Pelle’s Role in the Hårga 👑, Christian and Josh
Though the Hårga appear matriarchal, it seems to me that Pelle is being groomed for a top position. They do not have a clear hierarchy nor hierarchal titles, but there is a difference between theory and practice. No one calls her so, but Siv seems to function as a “High Priestess”, and though few buildings are shown, a nice-sized one is specifically identified (separately; both to Christian for his private meeting and to Dani by the May Queens) as Siv’s house.
Though all the Hårga are welcoming and warm to one another, addressing one by familial titles (brother, sister, father, uncle) even as it is immediately obvious they are not literal. Pelle describes his “brother” Ingemar as having been “born in the same week”, which wld be impossible unless they were half-brothers who shared a father; though with the Hårga that’s entirely possible. They do not give the impression of delineating actual paternity and maternity; in fact, the opposite, with focus on a communal lifestyle to include parenthood and child-raising (as the script/s? for certain, and possibly briefly in the movies), the crying baby is identified as the infant of a “mother away on pilgrimage”. This baby is shown as being cared for by one (assigned?) female or a small group, and this separation described as helping to “break” maternal-child ties, without the bonds that naturally form between the majority of women and the babies they bear themselves, however loving and nurturing they might be to similarly-aged or even closely-related children. These biological and emotional bonds being purposefully severed, the Hårga feel is an aid to truly communal upbringing and child raising, where all of each generation are truly “siblings” and treated as such. (This is another idealistic construct of the utopian Hårga society.)
Still, subtlely, Pelle is the focus of observation, praise and admiration; both from the Elders (somewhat in loco parentis as “authority figures”) and peers (he’s popular and his company sought) his “sense of people”, his choices. Pelle is at once “everywhere”; solicitous of his guests, happily tending an overgrown garden plot, being sought out for both fun (socializing) and counsel, to be witness in “audiences” at games and events, intervening to “translate” (explain) and calm fraught situations (on all fronts; between the “guests” and the Hårga, between the quibbling guests themselves and the occasionally quibbling Hårga themselves), comforting the extremely distraught Ulf, as well as comforting and shepherding the fragile (alone and lonely) Dani nearly at all times. Pelle is the perpetually Zen Diplomat. He’s never seen really losing his cool, even when a situation would anger and/or upset most people.
Pelle evinces trust, even the power to do the impossible. Josh, at the very least, being presented as a serious academic, should know better than to even consider an enclosed society that has managed to exist in a rapidly technologically-developing world would be open in any way to documentation, however data obscured. As an anthropologist, through his training, Josh himself has “followed the breadcrumbs” through past masked information of other cultures and societies, and knows his marvelous anthropological, ethnographical coup if he successfully published on the Hårga would inevitably inspire frenzied fellow academics, determined to find and unmask the Hårga. By even asking, he is showing that its all about him, and the irresistible beguilement of being “first” and the Hårga being (forever) “his” discovery. He wants the academic prize; he’s not truly concerned at the price to the Hårga, or how sincere their devotion to their traditions and belief. They’re not much more than highly-developed bugs to him; bugs that have all kinds of social forms, but by their nature, are considered “primitive” and “lesser”. Still, Josh asks... and asks Pelle. It’s not just that Pelle is his “POC”. Josh could have appealed directly to an Elder. However, Josh too has noted that Pelle is held in regard by apparently everyone, and has brought “guests” before.
To Josh’s surprise, Christian, who has formerly distinguished himself only by being a slug, oozing through life with no plan or direction, too indecisive and selfish even to end an unhappy romantic relationship solely on the basis that he “might change [his] mind later. This shows Christian has absolutely no caring of any real depth for the other human being - Dani - in the relationship, Dani herself so desperate she’s wiling to blame herself for everything and subsist on grudgingly-bestowed emotional breadcrumbs, until tragedy locks Christian “in”. It’s not out of true consideration for the sorrowing, overwhelmed Dani, but due to his worries as how he will look to others for callously bailing out on a long-term romantic partner after a horrible personal tragedy. After another seismic, emotional (if not to him) jolt, his witnessing of the Ättestupa, Christian suddenly “awakens”, his visceral instincts engaged, quickly aware enough to treacherously, proactively, beat Josh to the punch.
