Force Majeure

There are movies out that that you take your dates to, and then there are movies like Force Majeure, that you don’t ever watch with anyone with whom you might even think about pursuing a romantic relationship. You see this with your partner, and after it ends you begin talking, fighting, arguing, and then not talking anymore. Yes, I’m probably making too big of a deal of it, but I could totally see this movie causing way more drama after it ends than it should.

The film follows a family on a ski holiday in the French Alps. They’re here for five days, and that time frame serves as our chapter headings. Day one goes smoothly. Day two, however, has something important happen. A “controlled” avalanche is started while the family is eating lunch, but it quickly gains speed and heads right toward everyone sitting there eating. The husband, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), insists it’s all fine. Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) isn’t so sure. Right before the avalanche reaches them, Tomas grabs his phone and ski gloves and heads for cover. Ebba tries to grab their children, Vera (Clara Wettergren) and Harry (Vincent Wettergren). This in-the-moment action causes a rift for the rest of the trip.

Day three hits and Ebba isn’t happy. She asks to ski alone. The two of them have several conversations. Private, conversations. The children think a divorce is incoming. More conversations take place. It’s almost like more time is spent at the hotel than on the slopes. Passive-aggressive shots are taken at Tomas, who continually denies that he fled the scene.

Force Majeure does consist primarily of conversations. Other people are sometimes brought into the mix, but it’s mostly just Tomas and Ebba having to work through this. The conversations are dramatic, uncomfortable, and awkward — both of the characters, and for us. That might come across as funny to an audience. You might even laugh a good deal, but only because you aren’t really sure what other action to take; silence doesn’t seem appropriate, somehow.

It’s because the things these characters are discussing — relationships, and Tomas’ actions during a crisis — are things that you’ll be thinking about. “How would I react?” “How would my partner act?” “Would he strand me and the children?” Tomas and Ebba’s conversations are infectious, both for other characters in the film and for the audience. You find yourself thinking right along with these characters as they work through a difficult situation. A hypothetical situation for you. You don’t know how you’d react in a similar situation; you just know that, regardless of how you act, people will remember and judge you for it. And that’s scary.

I’m not sure what to make of the last couple of scenes. Really, I’m not. They left me confused. But, then, I was still thinking about earlier discussion topics. It’s possible I missed something. Regardless, the ending felt a bit weak, and didn’t really gel with the rest of the film. But if that’s the biggest problem I have with Force Majeure, you can bet it’s a good movie.

None of it would work if the acting wasn’t good. Johannes Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli make for a believable married couple. From the film’s opening to its conclusion, you can believe they’ve been together for a very long time. Everything about them and their relationship feels real. Well, everything but these children, who are the loudest and most annoying children on the planet. Maybe that was intentional. Maybe we’re supposed to dislike the children. I take back what I said about the ending being the worst part of the movie. That award goes to these kids.

Force Majeure is a film that will get you to think. Perhaps too much, especially if you see it with a significant other. It could lead to arguments — arguments based solely on hypotheticals. It’s funny because it’s uncomfortable and awkward to watch. It’s dramatic because the couple portrayed within it is so realistic. You believe that these are real people. Its ending is a bit confusing and the two children are incredibly annoying, but Force Majeure is a heck of a film. Just don’t watch it on a date.

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