Force Majeure

 

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Psychologically complex analysis of a marriage on the slopes, set against the stunning backdrop of the French Alps.

 

Force Majeure

    

A Swedish couple and their two young children take a skiing trip in the French Alps. Now, the setting alone is cause for concern. Tomas and Ebba are on top of the world – and out of breath. But the forces at play are not so much of the vertiginous – or precipitous – kind, but of the familial. Tomas, the handsome, can-do husband, has become a victim of himself... 

 

Accumulating the aspect of a thriller, Ruben Östlund's Force Majeure – taking, for its title, the legal term for excusable behaviour due to unforeseen circumstances – is steeped in foreboding. As far from National Lampoon’s Vacation as you can get, the film marks its territory by showing Tomas, Ebba and their children, Vera and Harry, settle into the day-to-day routine of their trip. With the blinding silence of the Alpine slopes buttressing the atmosphere of both the real and the surreal, the film reserves its musical cues (Vivaldi’s more menacing chords) for its nocturnal interludes. Here, when night closes in, the vacationers seem more at the mercy of the elements than during the sunlit hours of horseplay and luscious scenery. Östlund milks these nocturnal sequences for all they’re worth, intercepting the relentless, steady snowfall with the ghostly booms sounded out to test the firmness of the snow. 

 

Visually, the film is mesmerising, frequently exploiting the disorientation of the vection illusion, when the protagonist appears to be moving but is actually stationary. This, too, cleverly underlines the relationship of Tomas and Ebba, a couple that would appear to be moving forward but are being dragged back by events possibly beyond their control. As psychologically complex as any real marriage, the film never overplays its hand and even, at times, flirts with dark humour. If one can imagine Bergman on the piste, one would be on the right track.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju, Fanni Metelius.

 

Dir Ruben Östlund, Pro Erik Hemmendorff, Marie Kjellson and Philippe Bober, Screenplay Ruben Östlund, Ph Fredrik Wenzel, Pro Des Josefin Åsberg, Ed Jacob Secher Schulsinger, Music Ola Fløttum, Costumes Pia Aleborg.

 

Beofilm/Coproduction Office/Film i Väst/Motlys/Plattform Produktion/Rhône-Alpes Cinéma/Société Parisienne de Production-Artificial Eye.

119 mins. Sweden/France/Norway/Denmark. 2014. Rel: 10 April 2015. Cert. 15.