Tomas and Ebby go on a skiing holiday at a luxury hotel in the alps with their children. The holiday is going very well and after the first day, the family retire from the slopes very happy and tired. When they wake in the morning and go to breakfast, all seemes well. While watching the wonder of the slopes and the world of skiing and snow, an unexpected avalanche rips down the slopes and causes those watching to flee for their lives. Sadly Tomas ran away from his family, without even trying to save any of his kids or his wife. Now everything is under examination as the family have to come to terms with what the father did (or didn’t do).
In law a Force Majeure is a liability excusing clause that literally absolves you of culpability due to unforeseen events. These events happen without the person involved having ever acted in a way to have exacerbated it. Or to coin a phrase that gets to the point, it is ‘an act of god’.
This film plays on the term with vigourous aplomb, creating a story of what if and what has been before this. By using the event as its very early counter point, we already have an expectation of what are characters have been like before or a motivation exposition without lengthy film time used. Now thanks then to the great performances from Johannes Bah Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli, these fixed exposition pieces are then broken down and we expand on what we thought of the person. Both give pathos to very percieved ugly people and do it without heavy acting or performance. Helping convince us of them being a couple who have a relationship in flux. This leaves the audience engages and committed. As a exploration of middle class fragility it is built on these two and as its centre they are superb. Brilliant so far and thats doesnt even focus on the other great attributes.
Now Ostlund must take a standing ovation for his work. He has taken great care in his work and its execution. His use of the long take and its tonal balance. This comes into its own with his sublime long take avalanche scene. Pivotal and powerful but used with care and poise. If you want to think of a comparison to the film then you have to look both to Ostlunds countryman Bergman and to the great work of Ozu, which he has the same dark comic sense of. Ostlund frames with subtle compositions like Ozu and as one used it to explore the strange world we live in, so Ostlund turns us on to the absurd and surreal world of ski. He also helps the space be restricted inside to focus even when stunning composition and then opened up to the outside of white. Form mixing and playing help us connect with the direction and film as a whole. The event can be seen with a level of spirit and meditation a nature vs human motif. The rest can be seen as a delight of cinema. Excellent stuff.