Force Majeure – An Avalanche of Emotions

By Leslie C. Halpern

This new Swedish dramatic comedy comes highly recommended (and with good cause). As Sweden’s official submission to the best foreign language film category in the 87th Academy Awards 2015 and a critical favorite at this year’s Cannes Film Festival where it took the Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard, this intelligent film examines one man’s ugly and chaotic internal breakdown set in a beautiful and orderly external environment: a posh ski lodge in the French Alps.Force Majeure

Out of Control

Picture-perfect couple, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli), vacation with their two beautiful young children (Clara Wettergren and Vincent Wettergren) to relax from work for five ski-filled days. Amid the frequent explosive booms of controlled avalanches, the close-knit family skis together, naps together, brushes their teeth together, and dines together. During one of their meals at an outside cafe, one of the controlled avalanches gets out of control. Diners attempt to shield themselves and their families as an enormous cloud of snow is about to descend upon them.

Amazingly, the controlled avalanche is indeed controlled. The cloud merely contains smoke from the explosion and no one was ever in any danger. Tomas, however, had bolted from his family at the first hint of troubler, leaving Ebba to protect the children by herself. This momentous character flaw becomes the basis for the rest of the movie, as the family and Tomas systematically fall apart.

Secrets and Lies Emerge

As each day brings new insight into the couple’s disintegrating relationship, their situation is compared and contrasted to that of other skiers at the lodge and to the mechanized, synchronized workings of the lodge itself. As more secrets and lies emerge, Tomas and Ebba are forced to re-examine their commitment to each other, and to face facts about themselves. The evolution from day one to day five marks an incredible transformation that will change their relationship forever.

Visually arresting with nature’s wintry magnificence, Force Majeure simultaneously trivializes human frailties within the grand scheme of things, while also magnifying the impact of transgressions on our interpersonal relationships. A soaring soundtrack punctuating the majestic natural setting serves as an ongoing reminder in this intriguing film that beyond human interactions and an avalanche of emotions, man’s struggle with nature always takes precedence.

Force Majeure (2014)

  • During a family vacation at a ski lodge, a husband and wife undergo a personal crisis when an avalanche threatens their lives.
  • Writer-Director: Ruben Ostlund
  • Stars: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Brady Corbet, Jakob Granqvist, Kristofer Hivju, Fanni Metelius, Franco Moscon, Malin Dahl
  • Genre: Comedy/Drama
  • MPAA Rating: Rated R (for some language and brief nudity)
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Additional Information: In Swedish, English, and French with English subtitles.