The Master of Inaction, Christian is inspired by the Ättestupa; “the Fascination with Abomination”, what makes us turn to see the results of a terrible car wreck as we pass by, and the knowledge that nothing “sells”, even in the most rarefied of academic papers, as violence and sex. As will be seen, Christian gets coveted invitations to both.
Pelle is again the Voice of Reason. He responds to neither Christian (request offscreen) nor Josh (onscreen) with “WTF, guys, this isn’t an academic competition or documentary, this is my home, these people are my family, I knew Äldre Ylva and Äldre Arbetaren, I cared for them, they certainly weren’t just ‘subjects’ to me. What you are seeing is our belief system, our code, our way of life, not a case study. This has great meaning to me, to us as the Hårga. I brought you here to celebrate what I love and treasure as my friends, not for you to study us like bugs or primitives both quaint and terrifying.” 🌀NB, below.
Instead, Pelle sighs; he’s seen it all coming (oh, has he; Pelle’s “wonderful sense of people” and intuition) and reveals that Christian has already beat a hot path to him first. Utterly Zen and seemingly focused on the immediate issue, Pelle lays out the terms: yes, the Elders will speak to Josh; yes, there can be a Q and A; discretion, privacy and respect is absolutely paramount and critical - to which Josh so quickly agrees that, again, this must register as a fault in Pelle’s eyes. This isn’t 100 years ago. The news of Tutankhamun’s tomb set off scores of “Egyptologists” and treasure hunters for decades after Howard Carter bumbled into the lost tomb, and that was before the ease of phones; they existed, but not like now, much less nimble little iPhones with incredible “reaches” and better cameras than many “regular” cameras.
Tomb hunting, raiding and theft continues even today, all over the world. While there’s no golden “treasure” to tempt fortune hunters, define your treasure. Again, the Hårga could “make” Josh, and a write-up of the Hårga absolutely will precipitate others to follow, examine... and this not only will effect the Hårga, it is unwanted. The Hårga live as they wish. They’ve struck their desired balance between the modern world and their Nordic roots.
[🌀 Pelle is a student of Anthropology himself, presumably a doctoral candidate like the others, which is what brought him into close contact and friendship with that group and his suggestion for the trip in the first place, though he confesses to Dani in their first conversation that he’s uncertain it’s what he wants to do (possibly foreshadowing that he cleverly chose a fertile and well-stocked “hunting ground” while he was “out in the world”).
While the Anthropology/Ethnographically baited hook would be an enormous temptation raising the chances of success, too much mouth-breathing and drooling on the part of Josh and Christian had to be just as off-putting as the largely-unseen, but mentioned in the script/s? - though given mere mini-seconds in the movies - Josh’s needling of Pelle by reinforcing the appropriation of Nordic themes, symbols, runes, etc by the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. Pelle saw this, a theme nearly completely excised in the movies, as Josh pointedly baiting him (Pelle), being deliberately inappropriate and provocative, often trying to turn it into a “Woke/Cultural Sensitivity Contest” which Pelle was not interested in “playing”. He (Pelle) even mentioned to Dani, when she noticed, as Josh trying to deliberately upset/irk him (Pelle).]
And then the kicker: neither Pelle nor the Elders will favour Josh over Christian, or Christian over Josh. They can work together, they can work independently, they can share credit, they can jointly or separately publish (none of which appeals to Josh, knowing how scattered Christian is - as will be seen - and how, if there is any collaboration, he - Josh - will be doing the lion’s share of the work, while Christian will gobble up at least 50% of the hard-earned credit). All as they like... but the Hårga will not adjudicate who “deserves” access, how much, etc. in this, they are equal. Both agree, but the Audience can quickly see they will revert to whom they are in the gathering of this info, foreshadowed to be moot. Not even the Audience can truly buy into the Hårga, even in the blinding luminescence and seemingly amenable sincerity, allowing light into what is quickly being revealed as the very dark corners and undercurrents of their unremittingly sunny Midsommar world.
