December 29, 2014

VIFF 2014: 'Force Majeure' – An Avalanche of Swedish Drama

VIFF 2014: Force Majeure Turist | Ruben Östlund Johannes Kuhnke Lisa Loven Kongsli

Writer/director Ruben Östlund’s darkly comic (almost satirical), Swedish family drama is unflinching in its portrayal of the idealized version of modern masculinity and the ramifications of a single moment's action. Force Majeure (aka Turist) executes a sly yet sharply critical commentary on the chic, seemingly perfect looking European upper class. The film is emotionally riveting as it methodically builds dramatic tension around its chilly, disparate ski resort setting in the French Alps over five long days.

The stark, slow-burn filmmaking style echoes the isolation or its characters emotional frustration amidst the frosty environment. Actors Johannes Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli's back and forth performances as a well-to-do couple on a ritzy ski vacation with their two perfect-looking children (played by real-life siblings, Clara and Vincent Wettergren) anchor the film and its humanistically dark themes about family and cowardice. There are few characters and the camera seldom moves around as Östlund avoids flashy shots, many cuts, or even establishing shots to set an intimate relationship between the camera, viewer, and the subject matter on screen.

Force Majeure is so focused in its exploration and thematic portrayal of marriage and family as it dissects the worst of human instincts in moments of weakness. Östlund's assured, Kubrick-like hand and control of the camera keeps the focus on its characters so precisely to get across its obvious yet meaningful ideals about relationships. It's a cinematically compelling and almost masterful achievement in dramatic storytelling.

Force Majeure screened at the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival.


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