Well, it’s about time. I’ve been prolonging watching this for a while but I finally sat down and watched it. One of my most anticipated movies of the year, some time had to pass so that my expectations were not too great.
Dani Ardor (played by Florence Pugh) is a young woman suffering from a toxic relationship with her boyfriend Christian when she finds out the news that her family has died. Troubled and traumatized by the news she attempts to find solace and join her boyfriend and his friends on their trip into Sweden, invited by their Swedish-American friend. Most of them being anthropology students are overjoyed and jump to the chance to see the Swedish customs and traditions.
Once they get there, they are greeted with a view of a gorgeous and warm village full of loving and welcoming people who are more than happy to share everything that they have with them, even some psychedelics. Everything seems to be going great until the visitors witness one of the first rituals during the festival – the ättestupa, a ritual in which the eldest members of the family (without revealing too much) continue the cycle of life. From there on things become more and more trippy and terrifying.
It is safe to say that this movie was long-awaited and I wanted to watch it ever since I found out that it is coming out. It was directed by Ari Aster who you may know from the movie “Hereditary” and much like in it this movie shares some similar plot points. And both in this movie the lead actress shines very brightly. Florence Pugh was absolutely phenomenal in the movie and she was by far my favorite part, even more than the stunning cinematography.
As for the movie itself, I am not sure how I exactly feel about it. It was absolutely fantastic and I really did enjoy viewing it. As you may know, if you have followed me I love movies where there are tons of symbols and undertones and things you need to look into even after you watch the movie and this movie delivered that fully. But I did find myself wondering why a couple of scenes were the way that they were. It did seem like they were trying too hard to be obscure at times but this might be due to my lack of knowledge about the rituals, but some scenes make me doubt that. For example, there was one scene where one of the villagers talks about the children watching Austin Powers which seemed so out of place, especially since there was no sign of any electrical equipment or anything similar. But I might be just cherry-picking.
What I really liked about it is that it literally shows you what will happen in the movie if you just pay attention to it. There are many paintings and clues throughout the entire film that foreshadow major events that unfold later in it. There is literally a painting at the beginning which showcases the entire storyline of the movie. There is nothing that is really hidden in the movie.
There was one scene that might be insignificant in the plot that I oddly really appreciated it (it is sort of a spoiler but it doesn’t really reveal anything) was when Christian was reminded that it was her birthday and he wanted to surprise her with a cake and was unable to light the candle thus showing that the flame between them was gone.
But even with some minor flaws, it was still an absolute trip in every sense of the word. At its very core, it represented the journey of a young woman through grief and finally learning that she is not alone and finding a place in which she fits in and feels like she belongs. As gruesome as it was there was still something uplifting in it. And of course it is full of many runes and symbols for any fan of the occult, mainly coming from elder futhark to explore like:
ᚱ – raido, which can mean ride or journey. This was the most common symbol seen throughout the movie. http://runesecrets.com/rune-meanings/raidho
ᛉ – algiz, which can mean protection. http://runesecrets.com/rune-meanings/algiz
ᛟ – odal, which was also the shape of the dining table which can mean nobility or inheritance. http://runesecrets.com/rune-meanings/othala
As for what elder futhark is, it is an old writing system that was used by Germanic tribes, and what the point of them is? Well, it would not be fun if you did not interpret them by yourself. It is interesting though that seemingly they had no power, they were merely tools for the villagers to interpret and be inspired by.
Interestingly enough, reading up on the director and his influence on the film I found out that he was inspired by a movie which I am very fond of which I spoke about before – Climax. And while watching the movie you can notice that very easily. And much like Climax, this movie sticks with you for a while after you finish it. But to me, it fails to be as effective as it. But that is not that important for now. But one thing that it did better than the former was the characters. All of them felt very real and relatable. All of them had very distinct personalities and you really can connect with them. Well, almost all.
It’s pretty obvious that this movie was made with a lot of passion and talent and it shows. It might not be for everyone but everyone who enjoys these types of films will love it. In its core, it uses a real and common problem that humans have to endure and uses twisted themes in order to help someone get through it which is in essence similar to something which I want to do in my writing work.
And there are even tons more things in it which I did not talk about like the obvious influence from Kubrick’s Eyes wide shut and The shining as well as The wicker man which opens an entirely different can of worms.
Although this movie might not be my favorite of the year it definitely is a contender for the top in the artistic and symbolistic sense, among other things and thus I do not know what rating to give to it.