FORCE MAJEURE

space
4 stars
Soaked in Scandinavian cool, Ruben Östlund's ski-resort shocker is the kind of art-house drama that Bergman or Hanneke might make, pivoting as it does on deep, psychological trauma. Even then, it's unlikely they'd lend quite the same internal anxiety or external discomfort achieved in this distressing movie.
space
space
Set over five days on a French mountain for well-heeled holiday makers, events unfold in chapters marked by jarring bursts of gothic Vivaldi. Östlund deploys similar explosives aimed at cracking the Ikea veneer of his outwardly perfect Swedish family, and the sympathy of his audience.

If an expensive skiing holiday is a marker, everything is perfectly structured in the lives of Tomas, Ebba and their two children. Then a controlled avalanche – a paradox that speaks to the entire film – threatens verandah tables where the family is eating. It's a terrifying moment and diners panic: Ebba grabs the kids, Tomas grabs his phone and runs. Danger passes without incident and no one is harmed, at least physically. Emotionally it is an entirely different matter as they challenge one another's recollection of fight-or-flight, with damaging consequences.

Fore Majeure is densely theatrical in nature, broadly cinematic in style. Östlund commands his crisp, unwavering camera that brings us into the most personal, seemingly banal moments of their cool, ordered lives while a passionate storm rages all around. Pivotal scenes are intensely shocking in their apparent simplicity: Ebba quietly challenges Tomas over dinner with strangers, then noisily in front of his best friend. They're devastating moments, veneer-cracking noisy ones, not simply for the circumstances of attack and defence, but the structural decay they reveal.

Like Hanneke, the 'pleasure' of Östlund is in his command of silence and detail within a long held frame. A sigh or physical twitch says more than a line of dialogue and what is says is more alarming and more provocative than anyone bargains for.

// COLIN FRASER

Previewed at Sony Theatrette, Sydney on 27 August 2014
space


space
STARRING
Johannes Kuhnke
Lisa Loven Kongsli
Clara Wettergren
Vincent Wettergren

DIRECTOR
Ruben Östlund

SCREENWRITER
Ruben Östlund

COUNTRY
Sweden / Denmark / Norway (subtitles)

CLASSIFICATION
M

RUNTIME
118 minutes

AUSTRALIAN
RELEASE DATE
October 16, 2014
space
Force Majeure (2014) on IMDb
space