FORCE MAJEURE (AKA TURIST) | MOVIE REVIEW

FORCE MAJEURE is a Swedish film out now on limited release around Australia, I caught it at The Orpheum yesterday and have listed all the cinemas screening it below. I was drawn to it because I am obsessed with snow, always have been, would happily spend my life living on the mountain if I could find a job that paid me enough to do so. It looked like an avalanche movie and I love a great disaster movie. An avalanche nearly occurs but this simple near accident starts the largest of disasters, the unravelling of a family and stereotypes and expectations of members of a family. The cinema was packed and I highly recommend this film. It is released from Sharmill Films, is rated M and runs for 119mins. 

 

FORCE MAJEURE MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
FORCE MAJEURE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER

 

REVIEW BY JASON KING

FORCE MAJEURE means “superior force” or “unavoidable accident” and it means both in the context of this movie. On one hand we have an avalanche, a superior force plummeting towards a family and a bunch of restaurant-goers, on the other hand, this superior force will cause an unavoidable accident from one member of a family that will ripple through a family and change it forever.

The psychodrama tells the story of a model Swedish family. Handsome businessman Tomas, his willowy wife Ebba and their two blond, pre-teen children are on a skiing holiday in the French Alps. The sun is shining and the slopes are spectacular but, during lunch at a mountainside restaurant, an avalanche turns everything upside down. With panicked diners fleeing in all directions, Ebba calls out for her husband as she tries to protect their children while the children are screaming for their father. Tomas, however, makes a decision that will shake the family’s world to its core. Although the anticipated disaster fails to occur, his marriage now hangs in the balance as he struggles to reclaim his role as family patriarch.

We all have a fight or flight instinct in us. This is a genetic part of humanity to protect the species but it is different in most people. Me, if you jump out and scare me I will not fall over backwards, I will throw you or throw something in your direction. This is a reaction, it happens, I do not think of it. But people with children in their care, mainly parents have a very different reaction to the fight or flight reaction. Everything about a parent, or custodian, is to protect the children at all costs. This is natural in most people, it is expected. Men will always go to the front in a disaster situation and “women and children” first to protection. Director Ruben Östlund questions this expectation and stereotype – Tomas, the “Man” of the family does not react as he should in the disaster, he grabs his phone and runs, leaving Ebba alone with the children in a terrifying situation.

 

FORCE MAJEURE MOVIE IMAGE
FORCE MAJEURE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | THE PERFECT SWEDISH FAMILY PRE DISASTER

 

And that one act from Tomas, an act he did not even really think of, destroys the family structure and what society expects from a man. From here on the film questions this from every angle as a wedge forms in the family. What is family? Has it evolved? Can you trust someone when this happens? Are all men actually the strength in the family unit? Östlund is exceptional and thorough in his social commentary. I can’t think of a film that has explored male weakness, can name about a trillion films that explore male strength but this is filled with a delicate but intricate look into this original concept. For me this act by Tomas would be unforgivable – it is worse than betrayal or infidelity. You cannot change a person’s instincts.

It is handled brilliantly by all the cast.

Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are superb. I preferred Lisa as Ebba but I also think this is because I saw Tomas as a weak person and not worthy of support, he was gutless and self involved and this would have carried over to Johannes Kuhnke. The kids, Clara and Wettergren are great support. I loved Kristofer Hivju (Mats) and Fanni Metelius (Fanny) as support friends that turn up. They give a more realistic outlook on the couple but this odd couple do not escape dissection from Östlund and this led to more laughs. It kept doing my head in as to who Kristofer Hivju was, I have seen this guy numerous times. Ended up looking it up as soon as it ended. He was in AFTER EARTH, THE THING (remake) and plays Tormund Giantsbane in Game of Thrones. He has the big bear hipster look perfect emulated. 

 

FORCE MAJEURE MOVIE IMAGE
FORCE MAJEURE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | THE “PERFECT” SWEDISH FAMILY

 

The film requires some thinking and there were a couple of scenes that needed me to think on for the last day. 1) The near naked guys that run through the snow and Tomas ends up getting caught up in their tribal dancing drunkenness. Eventually it came to me that men are men, they are not to be placed into any specific mould. When together in their tribe they can do some freaking stupid things and also some acts of great strength – as a pack they are “invincible” but as an individual they can be weak. This scene I felt completely out of place and in the packed cinema I was in yesterday a few people were questioning it during the credits – it was very “where the hell did that come from?” Then 2) Ebba going missing – was this staged by the couple to have their faith restored from the children? This also felt out of place because by this time Ebba and Tomas did not appear as a united front to me. I also saw a gender transition in the family. I saw Tomas more like the children, the children more like the mother and Ebba as the patriarch. 3) This came out during the weird ending on the bus. Tomas was just Tomas, there was no change, Ebba took control of everything and when she needed a man, she went to Mats instead of Tomas, as would I.

An incredibly interesting film that is made exceptionally. It was the winner of the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard competition in Cannes in 2014 and Sweden’s official entry into the Oscar sweepstakes for Best Foreign Film. This is one the parents and grandparents will love. There is no robots or superheroes and you will be required to fire up your organic CPU.

FORCE MAJEURE is playing HERE:

VICTORIA
Cinema Nova
Village Rivoli
Palace Brighton Bay

NEW SOUTH WALES
Dendy Opera Quays
Dendy Newtown
Cremorne Orpheum

ACT
Palace Electric
Dendy Canberra

QUEENSLAND
Dendy Portside
Palace Centro

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Palace Nova Eastend

TASMANIA
State Cinema

 

4 Pops