Adding to the long list of snubs in various categories like Lego Movie for animated film or the ever talented David Oyelowo and Jake Gyllenhaal missing out, and the long list of movies that should have made the Best Picture category, here’s the foreign film snub of the year. With the likes of Ida taking on big issues like Polish history and holocaust and Leviathan taking satirical swipes at Putin and Russia, this year’s nominees for best foreign film ( along with Wild Tales, Tangerines and Timbuktu) are serious movies embracing serious issues. Force Majeure doesn’t quite fit the same mold, but it’s a deep look into gender roles and judgement if you can see past the surface of the snowy wintery ski resort. Innocent at first, Force Majuere uses a single focal plot point to constantly challenge our perceptions and notions in heartfelt and emotional ebbs and flows. I found the half-comedic tone of the film an even more effective device in exploring its subject matter; It’s certainly an unconventional masterpiece
You’ll be hooked from the first moment. Strangely enough, this is the like foreign version of Birdman. It’s satirical, deep, humourous and even has a signature recurring drum tune that plays at certain points. Ruben Ostlund has managed to keep emotions sky high throughout in this seemingly icy cold movie. Force Majuere starts off with a family going on vacation at a ski resort. The story really gets going after a small avalanche rushes down near a restaurant the family is eating at. As a result, snow particles which are harmless( not heavy snow) envelop the whole restaurant. Perceiving the avalanche to be a serious one, Ebba (Mom) decides to stick by her children while the Tomas (Dad) flees in the heat of the moment. From here, Tomas is tormented by Ebba’s expectations and by his own ‘cowardice’.
One of the Swedish film’s strengths is its ability to raise provocative points through sheer human interaction. The family unit is often disintegrated, with Ebba and Tomas constantly trying at odds, each trying to justify their case and validate themselves. One of the more insightful moments in the movie involves a discussion with family friend Mats and his girlfriend Fanni after dinner. Here, Mats defends Tomas by saying that he reacted out of ‘fear’ and perhaps, was running to ‘self-preserve’ so that he may come back to rescue the family later. Ebba retorts by saying that she put her kids first, and condemns Tomas for not having the same mentality. For me, the movie asked big profound questions on objectivity and subjectivity, and examined the different narratives at play. Objective truth (represented by Ebba) cemented by a mother’s protective instinct should make Ebba seem heroic, but as you watch the family drama unfold, why do we start shifting our sympathies to Tomas?
The element of hypocrisy and judgement makes this movie more than just a satirical piece on gender stereotypes. The end is actually quite unexpected, so I won’t spoil it for you. Force Majeure is witty, smart, and very sharp at raising deep questions through simple situations. One innocent avalanche sets in motion the conflicts within the family, exposing the underlying fallibility in everyone. Perhaps the ‘force majeure’ (unstoppable force) is simply a harmless test that exposes not just our innate flaws, but also flawed ideals, notions and expectations.