Josh feels doubly-aggrieved, as surely even Pelle has noticed that while he, Josh, has been constantly devoted to his studies, ever reading, ever observing, ever writing, making notes, tap-tap-tapping on his laptop, Christian has been so unfocused and uninterested that he’s been unable to narrow down even a subject of interest, despite the scholarly encouragement of Josh and the emotional encouragement of Dani, both of whom have greater personal concerns and commitments of their own.
While Mark, whose own academic style could be termed flotsam as best, sees everything, puerilely as ever, a matter of Dani’s lack of enthusiastic fulfillment of Christian’s libido, even Dani’s devastating family tragedy is used by Christian as a handy excuse for his dearth of activity aside from the purely social (which includes alcohol and recreational drugs). Given the highly competitive, even cutthroat, nature of doctoral-level studies, Christian must be feeling the heat of his professors. While Dani mentions (to Pelle) that she’s been given academic latitude by the university due to her situation, this is not likely to be an understanding extended to her boyfriend, especially as academic boards and advisors are not fools in general. They know whom their students are. If Christian has long been an inert jellyfish, clinging to Josh, riding on his coattails and those of others, they’re not going to give him even more excuse to do so. No doubt Christian would see this as Dani’s “fault”, too, just one more area in which her “neediness” and issues have put pressure on him.
Christian must have really moved to pigeon-hole Pelle and get in his pleas for intercession (to the Elders) and permissions (from the Elders) before the neatly-organized, meticulously-planning, focused, academic, Josh. Again, this shows the position Pelle holds in his community. While yes, people are more likely to appeal to a friend for help, especially a friend that is in the community that holds the power of agreement and cooperation, Pelle is unique amongst the Hårga and the “Outsiders”, moving easily between the groups, well-liked by all.
Seeing Christian for what he is, Josh is livid. This isn’t a game for him, he is a pure academic, his dissertation is extremely important and the key to his future career. As with everything else, Christian is just “winging it”, seeing always a shortcut between what he wants and what he must do to get it, always with the least amount of effort on his part, even when this means betraying a hard-working friend who has done all the scut work and carefully laid the foundation, step by step... as well as, as Josh stonily “reminds” Christian, “carried” Christian during the latter’s periods of inability, ineptitude, and unwillingness. This is a huge betrayal, as Josh cares deeply (if not necessarily personally about the Hårga; Academia demands a certain professional “remove”) and Christian really does not (on any level). It’s just another “easy answesolution” that has dropped into Christian’s lap.
Christian isn’t even all that interested in the Hårga. Like a pubescent male, his attention is caught by shocking, violent, bloody ritual and an apparent casual attitude towards sex. (Pelle has deftly played on Christian’s puerile weakness for the idea of unfettered, uncomplicated sex with beautiful, willing Swedish girls from one of the very first scenes in the film, back in the bar with “just the guys” and the pretty, flirty waitress). These are not things that “wow” educated anthropologists nor ones used to field work. They’re well aware of that the world is filled with different belief systems, rituals and social mores.
Let’s recall Josh is aware of the Ättestupa, even if he’s a little perversely eager to see its effects on his unknowing friends. Josh himself finds there is a great difference between reading about these events, perhaps even seeing still pictures or even documentary footage, and actually witnessing them, up close and personal. Josh is more shaken than perhaps he ever expected. His previous, smirking foreknowledge with Pelle is gone, replaced by the jarring horror of the reality.
Äldre Ylva’s swan dive, while violent, bloody and explicit (with the “bounce” common to suicide jumps onto solid surfaces) Äldre Arbetaren’s leap is badly-executed (so to speak), possibly motivated by fear or the hysterical pleas and attempts at intervention of Simon and Connie (especially Simon). Äldre Arbetaren’s choice of positioning nearly-guarantees a miserable end (guess the Hårga don’t offer instruction on graceful, painless Ättestupa exits as part of their “life curriculum” 😳). While the Hårga wail (I personally would not have been in the least “comforted” by that; hurry and get the damned cudgel, people!) the real terror sets in. It’s not just the Ättestupa, the disconcerting, blinding white-sunniness of the scene, the public-ness (though, interesting, it does not appear that all, or even the majority of the Hårga are in attendance); it’s the aftermath when the Ättestupa fails to go... smoothly (as far as death-by-violent-deceleration-onto-rocks-from-a-great-height can be expected to go). Yes, they’re prepared (Aster’s nicely-researched and historically-accurate Viking cudgel). No matter what Siv’s beautifully-worded, high-minded and spiritual assurances, the agonized state of Äldre Arbetaren and his poorly-executed launch, horrible “landing”, agonized “wait” and rather measured-to-the-point-of-lagging, coup de grace/“mercy-killing” is brutal.
