Review: The Tourist (2014)

Director: Ruben Östlund | 118 minutes | drama | Actors: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Vincent Wettergren, Clara Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju, Fanni Metelius, Karin Myrenberg, Brady Corbet, Johannes Moustos, Jorge Lattof, Adrian Heinisch, Michael Breitenberger

Disaster film has turned out to be a small but successful niche in film history. Not only do these kinds of films guarantee aesthetic spectacle, they are also able to get into the heads of characters. Because how do people behave in these kinds of extraordinary situations? By magnifying these kinds of circumstances, we as spectators come to know something about humanity. And about ourselves.

That principle works out solidly in ‘Turist’. No volcanoes, tornadoes or alien invasions here. The omnipresent avalanche danger on ski holidays is central. This everydayness has the effect of bringing the threat uncomfortably close. The problems the characters face feel lifelike. And that while the holiday started so well for the Swedish family that forms the core of ‘Turist’.

Father Tomas has well deserved winter sports. The work normally eats up all its time. In the French Alps he can finally spend some time with his family again. Mother Ebba is only too happy that he can now focus on their two children. The family does everything together. Skiing together, brushing their teeth together and they even sleep together in one bed. They enjoy the bright sunshine, each other’s company and their time on the slopes. Yet not everything is peaceful. The work phone, for example, still rings very often. However, it doesn’t get in the way of their enjoyment.

That changes when the four of them enjoy lunch on a terrace of a restaurant located high in the mountains. The view is phenomenal. When a deliberately excited avalanche rages down, cameras and telephones quickly appear. But then the snow mass comes very close. Several people start to scream in fear. Likewise the children of Tomas and Ebba. When the latter cries out for help, Tomas appears to have instinctively run off like a hare. Wow, women and children first. In the end, the terrace is only covered with a layer of drifting snow, but the damage has been done. Can the two parents still trust each other in times of need?

The aftereffect of the avalanche is worked out in a controlled manner in ‘Turist’. Relationships are increasingly under pressure. Small imperfections become large fractures. There is a constant sense of constant threat, made possible in part by the driving music. Ebba’s anger towards her husband continues to grow. The children respond by rebelling against their parents. Tomas, meanwhile, pretends that his nose is bleeding, thus widening the gap. And then the film is only twenty minutes away. Although the tempo and tension often drop very far and the film sometimes comes across as somewhat unbalanced, the downward spiral in which the family finds itself no longer seems to break through. Like a metaphorical avalanche, the family plunges into the abyss at a painful speed.

Avalanches are a common threat in ski resorts today. With the increase in the number of winter sports enthusiasts and the risk that they consciously undergo by moving off-piste, the risk of accidents is increasing. The influence that this has on the family situation is immense. With ‘Turist’, director Ruben Östlund brings a relevant film that reveals human behavior in such situations in a clever and intense way.

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