a young Harga woman, who tells him he can't move or speak, then smiles at him. Um. Thanks for the update you crazy bitch. We see that Christian is now outside in the field and most of the Harga are standing in front of Christian. There are some behind him as well, on the large circular platform. Christian is sitting in a wheelchair, Dani is behind him in the center of the platform, sitting on a throne covered in flowers, complete with a large flowered (literally covered in flowers) dress and a more elaborate flower crown.
One of the elders on the platform next to Dani announces that "today" is the day of their "deity of reciprocity" and they "gather to give special thanks to our treasured sun." To give thanks to their "father" (do they worship the sun or what?), they will sacrifice nine lives (there's that number nine again). They go on to say that for every new blood sacrificed, they sacrifice a Harga member to show that hey, they understand sacrifice and they aren't all bad, you know (sure, Jan).
They go on further to say they will sacrifice four Harga and four new bloods, with another to be chosen by the Queen. Wow, I guess you don't have a choice Dani. I mean, I can't imagine saying no to these people at this point. Also, Dani looks miserable, sad, broken and a little insane, which is par for the course after what she's been through.
The elder tells everyone that nine will die and be reborn in the great cycle. The two Harga that committed suicide earlier count as two (how convenient) and we learn that Ulf and Ingemar have volunteered to be sacrifices. Connie, Mark, Simon and Josh have all been sacrificed, so Dani has to choose between Christian (duh, like we didn't know it was him) and a Harga picked via a culty Lotto ball contraption they made. I mean, wtf lol. This movie is nuts.
The elder takes the time to basically say Ulf and Ingemar brought new blood, but their new blood kind of sucked except for being sacrifice material and tells everyone that Pelle is awesome because he brought the May Queen and Maja's bone zone partner and is an all-around super insightful, awesome dude (wrong). Christian does his best to give Pelle a death stare, but he can't turn his head, so it's more like a death side-eye. They present Christian and the Harga potential sacrifice to Dani and she's looking like she's just the last place she wants to be.
She looks at Christian and the look on her face seems to be one where she's remembering how badly he treated her and remembering how it looked through the keyhole of that crappy door when he was taking Maja to the bone zone. The Harga behind Christian look pretty smug, like they already know what her choice will be. Right, like even if she chose the other guy, they wouldn't let Christian live. He'd have an "accident" or something or they'd outright kill him in another ritual. They all but rigged the whole thing so she'd become the May Queen and choose Christian to be the sacrifice anyway.
Next, we see Connie in a wheelbarrow, looking drowned as shit, so we know what happened to her (they explain a little more in the director's cut, if you're interested). Pelle's pushing the wheelbarrow towards the yellow temple, like the psychopath he is. We see Mark's face and scalp in a wheelbarrow as well, and it looks like it's been placed on some kind of straw doll with a Harga dress on it. He's also got some kind of jester hat, which indicates he's the "fool".
We finally see the inside of the temple and it's painted with hay bales all around. They prop up the different sacrifices all around the hay bales in different areas. We then see the bear from earlier has been killed (dammit, I wanted it to escape and kill some Harga, then go free). An elder Harga is surrounded by younger Harga children and is teaching them how to take out the bear's organs and showing them how to disembowel it without letting out the poop.
After that disgusting task is done, they bring Christian over, who has been watching the whole time from his wheelchair, and place him on the table next to the bear. He appears to be too long for the bear suit, so it's indicated (to me, anyway) that they have to cut off the lower part of his calves. Ugh, this movie is so fucked up.
We next see Christian looking terrified and bewildered in the bear suit, which is now in the middle of the yellow temple. The bear kind of has the same expression, so I was looking back and forth like, poor bear, poor Christian, poor bear, poor Christian, you guys are fucked. A Harga, who appears to have made a mask out of a longer mop and felt or maybe some fancy shimmery string curtains, starts the ritual.
Ulf and Ingemar are in the temple now too and are given some kind of drugs for pain and strength. A few Harga men come in with torches and start lighting the place up and we see everything start to burn, including Ulf and Ingemar, who, despite being given drugs for "pain" (yeah, right) they start screaming in pain because dammit, fire burns off your nerve endings and that shit hurts. Christian is just watching this shit all around him, with stumps (probably), so he can't run away even if he wasn't drugged, waiting for his turn to die a horrible death.
Meanwhile, the Harga are gathered outside, watching this spectacle, seemingly screaming and writhing in pain as their fellow Harga die. It again, seems theatrical and just for show, as I do not believe they actually have any empathy. Dani, looks like she's lost her mind, going between crying and laughing, trying to run away in the elaborate flower gown and finally succumbing to her madness.
A lot of people wonder why Dani is sort-of smiling at the end of the film. I pretty much think it's because she was glad she was out of her relationship with Christian and finally free of being treated so badly, that she won't be abandoned ever again and now has a "family", but then she realizes she's stuck with this terrible cult, who commit murder, are very manipulative and crazy. She knows she will have to really become what they are and fit in or they will kill her. Her only escape is death and she will surely be with Pelle, someone she may not even want to be with, especially after she knows everything he did to get here there and make sure most of them became sacrifices.
This is one of my favorite movies because it is so detailed. I think that I get something new from watching it every time I watch it and I like movies where you can keep learning new things about it. I love the amount of research that went into this film, which makes it more chilling and seem more real.
I really like how there's so much contrast in the film as well, like how bright and sunny everything is, but how horrific the environment really is. I love that there's so much going on in the background in most scenes, which give clues to the story as well. I love that when I figured out just how manipulative Pelle was, it helped me to figure out how far back he was planning to get the whole group to come to Sweden and how evil he really was.
I think Pelle is so much worse than Christian. Christian was an asshole to Dani, period, but he was pretty much upfront about who he was. He didn't have plans to murder Dani's family, friends, bring her to another country and manipulate her into joining a cult, becoming his woman and killing off her ex-boyfriend. At least Dani could leave Christian at some point and pretty much be free overall. With Pelle, she's trapped and then she's going to be forced to commit suicide at 72. That's a nightmare, not a life.
Did you like this movie? Have you seen it? What do you think about this film? Do you like movies that require a lot of thought and have a lot of detail? Please share your thoughts below!