Force Majeure review: Pitiless, pessimistic, but funny | JDiff 2015

A sour, blackly comic Swedish drama on the nature of masculinity and the fragility of human relations

Force Majeure
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Director: Ruben Östlund
Cert: Club
Genre: Drama
Starring: Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli
Running Time: 1 hr 58 mins

Arch-provocateur Ruben Östlund secures a place at the top table with this sour, blackly comic Swedish drama on the nature of masculinity and the fragility of human relations. It is, in the loosest sense of the word, a disaster movie, but one in which, for all the alpine Sturm und Drang, nobody gets physically bruised.

Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are on a skiing holiday in the Alps when, as the result of a controlled explosion, an avalanche bears down on the cafe where they are having lunch. An apparently shameless Tomas flees the advancing snow, leaving his wife and children behind.

There are the makings of a great modern tragedy in that scenario. As it happens, though, the family survive unscathed and the film takes on the quality of bitter, bitter comedy. (Indeed, a famous episode of Seinfeld used a similar scenario to comic effect.) Tomas's subsequent psychic trauma – some of it sincere, some faked – prises open a damaged relationship like a rotten stump and reveals the festering maggots within. Force Majeure is a pessimistic, pitiless piece of work, but all the more memorable for its unblinking gaze.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist