Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Submitted by Sweden: Force Majeure
least it was an iPhone. If it had been a generic droid Tomas grabbed before
abandoning his family in the face of an apparent but unrealized disaster, it
really would have been embarrassing. His wife is still pretty disgusted, but he
will deny everything in Ruben Östlund’s Force
opens this Friday in New York.
its Cannes credentials, Force was a
logical choice for Sweden’s official foreign language Academy Award submission,
but it is not the sort sentimental cheer that warms older members’ hearts.
Nevertheless, it is a story about family. Swedish workaholic (if such a person
exists) Tomas has finally set aside five days for a skiing trip in the French
Alps. The view is spectacular from a mountainside restaurant, but when a
controlled avalanche gets a little too close, Tomas grabs said phone and
skedaddles, leaving Ebba behind with their young son and tweener daughter. When
he sheepishly returns, acting as if nothing happened, their meals are covered
in a light dusting of snow, but the damage to their family unit will be
Tomas tries to play it off, Ebba keeps forcing the issue throughout the
increasingly testy day, even bringing casual acquaintances at the lodge into
their drama. Despite their attempts to shield the kids from the worst of it,
the issue continues to fester with everyone. When Tomas’s mate Mats arrives
with his twenty year old girl friend, they are effectively enlisted to render
an independent judgment. However, the loaded story fuels their own clash of the
Östlund set out hoping to make viewers wince and whisper “wow, that’s awkward”
than Force is a smashing success. He
has a real knack for putting his characters under a microscope and making them
squirm, which is impressive (and exhausting) to watch. He also cleverly transforms
the relatively mundane hotel setting into something cold, dark, and severe,
often showing the couples’ confrontations from the perspective of a janitor
watching from across the rotunda.
terms of tone, Force is reminiscent of
Thomas Vinterberg’s dogme classic The
Celebration, except no laws are broken. Yet, there is certainly a strong
sense of betrayal when Tomas fails to uphold the unspoken standards of
masculinity and fatherhood. While the mountains dwarf Östlund’s characters, his
interior shots have a palpable sense of claustrophobia.
Loven Kongsli’s performance as Ebba is smart and, if you will, forceful. You
can see her picking the emotional scab for almost masochistic and sadist
reasons alike, but she never launches into outrageously over-the-top-Meryl-Streep-in-Osage-County
territory. In contrast, it is Johannes Kuhnke’s job to slowly deflate Tomas,
which he does quite convincingly. Game of
Thrones’ Kristofer Hivju’s Mats is also quite an engaging sad sack inadvertently
caught up in his pal’s mess.
Östlund leaves the door open for redemption in a finale that seems quite out of
place compared to everything it follows, but he never does any favors for
tourism in the French Alps. This film will make the beach look like a better
destination until the next tsunami movie comes along. A bracingly well play
spectacle of family disintegration, Force
Majeure is recommended for those who appreciate caustic chamber dramas when
it opens this Friday (10/24) in New York at the Lincoln Plaza uptown and the
Angelika Film Center downtown.
Labels: Ruben Ostlund, Scandinavian Cinema