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Film Review: Force Majeure


Force Majeure (2014)

Ruben Ostlund, Director

The film begins with a young, fit, well-to-do couple on ski holiday in the Alps with their two young children. The touring family, enjoying lunch on an open mountainside deck, is threatened by a rogue avalanche sweeping down from the cliffs above. The family senses the danger and huddles together. At the moment of impact, the wife holds her children tight, but the husband inexplicably flees the scene. All escape unharmed and the sun returns a few minutes later. The family reunites and lunch resumes. The avalanche danger was a misperception, but real damage has been done: A husband has abandoned his family. Despite the drama of its opening scene, the question asked by Force Majeure is not,

"Faced with impending death, would you abandon your family in order to save yourself?"

Rather, the film asks,

"Given your partner's moral failure, will you rise to orchestrate his redemption?"

If your education included the study of classic literature, then this film will feel familiar. Force Majeure is a classic short story that examines choice, responsibility, circumstance, loyalty, and self delusion.

The pace of the film is slow, its mood claustrophobic and clenched. Occasional shots of the glorious alpine scenery that surrounds the hotel offer us a welcome breaths of fresh air. Resolution comes in a whiteout, when a fortuitous injury opens the door to a subtle if cautious redemption.

The film does not take itself too seriously. Ostlund winks at us at several points along the way, reminding us that these are the troubles of rich white people.

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