Leave the cannoli, take the movies

Review Blog

Force Majeure

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on December 20, 2014 at 5:55 PM


Ruben Östlund




IDEA:  Husband and father Tomas makes a dubious split-second decision when an avalanche seems to be headed toward him and his family. Nobody is physically harmed, but the emotional fallout begins to send shockwaves through a seemingly idyllic relationship.

BLURB:  Force Majeure belongs to a tradition of formally rigorous art films that create atmospheres so eerily becalmed the most ordinary image becomes imbued with an insinuating dread. There’s always the feeling that fragile personal and social equilibriums are being held barely intact beneath a glassy façade, problems held at bay only until the slightest of pressures sends everything crashing to the ground. Collapse is always imminent; as Östlund maintains his fastidiously presented exterior, the people behind it are imploding with astonishing efficiency. Across two agonizing, spectacularly uncomfortable hours, we watch as a family unit’s precarious foundation visibly cracks underneath them, their assumptions, expectations, and insecurities – imposed by gender and self-perception – brought excruciatingly to the fore. Östlund gives neither us nor them anywhere to hide: the false, perhaps untenable ideals that underpin a relationship are dissected and scrutinized unblinkingly, long takes, wide shots, and stifling silences placing human interaction under an anthropological microscope. It’s grueling stuff, and perhaps a mite too studied for its own good, but Östlund’s formal shrewdness, eye for social behavior, and sneaky black humor keep the film’s personal and ethical quandaries alive and smoldering. Best of all, he leaves judgment up to us. The characters may at times be selfish, cowardly, accusatory, or myopic, but their problems, even if we’d like to think otherwise, could emerge at any moment as our own.

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