Force Majeure

forceI don’t speak French, so I don’t know the meaning of ‘Force Majeure‘ from the language perspective. However, in law, the term is used contractually to represent events beyond the control of both parties, neither of which can be held ultimately responsible.

I see the carryover of the term in this film when a Swedish family on ski holiday comes face to face with an avalanche. Dad turns and runs, Mom and Kids just hunker down. As it turns out they weren’t in any real danger since the ‘avalanche’ was of the controlled variety and they were perched high up on a patio overlooking the ski runs. But the white-out effect of powdered snow obliterating visibility and the thunderous sound of snow rocketing down the mountain side were unnerving. That, in an instant, Dad flees, as a self-preservation instinct, without considering his family’s welfare has darkly comic and widespread effect. The majority of the film focuses on emotional side-effects of this one event.

The cinematography is situationally brilliant; the omnipresent white of the snow, the pervasive images of machines making powder, grooming the slopes, the skiers queuing up and riding lifts constantly against the white background creates a mood of isolation. Emotionally, this is what occurs; Dad becomes isolated in his feelings of guilt while he tries to retrospectively justify his actions, Mom becomes isolated in her feelings of abandonment, Kids become isolated in fear of losing their family unit as they see Mom and Dad argue.

I almost turned this film off 30 minutes on since the premise was ridiculous. These small events occur and life continues. At least that was my upbringing – process, discuss, decide, move on. And do it quickly, since in my quintessentially NYC family, the statutes of limitations on any disagreement are very short.  But I realized the film was making a point about how some people in similar situations tend to focus on and examine the minutiae of emotional fallout rather than processing the results and reconciling.

Considering this was a dark comedy, acting was good in balancing a drama with humour, but it was not stellar. The standout for me was Dad, who had a propensity for morphing into a man-child, curling up in an emotionally charged ball of frustration and having a proper tantrum.

If you’re into quirky films making a statement about how people sometimes get stuck in the details and those details become the momentum forward, Force Majeure will appeal.


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