Regardless, the reality, the physical experience, knocks more than a touch of smugness from Josh.
Later, on the topic of their dissertations and possible collaboration, even as both agree (Christian, far less taken advantage of than Josh, and therefore far more affable in his agreement), though both later privately continue their dispute. The only thing missing is both shown “crossing their fingers behind their backs”. Whatever they have assured Pelle, and through him, the Elders, Josh is beyond livid, Christian is well aware he’s a complete opportunist, and the competition, by all means fair or foul, is on. So focused are they on this new, now completely in-the-open academic and hearts-and-minds death match for the Hårga, they completely miss the danger from the calm, affable, Botticelli Angel-faced Pelle, from whom the Elders and the Hårga take many of their “cues”.
Josh and Christian continue in their completely oppositional “styles”. Josh is methodical. He takes notes. He records things on his laptop. Christian just floats around, asking questions apparently as they occur, and seeming not to notice when Pelle or the Hårga “redirect” him. Josh seems more aware, but has the reticence of not pushing too hard, seeming to have the strategy of “circling back later” or discovering confirmation or information by another source.
The competition though, leads Josh to make a deadly mistake. No means no. Given the Hårgas’ incredible discretion and secrecy, it is a literal rare gift for Josh to receive what amounts to a guided tour of the Sacred Temple and a Cliff’s Notes version of the Rubi Radr, whose hundreds of notebooks neatly line the walls. The Elder is affable and easy, but surely even a Anthropology Doctoral Candidate would have the sense to remain immensely respectful, even reticent, to stay on his toes, that offense can quickly be taken, albeit not meant, and so instantly shut down what had been moving along in a very promising interview. Even as the Elder stresses the mysticism, even holiness, of the interpretation of Ruben’s smudges (they’re too disordered and overly-blended even to be termed “finger painting” aside from in the broadest sense, and made from the smearing of paint-laden palms rubbed on paper, not daubs made with any apparent figures in mind), Josh just can’t help himself, and despite what can be imagined to be all previous and meticulously-detailed promises, vows and rules... asks to take pictures.
What amiable rhythm of Q and A going on abruptly stops dead. Josh may have believed he was making headway; one rule bent (his very presence in the Temple); a second rule following (being shown the Radi Rabr); yet another rule (as the Rubi Radr is explained, Ruben’s blotches “translated”, the Elders’ “inspiration”; the runes shown (AFAICR) “written” in a circular manner, the identification of one rune as that for “grief”, Ruben and other Oracles being the products of deliberate, selective incestuous breeding, the empty pages explained as the Rubi Radr being a living account, every developing, continuing....). Josh should have been writing as fast as he could and committing as much as he could to memory. He was receiving an enormous amount of information about which any anthropologist would have been over the freaking moon, straight from the lips of an Elder, who was being pretty open, only a bit reticent here and there, discreet, and redirecting a few times. All in all, a pretty great interview. But Josh, those victories piling up, just has to break the stated rules. It’s one thing when the Interviewed, in this case, the Elder, chooses to break a rule. Keep one’s mouth shut, and let the man talk. Josh can’t resist; he asks to photograph the Rubi Radr.
All warmth disappears. It’s suddenly Siberia as the Elder looks horrified. Josh must be a special kind of stupid not to realize that pictures of Ruben’s palm-painting would bring the Hårga in for the worst kind of religious and societal condescension; their “Oracle” is a severely mentally and physically disabled boy, a product of deliberate inbreeding? Perhaps believable in the 12th century, but in the first fifth of the 21st? Elders who believed they could “translate” that, and were believed to, trusted to, into infallible dogma unquestionably followed by an entire community? Forget the Ättestupa, the magic runes that foretold the future and could work the will of their carvers, forget les apértilfs of menstrual blood and hallucinogenics, the meat tarts with the little “extra” of short and curly... there are pagan cults flourishing all over the world for whom those things are not considered necessarily batshit, or even outré (the public seincide aside).
