Thursday, December 18, 2014

Movie with Abe: Force Majeure

Force Majeure
Directed by Ruben Östlund
Released October 24, 2014

Vacation is often seen as a place where anything can happen without consequences. The saying “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is the ultimate example of having something not count or not apply when you return to the real world. When the vacation doesn’t end, however, it’s hard to see how things might go back to normal. In “Force Majeure,” Sweden’s submission for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, one family holiday drags on as the snowy setting of a French Alps resort, threatening to unravel its members with no hope of returning to the time before an irreversible split-second decision has changed everything.

The construction of “Force Majeure” is actually quite simple, as Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) spend their first day of vacation skiing on the blanketed slopes of their peaceful resort with their children Vera and Harry. All is well and quiet until, in the middle of an outdoor lunch, a controlled avalanche suddenly appears to be headed straight for the unsuspecting family and everyone else at the resort. All proves to be well, save for the fact that Ebba immediately shields her children while Tomas grabs his phone and his gloves and bolts. When he returns to the table, nothing can be as it was before, though that’s not something he immediately realizes.

From that point, the film shifts back and forth from being an uncomfortable comedy to a light drama, as Ebba cannot shake the feeling of abandonment that came with Tomas’ instinct to run rather than to stay and protect his family. Tomas refuses to acknowledge what he did, and that just makes things worse. When friends Mats (Kristofer Hivju) and Fanny (Fanni Metelius) are brought into it by Ebba’s inability to let it go, it threatens to unravel their own relationship when they consider what they might each do in the same circumstances. It’s certainly not a pleasant or enviable process.

There are many moments of reflection in “Force Majeure,” as its characters remain silent for a while, skiing, eating, or sitting, and then converse with great intensity before returning to a period of tranquility. In theory, there is subtext to be read in each interval, and the film’s major scenes after its death-defying impetus seem to be most meaningful for what they signify rather than what they actually recount. For couples who find the decay of marital bliss entertaining, this film might prove enjoyable, but while it presents opportunity for introspection and meaning to be drawn out of white landscapes, this film isn’t moving fast to tell a particularly interesting story.


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