Force Majeure (2014)

“There’s nothing in your head that you haven’t said!”

‘Force Majeure’, directed by Ruben Östlund in 2014, is a Swedish domestic drama. A businessman called Tomas, Johannes Bah Kuhnke, is spending the week skiing with his family: his wife Ebba, played by Lisa Loven Kongsli, and his two children. One lunchtime, they are outside on a restaurant balcony watching a controlled avalanche. The avalanche is more powerful than intended, however, and a cloud of snow engulfs the balcony panicking the diners. Tomas seemingly abandons his family to take shelter and, although they turn out all to be safe, his actions create friction between him and his wife who feels he has not acted as a father should. The rest of the film deals with Ebba’s feeling on unease with her husband, and Tomas’s feeling of guilt and emasculation. It’s a chilly, clinical film. The alpine setting is a pleasing background for the domestic story, both emphasising the frostiness between the characters but also serving as a source of metaphor for the main plot. Characters become lost in the snow, isolated, they take refuge in the warm but constructed cosiness of the hotel. It’s a dark movie about relationships, similar in focus to Asghar Farhadi’s ‘A Separation’, but here it is the setting and the cinematography that really makes it stand out. Somehow, Östlund manages to make the mountains both agoraphobic and claustrophobic – that combination of comforting, romantic, clinical and frightening. The alpine setting becomes a scaffold of contradictions that perfectly shape the confusion and anxiety of the relationship drama.

Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s cold and dry but looks wonderful. Watch with ‘A Separation’ for contrast.

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