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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Force Majeure

When the nominations were revealed for this year's Best Foreign Film, the one that everybody thought was missing was Force Majeure, from Sweden. The makers of the film, if their short video is to be believed, are also disappointed, to the point of crying.

I have only seen one of the nominees, Ida, which may very well win. But I don't think Force Majeure would be out of place, given what I've seen over the years. It is a very smart, very adult look at how a moment can change a couple forever.

Tomas and Ebbe (Johannes Bah Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli) are two Swedes on a ski vacation in France with their children. It's all going great when they are sitting in an outdoor cafe and an avalanche starts in the distance. Tomas tells them it's one that is controlled, but the snow gets closer and closer, until they are sprayed with it. Everyone is okay, but Ebbe notices that Tomas, rather than instinctively protecting his family, ran away.

This incident haunts the film. Everyone goes about the business of a ski vacation, but Ebbe can't help bringing it up, even to strangers in the bar, much to Tomas' chagrin. He disagrees with the events. When his friend Mats shows up with his girlfriend, Mats takes his side, saying who knows what people do when confronted with a disaster. But Ebbe still says she is disappointed in him.

This will even creep into Mats and his girlfriend's bed, as they discuss what they would do and Fanni wonders if Mats would protect her. Eventually Tomas will have a breakdown of sorts, and Ebbe, like us, wonder if his tears are real or just a passive-aggressive strategy.

The film is well done on all accounts, finely acted and written. I was a bit puzzled by the ending, which has all of the tourists getting off a bus incompetently driven down a mountain switchback, and everyone walks down the hill. Tomas, who is a nonsmoker, accepts a cigarette. I'm going to have to puzzle that out for a while.


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