Take a Drink: for every shot of the family in harmony
Do a Shot: when that bed gets shat
Take a Drink: whenever somebody brings up what happened
Take a Drink: whenever the Relationships Angel of Death (aka cleaner guy) shows up
Take a Drink: for ominous shots of the resort machinery or explosions
Do a Shot: for that damn phone (didn’t forget that!)
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Force Majeure‘s director Ruben Ostlund actually said that he hopes his film inspires more divorces through its frank portrayal of marriage. So, I watched it with my wife, because I live dangerously like that.
This film is centered on the ski vacation of a quintessentially perfect Swedish upper middle class family. This portrait of domestic bliss is smashed when a controlled avalanche produces a brief moment of apparent danger to the family- and one of the family members doesn’t react like they should.
Ostlund knows exactly what he wants to do here- chip away at the facade of one couple’s stereotypically happy family, and perhaps by extension everyone’s- and he attacks it with cold Nordic precision. Everything is immaculate, from the production design of this unspecified ski resort and hotel to the straight from a Land’s End catalog matching ski-wear, to his and DP Fredrik Menzel’s studious framing, which takes advantage of their gorgeous location. The avalanche scene in particular is a spectacular achievement both from a technical and actorial perspective. They had one shot, and nailed it.
I presume they CGI’d out the brown stains.
He also exerts a masterful control of the film’s tone. The story unfolds like a car crash in slow motion, but the car’s full of clowns… wow, sounds more like a horror than comedy, eh? What I’m trying to say is while the drama is compelling, watching this picture perfect family come apart at the seams is viciously funny in that cringe-worthy Ricky Gervais sort of way. Mistakes are made, gender norms are desperately clung to, and everything, *ahem* avalanches steadily out of control.
The acting is across the board excellent, but in an understated way, full of subtle tics and details. These are people who lie, but perhaps even more to themselves than anyone else- attempting to confirm to gender and relationship ideals that they perhaps aren’t cut out for, or don’t entirely understand.
A decent amount of the dialogue is actually in English, but typical of wordy ESL scripts, sometimes is clunky, or delivered so. The bigger problem is the very conscious distance Ostlund keeps his characters at. He often crops their faces and heads just out of frame, or opts to show them in reflections instead of head on, and I don’t remember a single closeup shot. This effect accentuates the dark comedy of the piece, but at the complete detriment to emotion. We don’t ever get a feel for who they really are, shut out as we are.
Remember what I said about the catalog?
Force Majeure is a pitch black, brutally funny relationship comedy that ultimately is more of an assault on traditional masculinity than marriage. If we ever get to a point as passionless as these two, we’ll have bigger fish to fry than traditional gender roles.