What Do Swedes Think of Midsommar?

Midsommar is a horror/mystery film released in 2019 about an American couple who travel to Sweden to celebrate Midsummer, a holiday observed in Finland and parts of Scandinavia.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the film is that most of it is set in rural Sweden, which few people would ordinarily associate with violence.

Most Swedes appreciate that Midsommar is just a film and do not find the events portrayed in it offensive in any way.

With that being said, many Swedish viewers have pointed out that the film could have captured Swedish culture more accurately. 

This article will discuss how Swedes reacted to the film upon its release. It will also draw comparisons between the movie and the real-life Swedish traditions that the film is based on.

Also, see What Do Swedish People Eat? to learn more.

How Do Swedes Feel About Midsommar

It appears that Swedes are fairly neutral when it comes to foreign films set in their country. In Sweden, at least, Midsommar did not trigger particularly strong responses – either positive or negative.  

When browsing through various online forums, one can clearly see that many users understand that Midsommar is a horror film that is intended to provoke a specific reaction in the viewer.

If Swedish people were to find that offensive, then no scary films would ever be shot in Sweden.

Because the film does not really represent Swedish culture (nor does it seek to do so), many Swedes felt no connection to it whatsoever.

In fact, some users found it somewhat foreign to them.

Some of the myths mentioned in it may be rooted in Swedish folklore, but the rituals and beliefs embraced by the Hårga are mostly fictitious.

Even the costumes in the film are highly inaccurate.

While it’s not that uncommon for Swedish people to wear traditional costumes on special occasions such as ancient pagan holidays and dance competitions, they most certainly look nothing like the ones seen in the film.

It’s also fair to point out that contrary to what the film suggests, communes and neopagan cults are not common things in Sweden.

While a modern version of Norse paganism is still practiced across Scandinavia, it does not involve any kind of violence or cruelty.

It also appears that Swedes understand that the film was not meant for a Swedish audience but rather for an international one – hence their remarkably stoical response to it. 

Midsummer is a very important holiday in Sweden (one could say that it’s the second most important holiday after Christmas), and many people gather with their friends and family to celebrate it. 

On this special day, people eat, drink, play games, and occasionally dance together.

The fact that Midsommar was shot in Hungary and not in Sweden is also one of the reasons why many Swedes didn’t really connect with it.

Is Midsommar Accurate to Swedish Tradition?

Midsommar is not accurate to Swedish tradition. While many Swedes do indeed travel to the countryside each year to celebrate Midsummer, most of the elements in the film are not representative of Swedish culture. 

Midsummer is a pagan celebration held in June, usually around the middle of the month.

In ancient times, when Sweden was a primarily agrarian society, Midsummer was a very big deal.

On this very special day, people would gather to celebrate the longest day of the year and welcome summer, a crucial season that was associated with abundance and fertility [1].

Midsommar makes several allusions to time-honored Swedish traditions, most of which are highly inaccurate.

While in Sweden, Dani and Christian (the main characters) attend an ättestupa ceremony where two elderly people jump off a cliff out of their own will. 

This is a clear reference to an ancient Scandinavian practice that involved old and sick people killing themselves as a way to lighten the burden on their families and communities [2].

However, historical evidence suggests that such a practice never really existed.

In other words, it’s just a myth that has been perpetuated for centuries, probably inspired by an old Swedish law encouraging old people to step aside in order to allow young people to take over their farms.

As well-crafted a film as it may be, Midsommar is so culturally inaccurate that the Swedish Board of Tourism had to come forward to address any unrealistic expectations that tourists may have had about Sweden [3].   

Here are some of the misconceptions that the Swedish Board of Tourism felt the need to clarify:

  • Swedish Midsummer celebrations do not involve ancient runes.
  • Human sacrifices are not part of Midsummer.
  • Hälsingehambon – an annual dance contest held in Sweden – is not associated with Midsummer (it is, however, rooted in Swedish folklore) [4].

Just because Midsommar is set in Sweden doesn’t mean that the film represents Swedish culture in any way. Like many other movies, Midsommar was purely intended for entertainment rather than educational purposes.

Is Hårga a Real Place?

Hårga, the scary rural village where Midsommar is set, is a real place. It’s actually a small town located in the Swedish province of Hälsingland.

Like many other small towns and villages located in this part of the country, Hårga exhibits a strong rural character.

There are four main reasons why Ari Aster, the film’s director, went for this particular location:

  • Hårga is a remote and rural village: the perfect place for a creepy commune to perform its rituals.
  • Hårga and the entire Hälsingland province provided Aster with plenty of inspiration for his film.
  • Hälsingland is home to several museums containing artifacts portraying ancient violent rituals.
  • Interestingly, there is an old Swedish fairy tale about the devil visiting the people of Hårga and forcing them to dance themselves to death [5].

In the film, Hårga is associated with a violent cult that uses death as a tool to praise the gods.

In reality, however, Hårga is actually a very peaceful town where Midsummer is celebrated like everywhere else in Sweden. At most, visitors may find themselves participating in flower-picking rituals.

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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