Winter 2015 Features series
Sunday, January 18, 2015 at 4:00pm
Sunday, January 18, 2015 at 7:00pm
Directed by Ruben Östlund
Screenplay by Ruben Östlund
Starring Clara Wettergren, Lisa Loven Kongsli, and Johannes Kuhnke
Rated PG ·
Norway / France / Sweden
English and Swedish
One of the most daring and audacious filmmakers to emerge in the last decade, Ruben Östlund hit a new peak with Force Majeure, a critical hit at the 2014 Cannes festival. As in his previous films Involuntary and Play, with his latest Östlund turns a keenly analytic eye on those principles we supposedly live by, and explores what happens when the codes of conduct enforcing those principles are abruptly stripped away.
On a family skiing vacation in the French Alps, married couple Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are enjoying lunch with their two children when their meal is suddenly interrupted by thunderous booms emanating from the mountain above them. The complacent Tomas initially dismisses the possibility of danger—but when it appears that there may be an avalanche, he grabs his cell phone and bolts, leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves. The remainder of the film monitors the fallout from this fateful incident, as husband and wife hotly debate what actually occurred, and what Tomas’ proper response should have been—a battle that eventually threatens not just Tomas and Ebba’s relationship, but those of the people around them.
Both psychologically and sociologically acute, Force Majeure boasts a number of bravura moments that range from terrifying to comic—most notably, and daringly, an indelible, extended crying jag/confession from one of the principals. While this climactic moment is on the one hand self-serving, convoluted and shambolic, it also seems bizarrely honest. Probing that paradox with intelligence and incisiveness, it is little wonder that Östlund has earned comparisons to such masterful cinematic social critics as Michael Haneke and Östlund’s countryman and mentor Roy Andersson.
“Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund puts marriage under a squirm-inducing microscope in a stylish, acutely observant psychodrama that changes tone so deftly between social comedy of manners and mournful meditation on gender roles that the viewer isn’t quite sure whether to laugh or sigh. But Ostlund is too wise to limit Force Majeure to mere sociology: With a seamless mix of crystalline digital cinematography and magnificent computer-generated effects, he situates his protagonists within a universe as vast, forbidding and indifferent as the starscape of Interstellar, but with far more familiar stakes.” (Ann Hornaday, Washington Post)
“Force Majeure is ultimately about something not often explored in film: the consequences of male weakness in a world in which men are expected to be strong at all times.” (Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor)
“Unlike American movies, where our identification with one character or another would likely be imposed from the outset, Force Majeure stands back from its couple, allowing us to inspect the characters from a discreet distance and draw our own conclusions.” (Godfrey Cheshire, RogerEbert.com)