Force Majeure

It’s so weird that you won’t admit that happened!

Year Released : 2014film-force-majeure
Director: Ruben Östlund
Cast : Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju and Fanni Metelius

It’s been a while since I reviewed a foreign language film, and I’ve barely covered them at all in this site, with the exception being the films of Xavier Dolan. So after hitting a bit of a slump and not finding that many films that I’m interested in in English, I decided to give “Force Majeure” a try.

I’d first heard of this film some time ago and the concept seemed exceedingly interesting, but I go into it with a sense of trepidation in that most of the reviews state that whilst it’s funny, it’s dreadfully slow, and I struggle to motivate myself these days for films with poor pacing, but I’m not going to write a film off before I watch it.

That being said, learning new languages is somewhat of a passion of mine and there are four in this near two hours film. English, Swedish, French and Norwegian are all listed in the official languages used in the film.

I am also looking forward to seeing Kristofer Hivju again following on from his enjoyable performance in 2011’s “The Thing”. He was one of the few high spots in an otherwise luke-warm movie, so hopefully he will be just as enjoyable in this.

Plot

The overworked Tomas (Kuhnke) takes his family on holiday, including wife Ebba (Kongsli) and their children, Vera (C Wettergren) and Harry (V Wettergren). One the first day they encounter all that you would normally expect from a skiing holiday, in other words a fun day on the slopes and people trying to sell them anything and everything. The holiday seems almost ideal.

When the family go out to eat on their second day in the region, they suddenly hear some explosions in the background and an avalanche hurtles towards them. Although calm at first, Tomas soon abandons the family when it becomes evident that the avalanche is going to hit them, leaving his family. As soon as the snow settles he returns and acts like nothing has happened, but the rest of the family are secretly annoyed that he abandoned them so quickly.

Despite still being angry at him, Ebba decides to put it behind her, that is until they meet another couple and go for dinner. Tomas tells the story but neglects to mention that he abandoned his family to protect himself, and Ebba calls him on it. They spend the rest of their holiday arguing and unable to move off of the subject. Can they recover before they go home?

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Was the trepidation merited?

Unfortunately yes. Whilst well made and visually interesting, the film does drag on without a lot happening in a lot of it’s scenes. Whilst the change in the family dynamic is very interesting and the characters are well fleshed out, there just isn’t a lot going on that keeps you interested in what’s going on and ultimately you start questioning whether you actually care.

Now, I know that someone will probably say that I just didn’t enjoy it because it’s in a foreign language. That is far from the case and I did quite clearly state that I enjoyed the films of Xavier Dolan, in particular Tom à la ferme and J’ai tué ma mère, and not to forget the highly enjoyable horror films [REC] and [REC]2. So before anyone comments about me not liking it simply because most of it’s not in English, consider that.

Aside from the poor pacing and lack of anything overly interesting going on, it’s actually a relatively well made film.

The cinematography is very odd as the camera often doesn’t move at all, for minutes at a time. For example, the avalanche scene lasts for around four minutes and it doesn’t cut away once, not even after the snow has hit. The camera remains perfectly still from the moment that the family sit down, right until when Tomas returns and commences his breakfast, almost as it nothing had happened.

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The long, completely stationary scenes are very unusual in cinema, infact I can only recall seeing it once and that was the American remake of a film called “Funny Games”, in which some scenes pass for up to five minutes without the camera angle changing once, even when everything is happening off camera. The camera work is easily my favourite part of the movie and if you are going to watch it afterwards, prepare yourselves for one of the most unusual visual experiences you’ll ever seen whilst watching a film that isn’t intended to look odd.

It’s one of many unusual, but effective choices that the filmmakers have used in the production of this film, with another being that the brother and sister and so in real life (either that or it’s a huge coincidence that they’ve got the same, relatively uncommon, surname). But like most of their other decisions, it is effective and clever, something which I don’t say that often about films.

The use of the four languages in the film becomes quite interesting and is used very well to develop the characters. For example, when Tomas and Ebba are on the double date and start arguing, their conversation turns from English into Swedish in an attempt to hide that what they’re saying to each other. It’s an interesting, if subtle technique.

I just wish that it didn’t drag so much. There was a time when it felt like I had been watching for what must have been close on 90 minutes, but when I looked it was only about 40 minutes in. That’s never good thing unless you’re enjoying the film, and I wasn’t unfortunately. If it hadn’t been for that then I would have almost certainly given that the approved stamp below.

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Summary

Whilst executed well, I can’t give this an approval stamp because it’s just not that interesting, certainly not enough to fill two hours at least. If this film was about 90 minutes long then it would feel like a much less forced. It is almost like it’s given a run time that it then struggled to fill it effectively, forcing almost anything in there.

Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of “Force Majeure” that I did really like, but that can’t make up for being bored.

I wouldn’t necessarily say don’t watch this, but go in knowing that there is a good chance that your interesting will start to lessen as the run time goes on and on without a lot really happening.

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