A controlled avalanche at a skiing resort nearly goes wrong and the father of an IKEA-perfect family, rather than save his kids, runs away; this leads to a psychological ‘avalanche’ in the family. The film’s genius is that it plays so well on that knife’s edge where excessive melodrama builds scenes to their extreme comic breaking point. Similar to Joanna Hogg’s Archipelago but leans far more towards comedy.
Rarely you'll witness a more thorough dissection of a family's core, when faced with matters like dissolving trust and unattended, ever-amplifying tensions. I can only think of Jonathan Franzen's book, "Corrections" as a worthy parallel. Force Majeure may be hard to watch at times, but that only proves its spot-on rendition of the human soul left without any defense at all.
The razor thin ties that bind people come unraveling in a split-second instant of stark transparency. Whether by colossal force or merely a poor choice of words, when the veil of artifice flutters aside, we are left gawping at the house of cards we've built for ourselves. The austere cinematography is a cruel accomplice, framing our hapless protagonists with comically cool detachment. Bracing and droll.
Sweden these days seems to reflect a lot about gender roles. I couldn't help watching the film thinking about that. The premise is quite interesting. But does it translate a Swedish angst (1), or is it more of an universal thing (2) about roles? If (1), did the Swedish get their first? The whole masculinist trend seems to put this film in a very interesting context. (Some) men, now, seem awfully aware of their roles.
Östlund directs like a genial, less hectoring Haneke. His style is studied & controlled. Color, composition, editing & sound are impeccable, establishing a feeling of antiseptic middle-class anxiety; an empty going-through-the-motions depiction of modern life comparable to Archipelago by J. Hogg. Here the popular "comedy of embarrassment" trope merges with the spirit of Buñuel without becoming nasty or mean-spirited.
The problem with these European thesis films is that everything about them is built for it, forgetting the antithesis, presenting us always an incomplete synthesis for the lack of a contradiction that could make it "breath". This is not the most self-centered one and features frames in the nature that show a polite look for beauty. But there it is: too polite. The plot is simplistically round.
Sharp and incisive, somehow both naturalistic and allegorical. Ostland's hand can be felt poking and prodding, testing his characters but he also affords them a genuine sensitivity and affection which keeps the film from being shallowly manipulative. The way he plays with the family dynamic throughout the film with different combinations of two-shots or isolated figures is masterful.
It packs plenty of snowblinding grandeur, but Ostlund's latest is a little too cute and clunky a contrivance to marshall the power it pretends to. A few scenes nearly get us there, only to be undermined by the transparently schematic nature of the exercise.