Author Topic: Force Majeure  (Read 8641 times)

oneaprilday

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Re: Force Majeure
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2015, 02:17:46 AM »
Anyway, as to Corndog's question, I am 100% convinced the thing in the fog was Ebba's set-up, I think probably without Tomas' knowledge.
I read it as a set-up as well, though I'm not sure if it matters who was involved in the set-up. If it was Ebba, it would be her way of re-establishing peace in the family by letting Tomas reassert his manliness. And he is so pleased with his own manliness, I guess, that he doesn't notice she can get up and walk on her own just fine after he carries her. A wink to the audience that his manliness is a sham.  If both Ebba and Tomas were involved, I guess they did it for the children and perhaps for themselves as well, again, reestablishing family peace by reasserting masculine dominance - something they all need to reassure themselves of. The scene, at any rate, indicates they are self-deluded and complicit, in some way, in their own delusion. The utter lack of realism to the scene makes it read like a sort of parable and it made me wonder, in fact, if the whole film was meant to be read as a parable, as there's an air of the surreal and an airlessness over the whole thing (egs. just the lack of people skiing on the mountain, the lack of people anywhere in the halls of the hotel, the janitor as a sort of mythic Watcher/Judge - all those things are odd, unrealistic.)


Force Majeure (2014)

It is a great challenge in cinema to use the tools of the art to ask an interesting question. It is an even greater challenge to answer such a question. Force Majeure does an amazing job establishing the question, centered on a scene where a family, on holiday at a ski resort in France, witnesses a controlled avalanche while eating lunch, and as it seems it might actually put them at risk, the father runs off ahead of his wife and children. This instinctual moment, and the implications it has for both the self-perception of Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and how his wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) views him, are potent, cascading drama even to those around them. There's a lot of questions of masculinity bound up in this, on one hand the image of the heroic male who puts women and children first, on the other the male of the wilds who swoops in for mating and swoops out just as fast.

I feel like there is a partial metaphor going on here, in that there is an otherwise kind of baffling sequence involving another woman at the resort who is in some kind of polyamorous relationship who faces a rather blistering line of inquiry from Ebba, who feels rather doubtful about the ability of such openness to not collapse into pain, especially for the children. Is this male instinct being questioned not actually about protecting the family in a time of danger but about his infidelity? And when another couple starts to bicker over whether the man would be braver in the face of the avalanche, is it really an argument over views of fidelity?

Monogamy is not natural enough for the majority of people to successfully practice, yet we have structured families in such a way that when this likely event occurs, we practically demand that it shatter families. It is kind of interesting to think of this film as a family holding things together after infidelity, but I'm not sure it is tight enough as a metaphor to pay off fully.

Of course, if this isn't metaphor, the results are worse as things like the discussion over the woman's polyamory seem like baffling non sequiturs. After such a rousing start, it feels a bit aimless for a large chunk of the second half, at least when it is not giving in to scenes of pretty absurdly overemotional response. I mean, when Tomas ends up in a big tent with a bunch of half-naked guys, is that some sort of reclaiming manhood voyage? When Ebba panics on the bus ride down from the mountains, is that a restoration of the proper order, where women are hysterics? When Tomas decides to accept another man's offer for a cigarette and the film closes on him proudly embracing to his son that he smokes, are we seeing smoking as the ultimate sign of secured masculinity? No, smoking give you cancer you dumb ass. The exploration of masculinity approach gets rather frightening so I guess I'll stick with the slightly frayed monogamy approach.

B-
The polyamorous woman baffled me, too, as I thought the film's primary critique was of the notion of masculinity - but I think its larger critique is of the (supposed) sham of the nuclear family unit, and the critique of masculinity (a concept that is necessary to maintain the classic nuclear family) falls within that larger critique. In the end, the family unit is, the film seems to want to posit, as false as the classic notions of masculinity (where men have to rescue women and children, remain stoic in disasters, where the bar is/should be their kingdom within which they can secure women, and where they rawhr together in frenzies of primordial aggression) - and when the family walks together in slo-mo towards the camera (a very funny shot, btw), after the sham rescue of the ski slope, they feel confident, Tomas's manhood secured, but we know he is/they are ridiculous. I thought the film was going to end there - and had it ended there, I would have thought it was, essentially, a critique of masculinity, and the polyamorous woman a loose end.  But it didn't end, and we get the bus scene, where, I think crucially, it is the polyamorous woman, alone, who keeps her head and is not left walking down the cold mountain on her own. She is, in a sense, above the "silly" nuclear family politics, not having to prove anything to anyone or keep anything that is a sham intact. Notably, then, too, the nuclear family walks down the mountain in tatters - none of the four of them in their previous, self-assured unit, each of them solitary, or with someone who is not a family member (Ebba, for example, asks Mats to carry her child, not her husband). 

Anyway, I think the film aims to overturn the entire notion of the nuclear family (the notion of masculinity at its center) and replace it with something "better," and frankly, while I think a lot about the film works (the smaller moments which take jabs at masculine posturing, eg. the moment in the bar when Tomas's ego/masculinity is built back up and then crushed within moments with the appreciation and then rejection of the woman), its argument is pretty flimsy, simply asserting that polyamory is the better way, via that polyamorous woman, who insists her children, her husband, and she are all happy and fine with the arrangement, rather than demonstrating it.  If the film had tried to argue for something less sweeping and grand - or if it had simply offered a critique rather than a critique and an alternative - it probably would have worked better for me, on the thematic level, that is. (Again, so many small moments were great - loved the acting - and Mats - and that after dinner scene.)

