Force majeure Screen 32 articles

Force majeure


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  • Little but the children’s fear of their parents’ separation has any dramatic weight. Östlund’s crisp, repressed direction is itself a stereotype, and his teasing script and convenient resolutions offer only superficial ironies. A peculiarly haunting ending offers more mystery and curiosity in a single shot than does the entire story that precedes it.

  • If Michael Haneke were recruited to direct an American sitcom pilot, the results might look something like this Swedish feature, about an upper-middle-class family vacationing unhappily in the French Alps. Like Haneke, writer-director Ruben Östlund (Play) employs eerily controlled long takes to conjure an air of doom around his characters, yet beneath the commanding surfaces lie some rather basic observations about marriage, parenting, and social conformism.

  • Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure is also too long, but it’s bigger fault is that it borrows the central premise of Julia Loktev’s far superior The Loneliest Planet (2011) and then turns that film’s greatest strength – subtext expressed through ambiguous gestures – into pages and pages of festival-friendly, on-the-nose text. At least it’s funny.

  • There is an off-putting sense that Östlund has stacked the deck against Tomas to make a point or two about a generation gone soft, about men who have become fathers without having grown up themselves. When Tomas and Ebba have drinks with an unfortunate couple staying in the same hotel, the questioning of Tomas’s adequacy infects the other pair of lovers, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? style. It’s more than a bit schematic.

  • Östlund doesn’t have a complete handle on the tone of his movies, and some of his scenes are stronger than others. He’s not as judicious as Haneke, either. (The new movie has a redundant side plot with the couple’s friend.) He’s into games. But Force Majeure has the audience both thinking and entertained. It’s a good game.

  • A movie for anyone whose response to The Loneliest Planet was "But why don't they just talk about it?" Here's the answer: Because that's much less interesting—which is not to say uninteresting, by any means. Very sharp on masculinity, plausibly positing that the man's natural instinct would be staunch denial (until confronted with evidence); the presence of the children complicates matters as well, though some of their behavior rang false to me.

  • It could just be lead Johannes Bah Kuhnke’s unmistakable resemblance to the filmmaker, but much of this hews closer to a Swanberg observational dramedy than the Haneke gestures of Östlund’s previous films, as Ebba and Tomas self-consciously exchange analysis, staving off confrontation with silence or nervous laughter... Östlund shows great, mostly fulfilled structural ambition: I’m embarrassed not to have noted sooner the metaphorical implications of avalanche as inciting incident.

  • As the story of a near-death experience—in which the family unit itself is at risk of dying—Force Majeure is oddly unemotional. It’s far more intrigued by the social construct and concept of family than by how one might actually work. Nevertheless, however ruthless in its aims, Östlund’s film is not ungenerous, allowing us to put ourselves in its characters’ positions rather than stand back and judge them—a form of empathy.

  • Writer/director Ruben Östlund’s ski-resort comedy of social/psychological unease tries to operate at high altitude in more ways than one, aiming somewhere between early Mike Leigh and middle Michael Haneke. In ski parlance, Double Black Diamond terrain: experts only. But this tale of a holidaying Swedish family’s escalating ordeal rife with mishap and dysfunction only intermittently soars — Blue Square stuff at best.

  • Problematic as the movie may be, it reveals Östlund as one of the major international filmmakers... while Force Majeure has a supreme mastery of form and control of audience and subject to make it a calling card for this immensely smart and talented filmmaker, the nature of its form takes uncomfortable liberties with the audience's superiority to what amounts nearly, as with Play, to a formal cinematic experiment carried out before our eyes.

  • Rumour has it that Östlund‘s refusal to trim the scene where Tomas breaks down and weeps uncontrollably cost him a Competition slot. If so, good for him. He’s a master at placing his actors in front of the camera – sometimes solo (like the crying scene), more often in pairs (on a bed, on a sofa, at a restaurant table) – and drawing out their emotional car crashes, then deflating the scene with a moment of comedy.

  • One of the fest’s most humorous, entertaining and accomplished films, the Swedish director’s fourth film is simultaneously his most dynamic and strikingly fluid work yet... In it’s own hermetically sealed way, it’s an entire world unto itself, and one inviting enough to likely catapult Östlund into a new phase of his career.

  • Punctuated by bursts of Vivaldi, the film benefits immensely from Östlund viewing this familial tragedy through a wry microscopic lens, which helps counteract his Haneke-like tendencies: when Tomas bursts out crying after faking tears mere seconds earlier, and then can’t stop, the situation is at the same time funny-sad and funny ha-ha.

  • As [Östlund] digs into the aftermath of Tomas’s split-second transgression, there are some easy, queasy laughs at the expense of the emasculated patriarch, but the film is both sharp and serious in examining the conflict between social role and survival instinct.

  • Östlund liberally drizzles his caustic analysis of contemporary social relations with lashings of discomfiting humour, often involving Tomas’ bearded friend Harry.

  • Always staying just this side of easy bourgie-bugaboo torment via the grace of his excellent actors and his own focused but effectively off-kilter sense of humour—a suddenly activated remote-control flyer gets the biggest laugh—Östlund has crafted the best snowbound farce since The Shining (which it subtly emulates through date-stamped title cards and a key sequence on a vertiginous mountain road) and the best Swedish film about marriage since, well, Scenes from a Marriage.

