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Hi everyone, Bryan Here…
Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s bizarre film ‘Force Majeure‘ will no doubt start conversations with your friends and loved ones about how good people can or can’t be when the shit hits the fan. This might be one of the strangest films I’ve seen in a long time, but it also might be brilliant as well. I haven’t seen this organic of a performance in years as Ostlund intimately shows his characters come face to face with their own ugly demons. We meet a picture perfect family consisting of Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and her husband Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), and their two pre-teen kids Harry (Vincent Wettergren) and Vera (Clara Wettergren) as they are posing for pictures on top of a ski slope of a luxurious ski resort.
They are all happy to finally be on holiday for five days together, but little do they know it will be five very long and painful days to come. During lunchtime on their first day, the family is sitting outside at the resorts restaurant having lunch when a controlled avalanche quickly approaches the balcony they are eating on, which causes the guests to panic and run for cover. Tomas leaves his wife and kids, but grabs his phone and gloves and high tales it for safety. Once the smoke clears from the controlled avalanche and everyone realizes nobody is hurt, let alone a wine glass spilled, all seems to go back to normal. But this is the catalyst for the film’s central theme.
Now Ebba thinks that her husband, who works hard, provides, and loves her and the kids, will become a selfish monster when put in real danger, and it obviously is not sitting right with her. She brings up this event during dinner with another adult couple, which is awkward for everyone. Tomas believes he has done nothing wrong but still Ebba gives him the cold shoulder and his kids are not happy with him. Even when they have their friends Mats (Kristofer Hivju) and his teenage girlfriend Fanni (Fanni Metelius) come and visit them, the subject again comes up, which forces us to get into what director Ostlund wants, which is for us to think and hypothesize what we would do in that situation.
Clearly, we see that Mats looses sleep over the thought that someone else would think he would leave his family behind and protect his own skin. Similiar to Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining‘, the story is told over the course of five days with a black screen with white subtitles telling us what day it is. It has that unnerving feeling like anything can happen as well as these characters are on the verge of exploding, because of the circumstances and results of this reaction by Tomas, which makes this once seemingly happy family not on the bright side of life anymore.
Ostlund’s camera work here is top notch and focuses more on wider shots so he can allow his actors to be in their natural state of being throughout this whole awkward situation. Only is it later in the film that we see some bigger camera movements, such as a scene where Tomas gets away from it all to a sweaty night club full of only sweaty almost naked male teenagers. It’s a very chaotic scene visually, and it’s as if Ostlund wanted us to see Tomas unleash his inner beast so he could cope with who he is once and for all. And the performances by everyone here is so real, that you would think this was a really well shot reality show with real people and real situations.
The only gripe from me here is the last fifteen minutes of the film, which seemed to go on too long and not fit with the rest of the story line. Other than that bit of business, ‘Force Majeure‘ is a conversation piece. It’s a film that you will talk about with people for days, and for good reason.
4 out of 5 Stars
– Bryan Kluger