This month I had the usual meet up with my fellow cinema-loving friend at the Picturehouse at the Media Museum. For the first time we had a difference of opinion on what film to see. She was all for Alan Rickman’s period piece A Little Chaos but I only had eyes for the Swedish film Force Majeure, and so we parted ways after our customary pre-film coffee and cake.

Force Majeure, from director Ruben Öslund, was the Jury Prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival 2014 and follows a family on a five-day ski break in the French Alps.

From the outset we can sense the tension in the seemingly perfect family unit as they take to the slopes with slick ski skills and very little dialogue. The clever use of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons gives a dramatic feel to proceedings before anything majeure even happens.

It’s clear that the mother Ebba thinks that her husband Tomas needs to spend some time focusing on his family; a fact that she makes very clear at the outset to him and anyone that will listen – the tension is felt from the start of the film.

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The film is broken down into the five ski days and set in an impersonal sprawling five star hotel – and on day two a freak incident changes the mood and takes over the story.
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The film is broken down into the five ski days and set in an impersonal sprawling five star hotel – and on day two a freak incident changes the mood and takes over the story. Tomas’ flight instinct in the face of potential disaster overpowers any instinct to protect his family when a controlled avalanche comes too close for comfort. I found the avalanche scene very menacing and the strange way in which the family don’t deal with what follows was brilliantly played by all four actors.

Days three to five of the film document the breakdown of communication – and seemingly the entire family dynamic – in the face of Tomas’ failure to defend his family alongside his wife’s agreement to save face in front of the children. I found myself expecting disaster to befall the family at every turn after their narrow escape, something which kept me on the edge of my seat until the bitter end.

I really enjoyed the film and felt myself tensing up as it reached its conclusion, in fact I felt more than a little uncomfortable all the way through, which I’m sure was the aim of the director. It’s dark, itchy and brilliantly layered with emotion. Although my friend loved A Little Chaos, I suspect those adjectives would not apply to her experience!

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