Force Majeure

A luxury ski resort with all the modern conveniences catering to a wealthy clientele nestled among the scenic snow covered mountain peaks of the French Alps, is the setting of a tumultuous anguished ski holiday for a modern Swedish family. 

Husband and father, Thomas played by Johannes Kuhnke, has taken some time off from his job to spend quality time with his wife Ebba, played by Lisa Loven Kongsli, and their two kids, enjoying some much needed relaxation and escape from the daily distractions of the modern rat race.

Soon after arriving, Tomas’ manhood and leadership is called into question as he comes under increasing attack and scrutiny by his wife and children after an impulsive slip in judgment has him abandoning them during a crucial moment of fear when they needed him most to be the alpha male protector. 

Force Majeure is the French name for an extraordinary event. It’s commonly used in contracts between two companies absolving both parties of liability if either party is unable to fulfill their obligations due to an unforeseeable or unavoidable crisis such as an earthquake, power failure, riot or strike etc.

Throughout Force Majeure, the ominous mountains loom over a collection of precarious ski lodges threaten to unleash the fury of an unexpected avalanche. We get a sense of impending danger among the towering altitudes overshadowing the vulnerable chalet buildings. Muffled sounds of distant explosives are heard echoing throughout the day and night in an effort to control the risk of a snow slide that will keep the skiers safe. 

Much like the cascading white storm which is the catalyst that causes a major crisis in the relationship of the vacationing Swedish couple, there is a lot of pent up anxiety and resentment under their calm icy exterior. Our seemingly typical nuclear family is showing signs of dysfunction, no longer conforming to our traditional preconceptions. 

Ebba has good reason to be concerned. She expects her husband to be the selfless protector and provider that men have been raised to emulate, but somewhere along the way our society has changed so much that we can no longer rely on those traditional role models from the past.

Director Ruben Östlund’s visual style deftly reveals the growing turmoil just beneath the surface through banal scenes of intimate routine and subtle non-verbal behavioral gestures.

Visually, Force Majeure is almost Kubrick-like in the way it uses titles as each day passes, showing still shots of a majestic primordial mountainscapes juxtaposed with formally framed designer interiors and manicured ski slopes accompanied by the repeating Vivaldi Concerto No. 2 in G Minor also known as ‘Summer’ from the Four Seasons. It’s almost like The Shining (1980) as we gradually witness the cracks forming in the family facade until it snaps and there’s a downward slide to a complete breakdown.

The family eventually comes to an uneasy conclusion that the patriarch is not without his faults and vulnerabilities. Under certain extraordinary circumstances, the marriage contract may be nullified, subject to the Force Majeure clause when either half may not behave as expected or provide the support they feel is required of them.

Winner of the prestigious Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the Cannes film festival, the film asks revealing questions about masculinity and men’s roles in modern society, provoking stimulating conversations among couples.


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