‘Force Majeure’: An Experience That Makes You Think

Posted in The Screening Room by - March 20, 2015

Force Majeure, the award winning Swedish film from 2014, portrays a slowly crumbling familial unit on a ski trip in the French Alps. A momentary close call with an avalanche causes a massive rift between the husband and wife (Tomas and Ebba, respectively), as the husband unwittingly retreats during the brief “disaster”, abandoning his wife and two young children. His act of cowardice and inability (or perhaps lack of awareness) to admit to his faults cause the cracks in his marriage to grow and explode throughout the film, as it represents not only an examination of the characters at the heart of the film, but it causes the viewer to reflect inward and see how they would react in the situation. 

Force Majeure is bizarre in how characters appear and disappear at times, with some scenes bearing no significance on the rest of the film, yet, watching it with a female friend; I couldn’t help but being discourse regarding the events of the film.  What Tomas did in a vacuum is innocuous enough in the sense that he reacted in a split second without much thought, but the underlying implication of his true character being a coward haunts his wife and ultimately, himself. Much like Tomas and Ebba, view both characters from a different perspective. I tended to sympathize towards the husband’s identity crisis, while my friend thought that moment was emblematic of Tomas’ true character. Was he a true coward? Can we judge someone on what they do in a singular moment? Throughout the film, the duality of the Ebba and Tomas’ perceptions are brought to light, especially with the couple they are friendly with has differing opinions regarding the events at play as well. The husband takes Tomas’ side and the wife, Ebba’s, continuing the theme of one small incident causing major rifts, even to those who weren’t involved directly. 

The film succeeds not because it portrays some awe-inspiring idea but rather it touches the viewer in a way that you can’t just absorb what you’ve seen and think to yourself that there is nothing else to be had. Even though the film comes full circle by the end, making a pretty clear point, the question kept eating inside at me. Was I falling prey to the film’s tricks? Was it specifically targeting opposite genders, making them take sides, much like the incredible Blue Valentine? Did the director want to take the on screen conflict and make it real to the viewer? This projection of the Force Majeure’s themes into my personal life, even if for a few moments, was enough to make it clear that this film had a unique quality that lends itself to greatness. It makes you question not only what you’ve just viewed for the last two hours, but it makes you question the fundamental person you are, at least in the context of a highly specific situation. This ability to make the film linger far beyond the rolling of the credits is something I admittedly have not experienced much of, but makes the watching experience all the more engrossing. 

 

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He's a native Texan (YEE-HAW) who loves everything Michael Bay has ever touched. When he's not blogging, he's working on his mobile app, BoxHopp, or tinkering with his fantasy football lineups.
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