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Force Majeure

July 14, 2016

Force Majeure (2014)
Director: Ruben Östlund
Actors: Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Kristofer Hivju

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Synopsis: A Swedish couple with two young children find their relationship coming unhinged during an eventful skiing holiday in the French Alps.

Review: One of the most formally accomplished films of recent times, Ruben Östlund’s stately Force Majeure at first appears a Stanley Kubrick-cum-Michael Haneke hybrid  – although in its austere situational crises, Östlund touches on elements of satire that would place this more in the realm of a classic bourgeois farce.

Östlund certainly exacts every last ounce of potential from his deluxe ski resort location – finding arresting sonic and visual compositions which don’t just function as exhibitions of smarmified cinematography but that actually create almost an otherworldly, beguiling sense of place which perfectly compliments the narrative’s growing sense of dread and doom. The early, seminal avalanche scene is a particular masterclass in direction – its effect is as uncanny as the sense of unease it spawns in the married couple.

Just once or twice, Östlund overstates the subtler, metaphoric qualities of his story, and the marital crisis does get a bit wrought and soapy in the final third. However, there are far more ingenious scenes to appreciate: my two personal favourites being how Östlund cleverly taps into the social awkwardness of two different sets of friends both becoming privy to the unravelling angst of the married couple in excruciating dinner sequences, and then there’s the tense denouement of the family skiing precariously back down the slope in foggy and blizzard-like conditions (they literally fade in and out of white-hued abysses) – it’s gripping filmmaking. (July 2016)

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