Faith and Belief are very personal things, and steeped in what outsiders find, at best, at kindest, unlikely. For those that believe, no proof is necessary. For those who do not, none is possible. The Hårga believe, and they believe Ruben is their Oracle, that the Elders “translate” what comes “unclouded” from “the Source” through Ruben. Even if Josh had entered the Temple completely unknowing, even what is shown in the movies depicts Josh, again, allegedly a trained Anthropologist working on his PhD, an immense amount of information. Even if we, as the audience, could fairly predict ol’ Josh was not going to make it back to New York to write up this great information and stun the academic Anthropological World with a stunning, ground-breaking dissertation, he could have been a bit quicker on the uptake.
What was soon to be revealed then still under wraps, Josh completely jumped the shark. There could be only one reason to photograph the Rubi Radr: the photographs would inevitably be shared and “get out”. What the Hårga held to be their holiest would be “out in the world” to be parsed and judged, nothing any believer of any faith would enjoy.
Though Josh immediately retreats into appropriately submissive and respectful acquiescence, the look on the Elder’s face as changes from an amiable sharing of information he considers holy, otherworldly, to almost resignation. Josh was going to die before ever setting foot in the Temple or seeing the Rubi Radr, but now, the Elder’s face “says” he’s really going to deserve it.
It’s another confirmation of Pelle’s excellent “sense” of people: Josh, the Academic so venial and competitive he’s willing to break the “rules” of his own “religion” (Academia, Anthropology, Field Work). When when barred from what he wants (which is the inalienable right of the Hårga or any other culture or society), and disregarding the gift (access) that he was given (a prize in and of itself), he’s willing to steal (all of which the Hårga easily knew - obviously not their first rodeo - and so lay in wait). Even given all he was (the info), Josh wanted more, and felt up to the challenge of stealing (through photography) what he had been expressly forbidden. (So much for his self-righteous, high perch on the Woke Tree; a position mercifully excised from the movies and, AFAICR, appearing only in the script/s?.)
The focus again on Ingemar and his guests, in unspoken opposition to Pelle’s and his. While Josh, as stated above, at least had a general idea, Pelle has not warned Mark (whose love of the shocking and prurient would have almost demanded his attendance; Pelle’s prescience in keeping the ever-juvenile Mark from desiring to attend again showing his facility), Christian or even the fragile Dani, whom he has to know will feel associations to the murders-suicide of her entire family, especially her “Elders”. That Pelle allows this jarring shock shows not so much a lack “awareness” or empathy (all for which he is “famous” and commended), but because it will open a door to greater intimacy with Dani, an ulterior goal. The sensitive and strategic Pelle can bet that Christian will be blasted out of his ennui and focus newly to compete with Josh academically, leaving Dani physically and emotionally abandoned, as always. Pelle also has just the right “touch”; he does not “push” Dani, who even in her horrified, tearful state, considers the feelings of and her (tattered) bond with Christian, and does not fall gratefully into Pelle’s discreetly-offered, comforting embrace. In the movies (if not in the script/s?) Dani even declines a sachet Pelle offers her, that he tells her will “calm and soothe” her (he even takes a deep whiff himself). Very possibly wary of any more hallucinogenics (God bless her; she must be able to feel all planetary movements by now), Dani resists the possible “easy chemical answer” to the latest assault (the Ättestupa) on her psyche and the predictable abandonment of Christian (places to go, people to talk to, dissertation subjects to steal) immediately following. Even that Christian has (again) abandoned her with a barely-lukewarm “solicitous” suggestion she go “rest” (with no real offer to accompany, much less truly comfort, her), Christian’s habitual short-attention span has been captured by the events of the Ättestupa, and what it could mean for his long-neglected dissertation, and... him.
