A long time ago I promised myself never to be tempted to go on a holiday that involved places where freezing cold or arduous pursuits were involved. If these are combined, then it’s double the no-no. And I’ve stuck to that – my holidays involve heat and languor. Recent events have assisted me in sticking to this momentous life decision. First there were those insane trekkers in Nepal being dumped on by the wrath of the Himalayas – and then there was the insane Swedish couple in ‘Force Majeure’ who felt a skiing trip to the French Alps would give endless pleasure to each other, as well as to their two kiddies. ‘Force Majeure’ is a recent release and in it plenty happened to put one off the joys of the piste for life. Even if nothing remotely as sinister as occurred in this Ruben Östlund helmed movie did come to pass, should I have been as foolhardy to have chosen to do similar at some stage in my existence, it would still have been my definition of hell.
Now ‘Screen International’ described this offering to the film viewing public as a ‘…funny, precision-controlled psycho-comedy drama.’ and ‘Vanity Fair’ ‘The most acutely observed comedy of the year.’ This praise, to my mind, gives completely the wrong impression about this Scandinavian effort. If there’s humour to be had with this, I didn’t discern it – and nor did my fellow attendees. At times, at my local art house, I found it a dour slog. It must have been a different movie those critics were watching!
From its opening there is a sense of impending disaster, comparative to the ominous first stanzas of the vastly superior ‘The Impossible’ – the Portuguese product dealing with the Indian Ocean tsunami. In ‘FM’ the cataclysm, when it descends, is very much an anti-climax. Instead, what’s examined on the screen is that which transpires within the dynamics of this family quartet once the danger has passed. For a few seconds it did seem lives could be at risk. An avalanche tumbles down the mountain as our foursome are dining on their resort balcony. They are submerged in what is termed snow smoke. Very scary, but harmless. The mother’s reaction is to protect her children with her body and does so. The father’s is to flee. There’s no damage to life or limb – but then we get to the nub of the piece – the coming to terms with Tomas’ (played by Johannes Kuhunke) seeming cowardice in failing to put his woman (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and imps first. It brings the family to its knees, not aided by the cooling of the children’s affections for both parents. A free spirit befriends Ebba, the mum, giving her food for thought – and some psycho-babble in the form of scream therapy is deemed to be possibly beneficial to Tomas.
The latter is most keen to re-establish his hairy-chestedness and presumably conspires with his missus to bring this about – the viewer only realises this after a most unsettling lead -up to what turns out to be another anti-climax. If you care to sit through this movie it’ll all become clear. The denouement is in the form of a spectacularly terrifying bus-ride back down the mountain at vacation’s end. I felt this add-on was all rather pointless, but the road a novice driver is forced to negotiate is quite a sight – almost worth the movie.
The director manages to create a sinister overtone to the mountainous landscape the characters are immersed in. The family’s accommodation is eerily sterile and minimalist in line with the dread that pervades. Even the technology used to support the recreational activities clangs and hisses in a manner designed to send chills down the spine.
‘FM’ is a long two hours in the movie house, but it could generate a discussion as to the nature of the actions that took place in those fleeting moments of perceived threat. Then there’s only nano-seconds to decide on a course of action. Is it a man’s natural instinct to flee regardless of others? Is it a woman’s to be prepared to sacrifice all for her offspring? Or are responses as varied as is humankind itself? In the end this is a mildly unsettling film and for this viewer somewhat of a disappointment.
Movie Trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJmzTNdY98g