'Force Majeure' at Cannes

By Moira Sullivan

The Swedish Entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar is FORCE MAJEURE by Ruben Östlund. It was part of the Official Selection of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize Winner during Pablo Trapero’s reign as Jury President for this division.

Swedes love to travel to the French Alps and this typically Swedish family takes time out for such a winter holiday. They are first snapped by a professional photographer on the slopes and look like the ideal family with father, mother and two children. The holiday, however, seems uneventful and routine, almost sterile in the depiction of traveling up the alps by ski lift and down by skis, retiring to the hotel room and piling in the bathroom with the family brushing their teeth together. Only the hotel cleaner knows that something is amok with this family who wind up spending time outside the room and eventually have a major family crisis.

It is customary at ski resorts to blast the snow to bring on fresh powder in the form of controlled avalanches. This happens when the family is lunching out of doors and a very real avalanche approaches the family and other diners. In that moment Pappa Tomas runs away from his wife Ebba and children to save himself. Ebba is alarmed by this and starts to reevaluate their marriage. At first Tomas brushed it off but eventually he started to get in touch with his desertion and in every way starts has a major guilt attack because of his deficiencies. Everything is turned upside down when the avalanche descends upon this family.

Östlund populates his film with minor characters who symbolize the imperfection in relationshsips: a married Swedish woman who picks up young men in the alps and a 40-year old man friend who has a young girlfriend that reminds him of why his wife left him.

Ruben Östlund is one of the most successful directors in Sweden with several interesting films in his repertoire such as THE GUITAR MONGOLOID, which won the FIPRESCI Award at Moscow in 2005. The Swedish director took his film INVOLUNTARY to Cannes and Un Certain Regard 2008. And he won the Golden Bear in Berlin for INCIDENT IN A BANK, a short film-. His third feature film PLAY (2011) was part of the Cannes Director’s Fortnight where he won the ‘Coup de Coeur’ Prize.

FORCE MAJEURE is Östlund's fourth feature film and illustrates a detached yet insensitive focus on a family on the rocks, a narrative that disrupts the notion of the idyllic family holiday on a charter trip with a close introspection into their fragility. It is a sober portrait of a family man who turns out to not be as wholesome and devoted as he thought.

© 2015 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 5/28/14
Movie Magazine International