Ski resorts are ripe screen territory, having set the scene for Swiss drama Sister by Ursula Meier (no relation – probably), British rom-com Chalet Girl (never seen it) and the South Park episode ‘Asspen’. Now, Swedish comedy/drama Force Majeure chooses an Alpine ski resort as the setting for the family holiday from hell.
Wincingly original, Force Majeure (in my head it’s Force Midge Ure) sees an awful family torn apart by a controlled avalanche. It’s a pretty stifling viewing experience, but completely rewarding. The performances are brilliantly observed, particularly Johannes Bah Kuhnke as the feckless father – a Swedish Kiefer Sutherland.
Writer/director Ruben Östlund painfully captures the power of an incidental moment, and how a throwaway comment can rob you of nights and nights of sleep. At its most brutal, this is like watching a couple you’re friends with having a massive row.
The film also features an inspired use of sound including Vivaldi’s Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, stunning shots of Alpine landscapes, and some of the most squirm-inducing dining scenes since that one in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal where Anthony Hopkins feeds Ray Liotta a slice of his own brain.
Funny and traumatic in equal measure, Force Majeure is a knuckle-gnawingly entertaining musing on family and masculinity. As chilly as its Alpine setting, the film strikes a raw nerve and coolly hits home. Imagine a sitcom set in The Shining‘s Overlook Hotel and you’re halfway there.