Full text of review…
You may remember earlier this year a video from Oscar nominations day, where two filmmakers excitedly waited around their computer, watching the nominations be read out, only to be left off. They walked around the room angrily, swearing, and even crying. They were the people behind Force Majeure, and the video was undoubtedly an staged extension of the films commentary on masculinity. The film uses an otherwise idyllic situation, a getaway to the French alps, to explore the notion of masculinity and relationship dynamics between Tomas and Ebba, a Swedish husband and wife. The lodge they’re staying in feels more like a rabbit warren or a prison than a place for a holiday, a place where tensions build and build, constricted in a confined space, before spilling over. It is swept daily in a repetitive scene set to dramatic violin music, almost wiping the blood away from the previous days battle as the family gets ready in a grey bathroom, yet again, the tension tightening with each instance. Ostlund’s script is grim and cold but is bitingly, awkwardly hilarious. It relies heavily on set piece comedy, Tomas’s incompetence with ski boot buckles or constantly sneaking a look at his phone making for some hilarious scenes. He combines this with a widescreen presentation camera that feels like a person observing the events through a glass wall or from across the room, staring at the family and gawking at them, given too much access. It’s wildly effective and unsettling, a technique that only heightens the discomfort that comes from laughing at the embarrassing situations the characters find themselves in. In a culture that feeds on a privilege to be given front row seats to personal lives, Force Majeure is relevant, lasting, and very, very funny. Much like Gone Girl last year, it’s a film that is sure to result in many an argument between couples.
Force Majeure is out on DVD now from Madman Films.