Film Review: “Force Majeure” (2014)


Written by: Ruben Östlund

Directed by: Ruben Östlund

Cinematographer: Fredrik Wenzel

Country: Sweden/France/Denmark/Norway

Language: Swedish/Engish

Run Time: 118 min

Cast: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Konsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Brady Corbet, Jakob Granqvist, Kristofer Hivju, Fanni Metelius

Does it really matter how strong the family bonds are if a member of that family acts cowardly when his love, strength, quick thinking, and braveness were all that was needed in one of the most dangerous situations they had ever encountered? In “Force Majeure”, written and directed by Ruben Östlund, an unfortunate reality is revealed in a beautiful wrapper; but beautiful wrappers do not always contain tasty candy. Unfortunately, the avalanche in the French Alps, will not look as deadly or dangerous in comparison to the aftermath, when it smashes right into the heart of someone, leaving them with nothing but frustration, disappointment and an emptiness in their heart, which was full of love and pride for the family they thought they had.

A happily married couple with their two kids are enjoying their ski holiday in the grandly, beautiful French Alps. They have only five days to forget about their daily routines, work, and problems that they have left behind. But their first day on holiday, they find themselves staring down an avalanche, which causes chaos and panic for all the tourists. Despite the fact that the  avalanche did not have much time to build enough speed to destroy everything on its way down; the aftermath is what the happily married couple could not have forseen – the absolutely unpredictable, dangerous situation, requiring self-sacrifice and courage which makes them face a much bigger danger than the avalanche, and could easily tear their family apart.

Force Majeure is a Swedish family drama written and directed by Ruben Östlund, which brought to him the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, and was, also screened in the Special Presentation section of the 2014 Toronto International Festival. However, the biggest success is yet to come, as Force Majeure has been selected as the Swedish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, and, which I assume, will end up in the top five nominations. Ruben Östlund is a talented filmmaker, who started his directing career directing skiing films. This may be why he chose to make his big feature film where his heroes are on a ski holiday; where they have to face an avalanche and its aftermath.

It seems Ruben Östlund owns the entire film; carefully directing every scene; telling the story the way he planned, with a talented cast who successfully translates the story onto the big screen with fabulous performances. Östlund especially knows how to capture the struggle of Tomas, played by Johannes Kuhnke, Ebba, played by Lisa Loven Kongsli, and their kids, who understandably are not happy with the sudden uncontrollable changes in their family during their holiday in the French Alps.

It is hard to pick a particular scene from this masterfully made film, as every scene has its own story to tell, and a deep meaning which we may find a little bit disturbing. A wise dialogue, with an irony, makes Force Majeure an absolute delight to watch. The performance delivered by the entire cast is superb, and compelling, and truly makes us believe their tragedy.

Force Majeure is a rare jewel of cinematography and another masterpiece from European filmmakers, which once again proves that European filmmakers, as no one else, know how to tell the family drama stories in such an attractive way. Because family is one of the important things we have to value and keep no matter what. And if the real chance is given to show our love and willingness to protect what and who we love, we must do it without thinking twice, because there might be no second chance.

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