Wednesday, 7 January 2015

REVIEW - FORCE MAJEURE (RUBEN OSTLUND)


Ruben Ostlund crafts a blackly comic deconstruction of masculinity in the modern-day bourgeoisie with the abrasiveness of bleach, the bitterness of vodka and the sterility of both. Be it the pale white pistes, a blanket of avalanche dust or just the skin tones of its rich European protagonists, Ostlund's bright whites and sleek surfaces are stripped raw, the people beneath the luxurious accoutrements as shallow as they seem. Force Majeure is a fairly ferocious attack on fairly insipid creatures, its bile brutally assaulting their middle-class pretensions and their social arrogance, yet Ostlund's assault is all on his character's terms. His pristine mise-en-scene, his precise tableaus unspoiled by dirt or distraction (a brief and brilliant POV zoom aside), the film is too measured, too sure of itself to truly cut deep. Ostlund makes clean incisions, effectively bleeding his male lead dry, and the sum total of his spare, stringent offense is pat resolution, simple answers to direct questions, only the slight sensation of indecision in the air. Though the film is too neatly designed to do the dirty work it perhaps aspired to do, what Ostlund has designed is uncompromisingly intelligent - maybe even too much so, as he seeks to achieve the succinct in his storytelling, rather than the simple. But all of the details are correct, and all of the stages in his meticulously planned devastation of a marriage feel honest and true. In particular, the depiction of the contemporary male identity as a pathetic fallacy, unsuccessfully  employed to disguise the man's inherent cruelty, idiocy and obnoxiousness, has been thought through in perceptible depth, and is probably the only element of Force Majeure to sting quite as strongly as it's supposed to. Performances are fine, generally ranging in quality depending on the detail in the character.