This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Eric Robinson.
Discomfort is definitely the feeling one experiences when watching director Ruben Östlund’s “Force Majeure,” a Swedish film that follows a family on vacation at a ski resort in the French Alps.
After the father, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), has a moment of cowardice, his seemingly perfect life with his wife, Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli), and his two kids is completely shaken.
What follows is an examination of gender roles, masculinity and parenthood, with Ebba keeping Tomas from moving past the event, and Tomas refusing to openly take responsibility for his actions.
Östlund captures the tension between the two parents with long, uninterrupted shots of their conversations that are completely stationary, forcing the audience to witness every moment of their unease. Each talk is like a ticking time bomb, as one wrong word or facial expression has the potential to turn a civil exchange into a full-blown argument.
Östlund’s strengths are in more than just the conversation scenes: His film contains some fantastically beautiful imagery. In one scene, the characters are caught in a snowstorm and barely visible. Faint shadows serve as the only visual aid, and the audience must use them to follow the characters.
In another scene, a stunning pan of the French Alps at nighttime shows little orange lights dotting the peaks in the distance. Even the opening scene, which consists of a simple shot of the French Alps during the day, is gorgeous in the way the blue of the sky contrasts with the pure white of the snow.
But there are moments of “Force Majeure” that seem a little extraneous, particularly in the final scenes. Kuhnke also flubs a few emotional moments toward the end, which dampens the film’s resolution. But Kuhnke lackluster performance doesn’t hamper the bold way “Force Majeure” challenges the image of the “perfect family” and the roles that mothers and fathers are supposed to play.
In one crucial scene, Ebba argues with a woman over open marriages. Ebba is perplexed by the family’s health because it goes against her preconceived notion of how marriages are supposed to work. Such is the problem with Ebba’s marriage: Both partners have expectations for “how marriages work” that get in the way of a healthy relationship.
“Force Majeure” is ultimately a cry for emotional openness and less judgment between married couples. As a cinematic bonus, it does this with flair and beauty.
Released: Oct. 31
Director: Ruben Östlund (“Involuntary”)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Cast: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju, Fanni Metelius