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Force Majeure – Movie Review

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Force Majeure – Movie Review by Frank L.

Directed by Ruben Ostlund

Writer: Ruben Östlund
Stars: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren

In the French Alps, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and his good looking wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) along with their two kids are on a short skiing holiday. Tomas is a busy successful executive and the holiday will give him time, for once, to place his family at the centre of his thoughts all day. All is tickety-boo in the carefully manufactured perfection of a ski resort and moves along on nice straight conventional tracks until the family are all having lunch in their skiing gear on the outdoor balcony of a restaurant with a breath-taking view. The food is served, everything is picture perfect even the food is delicious. Then out of the blue an avalanche descends which forces the diners to flee for safety. Shortly afterwards the danger having passed they begin to return including Tomas. However Tomas had fled without any regard for the safety of either his wife or the two kids. He had fled to save his own life. His wife and kids see him in a new unflattering light. The perfect holiday starts to unravel his relationship with his wife and his kids. He starts to unravel too.

Alpine ski holiday resorts have created a juxtaposition of the natural world of snow and the unnatural world of skiers, who by various mechanical devices such as ski lifts, snow sprayers and all sort of other gadgetry, reside in the magnificent scenery not to enjoy the snow for what it is but to use it to travel at very fast speeds relying on the steepness of the mountain decline for momentum.

It was a fine backdrop to put a marriage under the microscope. Marital avalanches are a regular occurrence. In this instance an actual avalanche precipitates a marital one. There are many fine moments of alienated body language between the couple, particularly in the bathroom, as they wash their teeth and carry out the daily rituals of washing. The alienation is palpable. Their children are shrewd from when they are asleep when they look cute. There are two other couples imposed into the plot to show “the variety” of life in a ski resort. There is one gem-a rather enigmatic non-speaking hotel employee who sphinx like observes the comings and goings of these rather unlovely people. He turns up every now and again and it was always good to see him as he observed the residents.

This is an honourable attempt to show how in a relationship an unhappy incident that if handled well would not be a problem becomes a problem when it is denied. However there was a dourness which overhung the entire piece. The ski resort was like an open prison. Certainly the open tiered bedroom corridors had a similarity to a conventional prison! There was a remarkable lack of laughter.

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