Midsommar | Kilburnlad | Film | Reviews



Where to start?

From all the recent films on offer the trailer from Midsommar seemed the most intriguing, which as things turned out was a fair assessment. There were suggestions of The Wicker Man, but I couldn't believe that it would be a direct rip-off of such a cult favourite. That being said, there are strong similarities.

This time it's Sweden, but before we arrive there we are introduced to Dani and Christian in the USA. Dani is very concerned about her sister, while boyfriend Christian is far from sympathetic. In fact a couple of his mates are trying to persuade him to ditch Dani, who they see as a bit of a pain. But things take a dramatic turn when Dani's sister finally takes the ultimate step in her downward spiral. Already traumatised, Dani then learns that Christian is off to Sweden with Josh, Mark and Pelle, who with him are studying anthropology. Pelle, who is Swedish, has invited them to Sweden to witness a once in a generation festival, which will form the basis of Josh's PHD and be of interest to the others. Although Mark in particular doesn't want Dani to come, in the circumstances Christian feels obliged to take her, she being encouraged by Pelle, an early indication that Pelle's motives might be questionable.

In Sweden they are soon introduced to the delights of hallucinatory trips, which in Dani's delicate state isn't the most appropriate thing for her. Mark, meanwhile, is all fired up about the possibilities of sexually uninhibited Swedish women, while Josh is eager to research the anthropological aspects of the festival. They have also met a British couple, Simon and Connie, who have similarly been invited to the festival.

When they arrive at the festival all is magic and light. Women and men dressed in white robes, the women adorned with flowers, and everybody is very welcoming. From the onset, however, one feels a bit of foreboding. This is brought into sharp relief when the group witness what happens to an elderly couple, who have reached the age of 72. In this community, which Pelle describes as his family, there are predetermined roles for everybody based on what age range they fall into. But at 72 your usefulness has passed, and you leave the community in a rather unsubtle way. Shocked, Dani and our group of anthropologists reluctantly accept the premise, but this is only the beginning of some very strange goings on. However, Simon and Connie do not accept what they have seen and plan to leave. They do leave, but not quite in the way that they planned.

In fact unbeknown to our intrepid adventurers they have been brought there for a very specific purpose. As a closed community interbreeding is an issue, so new blood is essential, and Christian has been selected, without his knowledge, to become a donor. Drugged up to the eyeballs, he is mated with one of the young women. Dani is conveniently not around, having won a competition to become the May Queen, won being perhaps a euphemism as we soon learn that nearly everything has been preplanned. Mark has already disappeared at this stage, having gone off with one of the women, expecting some intimacy no doubt, but finding something else entirely. And Josh, keen to find out and record everything about the community, breaks the rules and suffers the consequences.

Dani, meanwhile, on her return from her May Queen duties, checks out some strange chanting coming from one of the buildings, and what she sees shocks her to the core. It involves Christian!

And at this point The Wicker Man similarities are clear, although it must be said that here the final ritual is far more bizarre that we saw on the remote Hebridean island. It doesn't end well for Christian, having served his purpose, but Dani undergoes something of a transformation. Pelle has continued to work on her emotionally, and perhaps here she has found a new family?

At 147 minutes this is quite a long film, but I must say it kept me so intrigued that I didn't notice the time passing. I've tagged it as 'Horror' but I'm not sure that's an appropriate description. There are indeed horrific scenes, earning it an 18 certification, but this isn't scary horror, it's queasy horror. Florence Pugh is superb as Dani while Jack Raynor is obliged to bare all in the role, although he's in good company in a scene where we see that not all Swedish women are blonde and lithe. Will it be as memorable as The Wicker Man? I doubt it, but it certainly offers something a bit different, and memorable.

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