  • There's hardly a moment when Östlund's command of tone and pacing, his clarity of expression, isn't on display, all of which makesForce Majeure thrilling, intellectual, and beautiful at once. With time, the film digs ever deeper into the frayed psyches of its characters, and if the finale doesn't leave us mired in a confused battle of humans against their worst instincts, it certainly leaves us wrangling with any illusion that civilized behavior is a natural instinct.

  • Unlike [La sapienza], Force Majeure is the opposite of austere. Even without the breathtaking scenery, the ski lodge is given a sort of ersatz grandeur itself. And the big moments swallow up speech in sumptuous visual effects, most obviously the avalanche but also an eerie scene that appears to record a flying saucer’s surveillance of the lodge. The spectacle doesn’t stop in the coda, a vertiginous bus ride that leaves issues of courage and family unity uneasily suspended.

  • There’s definitely a touch of Caché about the film: the pitilessness, the long static shots, the impersonally clean luxury of the enclosed tourist world it evokes, with even the warm brown pine of the hotel décor coming to look antiseptically fake and unwelcoming. There’s also a very Haneke-esque touch to the enigmatic shots of the family in their mirrored bathroom, where you may find yourself wondering nervously where Wenzel’s camera is hidden.

  • Ostlund's chilly aesthetic choices hang over the family's comfortable routine like a storm cloud, accumulating portent through wide-angle shots of majestic yet forbidding snowscapes and the ominous rumbling of avalanche-triggering detonations, the long takes pregnant with the promise of disaster.

  • [It] invites us to ask how we, or perhaps how our loved ones, would behave given these circumstances, and we may not like the answers. (It would hardly be surprising if the film's implicit line of questioning managed to sabotage a few otherwise healthy relationships.) Östlund understands that so much of how we relate to one another is a charade, our roles collectively imposed — and he understands, too, that all it takes is an avalanche for all that order to come crashing down around us.

  • A Swedish family’s skiing trip seems to be going just fine: Apart from a little whining from the kids, all appear to be enjoying themselves. But on that second day, disaster strikes in Ruben Östlund’s remarkably assured and subtle comedy, a film with a delicious sense of unraveling domesticity.

  • A prize-winner at Cannes this year, and easily one of the most impressive European dramas of late, “Force Majeur” is assured and finely calibrated on every level, with especially expert, nuanced performances by its leads. Östlund’s cool, distanced style has been compared to that of Michael Haneke, though the adjective “Kubrickian” might also be applied: Though less horrific (or final) than that of “The Shining,” the alpine marital ordeal chronicled here is no less striking.

  • Even as it is conveying disquieting truths, the film manages to be ruefully, understatedly, and mischievously funny... It’s never obvious or sentimental, never predictable, nor does it descend into domestic soap opera. It’s as explosive and as controlled as the walls of ice and snow tumbling down the mountain.

  • Though it touches upon the comedy of remarriage film, the family vacation film, the bourgeois critique film, and the male-id exposé film, Force Majeure is nonetheless first and foremost something like a science-fiction object, the kind of thing that some heretofore-undetermined future intelligent species might ponder over in collective amusement.

  • Big Ostlund fan, based on this and Play, though what he does is simple, even obvious. He tends to stretch things out, so you wait for the inevitable explosion (even the family photographer in the opening scene, who keeps pestering for another photo, then another). He tends to work symphonically, so e.g. music stops, segue from the hiss of snow machines to the whirr of electric toothbrushes (the family unit, brushing their teeth together), then music starts up again.

  • With all respect to David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure is the best formalist black comedy about marriage since Eyes Wide Shut (1999)... It’s no small wonder that in place of a strident think-piece about what happens when an external crisis knocks a nuclear family sideways, Östlund offers a much wryer, individualized portrait of a clan unconsciously asserting its eccentricities in the face of primal forces.

  • Östlund has claimed that his goal in making Force Majeure was to increase the divorce rate. What separates the film from the simplicity of that ambition (and from the work, for instance, of a filmmaker like Michael Haneke) is the ambivalence pulsing under every scene. It is this extraordinarily human quality that lifts and complicates Force Majeure, causing what could have been another bleak indictment to all but vibrate.

  • The execution is fresh and inventive, from its casting through to its script (those multi-couple dialogues!) enforced by flawless camerawork and editing. There is a complex psychological depth underpinning every gag and seemingly superficial situation. No on-screen confrontation is accidental and all of them masterfully timed.

  • This masterful drama piles complex emotions--shame, fear, embarrassment, anguish--on top of one another and then, amazingly, finds a way to somehow mine the most emotionally excruciating moments for a vein of rich, black comedy.

  • [Beyond the Lights] has to fight for the spotlight in a strong week for arthouse releases, none better than Ruben Östlund’s wickedly pointed family-crisis comedy Force Majeure, in which the Swede’s preoccupation with the warped moral subtext of everyday human behaviour finds its most broadly entertaining narrative to date.

  • So much of [Force majeure's] volatile action remains just under the surface, in the form of flaws, misunderstandings, festering resentments. In this, and many other ways, it resembles that other Scandinavian phenomenon My Struggle, and I have to imagine that, if he saw this movie, Karl Ove Knausgaard must have enjoyed watching this perfect Swedish family disintegrate like so much rotten Ikea particleboard.

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