DVD review: Force Majeure - Cannes winner deliciously dark

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 February, 2015, 11:20pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 February, 2015, 11:20pm

Force Majeure
Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli
Director: Ruben Östlund

Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund cut his teeth as a director on skiing films and it's the threat of a disaster in the snow that turns this measured, sulking and deliciously dark, humour-laced drama on its head.

The film was a hit at Cannes last year - picking up the Jury Prize - a hit at home and acclaimed everywhere it played, while also making the shortlist for the foreign-film award at the Oscars. The director's reaction to eventually being snubbed by the Academy in its final selection for that gong went viral, justifiably thanks to his over-the-top histrionics. But some are of the opinion that this "leaked" tape was all a ruse and reflected a cynical (and sinister) side to the man that should be celebrated more than mocked.

The viewer will get a sense of that throughout his production, as we see a seemingly happy and content family slowly torn apart when the realities of their (and the human?) condition are forced into the open.

It centres around a holiday they take together into the mountains, the threat of an avalanche and how the parents react to the danger. No surprise, given Östlund's background, that the film is stunningly shot, the snow and the ice and the breaks that often appear in them serving as a clever metaphor for the way single incidents or revelations can shatter a relationship's tranquility.

The danger, the filmmaker wants us to see, is that nothing is ever what it appears to be on the surface. One false move and the world can come crashing down.

As a husband made to squirm, Johannes Kuhnke brings the necessary edge to the role of a man whose manhood is called into question. The viewer will like him, at first, believe him to a degree, even. But when his true nature is slowly revealed, it - like the avalanche - comes out like a force of nature.

As the wife, Lisa Loven Kongsli brings more of that dark sense of humour, with secrets of her own - most of them to do with lack of faith in her partner - and a loss of hope in her own life.

Extras: interviews with Östlund and Kuhnke; behind-the-scenes featurette