Hälsingland and its art
Before reaching Hårga, the fivesome pass a sign welcoming them to Hälsingland, the region of Sweden in which the majority of Midsommar takes place. Per Svensson, the folk art that pervades almost every shot of the film -- from the opening tableau to the ornately painted cabin where the characters sleep -- is indebted to the history of the region, including notions of the type of people who live there. "The story, at least in Hälsingland, is that the county of Hälsingland is the home of the original ubermensch: wealthy, strong, tall, and blonde," Svensson explained. According to further research of the art in the area, there are seven farmhouses in Hälsingland that constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the area is known for its bright wall paintings originating in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Meanwhile, if you go back even farther, Hälsingland was home to work like the Skog Tapestry, likely dating from the 13th Century, the subject of which is up for debate but is probably religious in nature. "[The iconography of the region] is very weird, in a biblical, scary way from the beginning, and very easy to offset just a tiny bit to suddenly contain lots of creepy sex, blood, magic, and the history of violence," Svensson explained. But whereas the historical works might use flowers as ornaments, Svensson added "in our version, mainly genitals." Look closely: Nearly the entire script appears in painting form on screen as artistic premonitions.
Svensson also cited other artists and movements outside of the region as influences. Among them: The Pre-Raphaelites; Hilma af Klint, subject of a recent major retrospective at the Guggenheim; the Belgian symbolist Léon Frédéric; and Swedes Carl Larsson, a painter predominantly active in the 1900s, and Elsa Beskow, a children's book illustrator working before and around the turn of the 20th century.