Would you offer your life to save a loved one? Would you? Are you sure?
The Swedish film Force Majeure has been nominated by the Golden Globes in the foreign film category this year. It deserves it for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the ability of Director Ruben Östlund to emulate the late, great Ingmar Bergman.
Like Mr. Bergman’s films, Force Majeure is not designed to entertain as much as it is to challenge. Mr. Östlund displays much of Bergman’s artistic talent by daring to shine a light on the dark side of an otherwise normal marital relationship.
Here, Tomas and Ebba, played by Johannes Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli, are a married couple who take their two children on a 6-day skiing trip from their home in Sweden to Switzerland. The cinematography captures all of the beauty and splendor of the Alps, and the movie needs to be seen for that reason alone.
Yet the couple is hit with an emotional lightning rod when the family is having a marvelous lunch on a veranda overlooking the slopes. As an avalanche develops that does not seem abnormal at first glance, it continues to build steam as it quickly approaches the resort. Looking as if they are going to be engulfed by a mountain of snow, the husband, Tomas, grabs his phone and flees the table, leaving a terrified wife and two shrieking children behind. When the smoke clears after the avalanche stops just short of the lunchroom facility, a wife hugs her children lying on the floor while suddenly being engulfed by the question, “What in the hell was he doing?”
The rest of the film deals with this dilemma, and it plays out in an interesting fashion. At first ignoring it, the wife soon questions her husband’s actions while he denies that he ever ran.
The children know something is wrong, and the otherwise delightful family vacation disintegrates. As the children simply want their father to stay away from them, his wife eventually confronts him in an emotional outburst while consuming a great deal of wine in the company of another couple they had just met.
Ebba loves her husband, but at the same time is brutally disgusted with him. Eventually evolving from his self-imposed cocoon, he clearly is left hating himself for committing another regrettable mistake on life’s convoluted journey.
No, this is not a film that you will go to one evening while seeking a way to be entertained and have a good time. More to the point, it asks a simple question, “Would you jump in and offer your life to save your family or regrettably make sure that if anyone got bitten, it wasn’t you?”
I doubt that there is a single person who sees this film who won’t immediately do anything other than condemn the husband’s actions. But given the primal urge in all of us to save our own skin, how many can really be sure how they would act under these God awful circumstances?