This article contains spoilers for the film Midsommar.
Director Ari Asters tries to scare fans with his sophomore film Midsommar, which takes place in Sweden during the beloved June festival.
The film revolves around a young student Dani (Florence Pugh), who follows her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his two friends to a Midsummer festival in a rural Swedish village. Against a backdrop of picturesque countryside and the midnight sun, it turns out that the commune is actually a cult and the Americans are plucked off one by one by the sadistic Swedes as part of a ritual Midsummer sacrifice.
So far, so normal, by horror film standards at least.
But since its release, the film has received some interesting feedback from American viewers who have confused the film's antics with actual Swedish tradition, with Twitter and Facebook full of people vowing never to set foot in the Scandinavian country.
Any aspiration I had to go to Sweden died while watching #Midsommar
— Mike Hagen (@MichaelHagenWI) July 17, 2019
“There is NOTHING scary about midsommar in Sweden!” ~my Swedish wife, trying in vain to win back my trust
— Jesse Hamm (@jesse_hamm) July 19, 2019
Presumably (hopefully), at least a few of the many commenters are joking, but it's clear that some people from the States are having a harder time working out what Swedish culture and Midsummer are like in reality.
Although Midsommar was filmed in Hungary, the setting and folk costumes look traditionally Swedish, Swedes are shown speaking Swedish to each other, and the rural landscapes match the image most foreigners have when they think of Sweden – as one Swedish reviewer put it, it's “comically rural”.
As an American currently living in Sweden, even some of my close friends rang me to fact-check some of the gruesome aspects of the film, including orgies, human sacrifices and placing pubic hair in pie to serve as a love potion.
In case you were wondering, none of these are part of the traditional Swedish celebrations.
“So you went to Midsummer this year and there were no orgies, at all?” one childhood friend asked me in surprise.
The holiday may be based on fertility, but for the most part it's fully family-friendly, and the menu includes ordinary delicacies such as herring and strawberry cake. This year during my first Swedish Midsummer, I spent the majority of my time around babies and small children. We held egg and sack races and danced to silly songs, like 'The Little Frogs', around the maypole. A little bit strange, perhaps, but nothing gruesome.
US journalists have also contacted Swedish media to ask if some of the rituals featured in the film were true. One Swedish journalist for the Dagens Nyheter was asked if the holiday can really be linked back to sacrificial rituals and whether Swedes used magic runes.
Hopefully instead of falling down the same trap, Americans who watch Midsummer will be able to separate fact from fiction and be inspired to learn more about this country. And in the meantime, let's hope for more representation of Swedish culture on screen.