I don’t think Pelle is necessarily manipulating anyone. In a line that may have been deleted from the movies, when asked if he (Pelle) had “brainwashed” Josh, Pelle replies that Josh was “already” brainwashed when he (Pelle) met him. As the Elders point out, Pelle has an acute sense of people. He’s not making them “into” anything. It’s who they (already) are. The difference is, they are now (unknowingly) in a life or death environment.
If you steal the subject of someone’s dissertation, they’re going to be angry; especially if they’re a friend. You can complain to your Board, to the Professors, register a complaint. But really, the burden of proof is on you, how far you want to take it, at what cost, and how amoral and venial your (former) friend is. As surprising and hurtful as it may be, people will line up both in support and “against” you, the truth often becoming subjective or even lost. Information and intellectual property can be stolen, even blatantly. This can all be taken to Court, but the usual winners are the lawyers, as hundreds of thousands of dollars can be spent in motions and court time with very little benefit, but often much damage, to the actually aggrieved.
One of the tenets on which the Hårga operate is the isolation and secrecy of the practice of such rites as the Nonagintennial Midsommar Festival. By its nature, and what it entails, it cannot be completely open to the faithful, the local, the merely curious and the uninitiates alike. Descriptions, to say nothing of pictures, of Ruben, the Radi Radr and even what the Hårga might consider the most banal and commonplace of their beliefs and lifestyles would be horrifying, even in the context of an anthropological and/or ethnographical study. What is “that much different” from what is considered “normal” often falls on uneven, disdained, even cruelly condescended, terrain.
From all that is said and noted of Pelle in the first portion of the movies, he’s a pro. The uptick begins especially after the disappearance of Mark. Though Simon and Connie, are gone earlier, and as terribly weak as the excuses for their separate “departures” were, they did announce they were noping out of the entire Hårga Experience. The subtle difference is not in their deaths, but in the misdirection: they announced, most certainly, loudly, and vociferously, even profanely, that they were leaving, and they did.
Mark is similar. He announces, even when the stupid wanker should have been cautious and on his toes, Ulf’s baleful eyes following him everywhere, and his wang still damp from his incandescently stupid “watering” of the Sacred Roltvolta, that he’s off to see what Inge has offered to “show him”.
No one is snatched from their beds, or yanked out of the bathroom while perched on the Throne. Each of these people have left, of their own accord, if not from the midst of wildly happy people, than not in the midst of an argument, either.
Josh and Christian cannot complain of any poor treatment from or by the Hårga. They quickly become so focused and competitive with one another that the Hårga, and including Dani, are nearly background; the Hårga being more important than Dani because they’re the source of information and Dani is merely perpetually-weepy, emotional luggage. They’re (Josh and Christian) slow (if they pick up on it at all), that while they don’t find anything special about Dani, the Hårga do. While Josh goes for forbidden information, and Christian employs his scattergun, hit-and-miss, ooo squirrel! methods of collecting information, Dani is actually soaking up the authentic Hårga Experience. The Hårga pull her from her painful, lonely, self-imposed isolation. Dani is eager to be of use, and lacks ulterior motives. She accepts an apron, uncomplainingly works in what must be a stifling hot bakery/kitchen, acclimated, seeing where she might be most useful, questioning nothing, receiving (with some happy surprise) and returning compliments,
It is only the Nonagintennial Midsommar Celebration that entails sacrifices. Pelle is spoken of complimentarily that he has such a nice, finely-tuned “sense” of people; obviously, he had brought “nice” guests to other Hårga celebrations, whether the “usual” Midsommar festivities or other ones possibly devoted to other solstices and equinoxes (I can’t imagine the “Midvintersolståndet” [Mid-Winter Solstice] being popular; besides being the shortest day of the year (21-22 December) in a Winter similar to perpetual night, it has to be colder than a corpse’s boob in a brass bra; Pelle describes the housing at the Hårga Compound being for Summer use only, that no one could survive there in Winter.). The two equinoxes, Vernal, 15 March, heralds Spring, while the Autumnal, 23 September, similarly begins Fall, and both are days of equal hours of day and night. Being Nature and Season-based, I imagine the Hårga mark these events with special rites and ceremonies.
No doubt, the clever Pelle plays his role in them.
submitted by Walkuerenritt