A slickly made Swedish drama with a deliciously wicked layer of jet black humour running throughout; in Force Majeure, Ruben Ostlund has successfully created the most painfully awkward, wildly amusing, and philosophically engaging film of the year.
Set in the beautiful French alps, it follows a young family taking a well earned break, enjoying the slopes and the picturesque scenery. During a lunch break they observe what appears to be an avalanche heading straight for them, and from then on everything changes.
Rather than smashing in to them and creating some typical, race-against-time, disaster film, the avalanche turns out to be nothing more than a thick snow drift, harmlessly engulfing the terrified tourists. In the panic, the family patriarch Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) abandons his wife and kids and flees the scene, only to sheepishly return moments once the crisis is avert, with his tail well and truly between his legs.
What follows is a fascinating examination of denial, modern masculinity, and sense of purpose; most likely observed through gritted teeth, with your head in your hands, thanks to Ostlund’s butt-clenchingly awkward script.
A grand, operatic score, combined with hypnotic visuals of piste-bashers performing a nightly dance on the mountain side, makes for a film that constantly draws you in with alluring treats, only to shatter your enjoyment with the agonising family soap opera. It truly is car crash cinema, devastating to behold at but impossible to look away.