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Force Majeure

“Screenplay seminars prattle on about the “inciting event” that drives a story. In Force Majeure, the latest brilliantly testing, laugh-as-you-wince experience from Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund, this event is a moment that changes everything. His film unfolds over a five-day skiing holiday for  Tomas and Ebba, and their two children. They sit lunching on a veranda, and notice an avalanche – controlled, Tomas reassures them – rolling down from the mountainside.

“It snowballs and approaches. In their moment of blind panic, Ebba’s instinct is to reach for her children. Tomas grabs his phone, snatches up his gloves, and legs it. The white-out, after this superbly achieved sequence, dissipates. It was actually just smoke. Ebba airs her bewildered feelings over dinner, with another couple not only facing, but trying to pretend the lapse isn’t as bad as it sounds. The truth of his abandonment begins to eat away at their marriage like a worm.

“Östlund has become an almost brutal satirist of his countrymen’s foibles, presumptions and hidden prejudices. In Tomas, Östlund diagnoses traits of stunted male egotism and whopping immaturity, matched with an almost equally immature desire to look like a hero when no personal danger is incurred. Ebba is far from blame-free.

“The film’s a series of post-mortems after a death that never even occurred, unless it’s the death of trust and solidarity in a relationship. Each new wrinkle in the scenario makes you squirm and recognise some rarely-broached truth.

“Mightily clever in its rather theatrical structure, but bracingly cinematic in its formal approach, the movie has a bold, ambiguous final act.” - Tim Robey, Telegraph

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