“Force Majeure,” Sweden’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film, is a movie that’s even better on a second viewing, when its dramatic craft is more apparent yet even more compelling. Set at a French ski resort, Ruben Östlund’s brilliant white-on-white black comedy is a precise, exacting psychological horror about the fissures in a bourgeoisie Swedish marriage, highlighted after a split-second’s reaction to a “controlled avalanche.” “How do human beings react in sudden and unexpected situations, such as a catastrophe?” Östlund has written of what he rightfully describes as his “existential drama.” “The story concerns a family on holiday that witnesses an avalanche and the father runs away, terrified. When it is over, he is ashamed because he has succumbed to his primal fear.” A ticklish mix of Billy Wilder (visual wit and verbal precision are deployed adroitly), Luis Buñuel (the amazing final scene) and Scandinavian modern exactness, “Force Majeure” thrills for its biting wit as well as its portrayal of how the smallest choice, the most seemingly minor gesture, can be as dramatically calamitous and emotionally revealing as the heights of drama. With Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Kristofer Hivju. 118m. (Widescreen)
“Force Majeure” opens Friday, November 21 at the Music Box.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.