Wednesday, November 5, 2014
The French title of the Swedish film Force Majeure literally means superior force, as in a force of nature, or what we might call and Act of God. It generally refers to an unexpected circumstance completely beyond human control, most often a natural disaster like an earthquake or tsunami. But it's used ironically in this cerebral thriller, where the drama hinges not on a natural disaster, but the split-second response of oh-so-fallible humans in its path.
Directed by Ruben Ostlund, and already Sweden's official Foreign Language entry for the 2015 Academy Awards, the film tells a simple-seeming story about a young family on a skiing vacation in the French Alps. The father, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), works too hard, as his wife, Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) tells another tourist at their swanky resort hotel, high in the snowy mountains. So they've packed up their two young children, Vera and little Harry, for five days of relaxation and family time.
On the second day, while the family is having lunch on the restaurant balcony, overlooking a spectacular view, the snowpack on the nearest mountain begins to move. It's not giving too much away to reveal that the movie continues on from this point. But damage that may prove to be irreparable has been done to Tomas and Ebba's family unit, and to their relationship.
Ostlund's design is fascinating in the way the film's central incident becomes a litmus test for gender, family, and even age issues among all who witness it, including the audience. (Read more)