A recently bereaved woman (Florence Pugh) travels to Sweden with her boyfriend and his friends, to witness and participate in a nine-day midsummer celebration with a small Swedish commune. They arrive at said commune, a vision of sun-drenched loveliness that calls to mind the Amish: green fields stretch out before them, bedecked with flowers, and trees line the distance in every direction, juxtaposing the feeling of freedom with one of entrapment; the buildings are all wooden, and many of the residents sleep in the same large room, privacy no object. Everyone is dressed the same, in something akin to white cassocks, and floral crowns adorn the women’s heads…but it’s the chanting that sets off the alarm bells. These people seem to be in constant dialogue with the heavens and, wouldn’t you know it, our protagonists don’t find it the least bit suspicious. What is frustrating is that a certain level of belief has to be suspended in any horror film, as characters are want to behave in ways that any normal human being would
object to, and yet Pugh’s Dani is so well-drawn that it only accentuates the wilful ignorance of her companions. She is dealing with extreme trauma, and feels alone in the world, which goes some way towards explaining why her reservations about the commune don’t manifest themselves in the form of protest, as she longs for a connection, even with complete strangers; what’s their excuse? Aside from that, what we have here is a pretty great study of grief and depression, as seen through Dani’s eyes. She is in constant pain, which only makes her more attuned to the pain of others, and the contrast between her – brimming with empathy – and her boyfriend, and his friends, who all seem utterly apathetic towards suffering and death, is stark and makes for uncomfortable viewing, because it rings true. Think drama with a dash of horror, not the other way round, and you’ll find something to take home with you; hopefully Florence Pugh does too.
Community Newspaper Issue 131, Sep 2019