What is the movie Midsommar about? Is the pagan Swedish festival real?

Midsommar, a horror film written and directed by Ari Aster (Hereditary), is set to premiere in the U.S. next week. But what is it about?

The film stars Florence Pugh as Dani, Jack Reynor as Christian, William Jackson Harper as Josh, Will Poulter as Mark, and Vilhelm Blomgren as Pelle.

Other cast members include Archie Madekwe as Simon and Ellora Torchia as Connie.

Midsommar has received positive critical reviews with a 96% approval based on 46 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Ambitious, impressively crafted, and above all unsettling, Midsommar further proves writer-director Ari Aster is a horror auteur to be reckoned with,” reads the website’s critical consensus on the movie.

The positive reviews have generated considerable buzz for Midsommar, and if you’ve been wondering what the upcoming movie is about here is what you need to know.

What is Midsommar about? (Minor spoilers)

Midsommar follows a graduate student Dani (Florence Pugh) and her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), whose relationship is under strain. While Christian contemplates breaking up with Dani she suffers a sudden terrible tragedy.

Dani’s sister kills herself and her parents by directing car exhaust fumes into their house at night. The personal tragedy leaves Dani reeling and struggling to hold herself together. She decides to take a break from school. Due to the tragedy Christian decides not to further break Dani’s heart by ending their relationship.

Christian, who has been writing a dissertation on midsummer traditions, decides to go on a vacation to Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren) remote village in northern Sweden with his friends Mark (Will Poulter) and Josh (Jackson Harper), as part of his research into midsummer traditions. He invites Dani.

They arrive at the remote community and although life  at first appears peaceful and idyllic, the festival involves sinister pagan rituals which the villagers force the visitors to participate in.

Is Midsommar based on a true story?

Ari Aster’s Midsommar is fiction but it is based on the Swedish tradition of Midsommar (Midsummer), one of the oldest and most widely celebrated festivals in the country. Besides Christmas, Midsommar is the most important festival in Sweden. It marks the beginning of the five-week summer holiday season.

Midsommar’s Day falls on Saturday, usually between June 20 and 26, but in Sweden the actual celebration takes place on Midsommar’s Eve which is a Friday. Midsommar’s Eve is a public holiday in Sweden and many offices and shops close.

People generally leave the cities to celebrate Midsommar’s Eve in the countryside. Although celebrations during the festival were based on pagan religious traditions, the modern day celebrations are intended to attract tourists so they now largely focus on the lighter side of things with a lot of eating, drinking, partying, and dancing around the maypole.

In the old traditions of Midsommar, girls picked seven different flowers during the midsummer night and put them under their pillows when they went to sleep. It was believed that sleeping with the flowers under their pillows allows the young women to see a vision of their future husbands.

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