Force Majeure has been on my radar for a while but they’d stopped showing it in my local independent cinema by the time I’d heard about it. However, a couple of weekends ago I went down to London for the day to pick up something for work. Yeah, I could’ve gone to a variety of different places: Museums, Galleries, Markets, the list really does go on and on. But I’ve heard a lot about Curzon cinemas (a small Independent cinema chain) and I wanted to finally visit one.
I ended up in the original Curzon cinema in Mayfair. Yes, I most definitely stuck out like the proverbial thumb in my oversized hoodie, bright blue backpack and fake leather jacket. But I was watching a film I feel like I’d been waiting months to see.
Force Majeure is a Swedish film set in a French ski resort and follows the nuclear family of a mother, a father and their daughter and son on a five day skiing holiday. Everything looks fairly normal and usual for the ‘average’ modern family. Until, an avalanche hits whilst they enjoy lunch during a day of skiing.
At least they think they do: ski slopes are known to have ‘controlled avalanches’ to keep the snow in check. And when one was coming right towards the restaurant and seemed to be getting a little out of hand, everyone in the restaurant panics and runs for their lives. The father, Tomas, grabs his gloves and iPhone and legs it from the balcony. This is while Ebba, the mother, tries to grab her two children and take them to safety, but can’t carry them by herself. Tomas’ gut instinct is to save himself. And slowly, but surely, Ebba questions her husband and the man she chose to have children with.
The most noticeable point from my perspective, aside from making me really want to go skiing, is how clean and organised the film looked. Honestly, I’ve never seen such a balanced and tidy looking film, stylistically. The clean white snow, the steady motions of the chair lifts, the mother’s fresh skin, the uniformity of the modern IKEA-esque resort. I like to think this is juxtaposed with the mess that we’re about to see pour out in front of us from this nuclear and so-called happy family. But that’s probably me taking it a bit too far.
The disfunction and the breakdown seems to seep out, uncomfortably so. It’s like someone wearing a crisp white shirt that’s just a tad too small and the buttons are stretching. You don’t want to look at it, but can’t help looking because it’s so flawed and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s like that but about 10x more uncomfortable.
The children are pretty adorable (and very good skiers for being so young!) but you only see the drama and devastation through the children’s eyes when they think their parents are getting a divorce. From our point of view, we know that nothing’s going to happen there. Ebba is far too comfortable and set in her married life that we know that she’s outwardly strong but not strong enough to pick up the kids herself and leave. She’s always needed Tomas and she always will, which is kind of sad.
Tomas redeems himself a bit at the end but he’s still a bit of a dick. I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure he admits to adultery when he’s pouring his heart out to Ebba and she barely reacts. Her pensive thoughts and cold exterior does not read “How am I going to leave my husband because I can’t live like this”, but rather “How the hell am I going to live like this because I’m not going to leave my husband.”
Luckily, the supporting characters help to provide some lightness amongst the madness. A chain-smoking cleaner who seems to always be present when Ebba and Tomas want to have private discussions in their underwear in the middle of the night outside their apartment provides much needed laughs. A vibrant middle-aged married french woman with fantastic self-esteem who enjoys an open marriage, much to the confusion and quiet disapproval of Ebba. And she makes an excellent dinner companion for Tomas and Ebba and she brings along her new American fancy man.
And finally, we’ve got the 20 year old girl with the amazing blond hair. And, her much older boyfriend with an amazing ginger beard. They help Ebba get through her marriage troubles with Tomas (just). But ultimately, they have underlying issues themselves.
Because when the ‘what would you do in this situation?’ conversation arises, if the Force Majeure actually happens, what do you do? You know what you’d like to say, what you hope you would do in the moment… You’d like to be the hero, you like to think you’d save your wife and kids before your iPhone… But would you? The only thing you can do is suck it up, lie if you have to, and carry on being optimistic and hope that situation never actually arises so you’ll never have to find out.
Have you seen Force Majeure? Did you think it was as uncomfortably enjoyable as I did?