FORCE MAJEURE (2014, Ruben Östlund)
Borrows its inciting incident from THE LONELIEST PLANET and, for that matter, a good portion of the resolution (or lack thereof), but stylistically it’s different enough not to feel like a wholesale ripoff. Where Loktev’s film was spare, silent, and surgical, Östlund’s is talky, funny, and dynamic. I prefer the Loktev overall, but can highly recommend this one as a more damning comment on rich white people crying.
Reducing the Swedish patriarch to, at times, a sniveling pussy is part of its charming humor but also part of its soul. There are enough shots of the gorgeous Alps landscapes (the camera uses the way sunlight reflects off the snow as a weapon) to make nature an imposing force here, so there’s bound to be some sympathy with the coward. Johannes Kuhnke’s lead performance is just good enough to make it work. Lisa Loven Kongsli is even better as the mom, letting her fears show but also being capable of pouring salt in wounds.
But the star here is Östlund, who has a visual style not unlike Michael Haneke (and FUNNY GAMES’s Brady Corbet has a cameo here) with a locked-down camera that moves infrequently and only with purpose: his compositions are clean and angular, his takes long and often painful. A great shot early on during a marital spat in the hallway of the hotel frames Kuhnke in the doorway, imprisoned by three wooden walls, while Kongsli is freed up with a vast space around her. If you’re going to see one film about a relationship permanently marred by the man’s temporary selfish cowardice during a vacation, see THE LONELIEST PLANET. But if you want to see a really lovely, poisonous treatise on social interaction and the fine line between order and chaos, give FORCE MAJEURE a look.