Bondo

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Re: Force Majeure
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2015, 12:37:04 PM »
That is both a completely believable connecting of all the dots and yet somehow no more satisfying (which seems to be where you ended up as well). Arguably I'm the choir that it is preaching to, yet I don't really feel vindicated or anything. I don't get a sense of "that's what I've been trying to say."

oneaprilday

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Re: Force Majeure
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2015, 12:45:33 PM »
I agree; it isn't satisfying. All personal convictions aside, I think the film itself is a little muddled thematically, and I would have liked to see it bring a tighter, more cohesive idea or set of ideas to the story and characters.

Jeff Schroeck

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Re: Force Majeure
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2015, 06:58:37 AM »
I'd say they're both in on the setup. Tomas goes through the effort of taking his skis off even though it would've, I would assume, been faster to ski to wherever Ebba was making the sound. He knew that she was fine so he didn't have to rush. It was also a wink to the audience that he could in fact run in his boots.

I'm still trying to assess the theme and ending since watching it last night, and I think they represent tradition that not only will not change but refuses to allow others to change or be different. It's not necessarily a mono- vs. polyamory rift. It could be any thought or values, old or new. Like when Mats is suggesting that Tomas running away was an animal instinct for survival but Ebba won't accept it because that clashes with the tradition she knows. Ebba is saying she's against an open marriage, but even more than that she's telling the other woman that she's bad for wanting it because it breaks down the code. And that woman stays on the bus while Ebba drags the rest of the people slowly down the mountain with her.

I can't say I was to into that bus scene though. It seemed half-formed, like a location fell through that morning and they had to scramble to not only find a new location but adjust the script to fit it.

Bondo

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Re: Force Majeure
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2015, 10:02:23 AM »
I'd say they're both in on the setup. Tomas goes through the effort of taking his skis off even though it would've, I would assume, been faster to ski to wherever Ebba was making the sound.

He had to go back up slope to go after her. One does not ski uphill (well, if they were doing cross-country maybe, but even then no skis is probably quicker).

Jeff Schroeck

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Re: Force Majeure
« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2015, 11:06:13 AM »
I'd say they're both in on the setup. Tomas goes through the effort of taking his skis off even though it would've, I would assume, been faster to ski to wherever Ebba was making the sound.

He had to go back up slope to go after her. One does not ski uphill (well, if they were doing cross-country maybe, but even then no skis is probably quicker).

I couldn't get an orientation since it was all white surrounding them, but that makes senses thinking about it. I'd have to watch it again to gauge his reactions, but my gut still says he was in on it.

Melvil

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Re: Force Majeure
« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2015, 11:37:18 AM »
My guess would be that he was in on it as well. The whole sequence feels so phony and convenient, if he wasn't in on it then he comes across as very gullible. You could argue that he needs to believe it so he lets himself be fooled, but everything seems to be staged for the benefit of the kids so that just seems more likely.

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Re: Force Majeure
« Reply #17 on: March 27, 2015, 05:51:36 AM »
Anyway, as to Corndog's question, I am 100% convinced the thing in the fog was Ebba's set-up, I think probably without Tomas' knowledge.
I read it as a set-up as well, though I'm not sure if it matters who was involved in the set-up. If it was Ebba, it would be her way of re-establishing peace in the family by letting Tomas reassert his manliness. And he is so pleased with his own manliness, I guess, that he doesn't notice she can get up and walk on her own just fine after he carries her. A wink to the audience that his manliness is a sham.  If both Ebba and Tomas were involved, I guess they did it for the children and perhaps for themselves as well, again, reestablishing family peace by reasserting masculine dominance - something they all need to reassure themselves of. The scene, at any rate, indicates they are self-deluded and complicit, in some way, in their own delusion. The utter lack of realism to the scene makes it read like a sort of parable and it made me wonder, in fact, if the whole film was meant to be read as a parable, as there's an air of the surreal and an airlessness over the whole thing (egs. just the lack of people skiing on the mountain, the lack of people anywhere in the halls of the hotel, the janitor as a sort of mythic Watcher/Judge - all those things are odd, unrealistic.)


Force Majeure (2014)

It is a great challenge in cinema to use the tools of the art to ask an interesting question. It is an even greater challenge to answer such a question. Force Majeure does an amazing job establishing the question, centered on a scene where a family, on holiday at a ski resort in France, witnesses a controlled avalanche while eating lunch, and as it seems it might actually put them at risk, the father runs off ahead of his wife and children. This instinctual moment, and the implications it has for both the self-perception of Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and how his wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) views him, are potent, cascading drama even to those around them. There's a lot of questions of masculinity bound up in this, on one hand the image of the heroic male who puts women and children first, on the other the male of the wilds who swoops in for mating and swoops out just as fast.

I feel like there is a partial metaphor going on here, in that there is an otherwise kind of baffling sequence involving another woman at the resort who is in some kind of polyamorous relationship who faces a rather blistering line of inquiry from Ebba, who feels rather doubtful about the ability of such openness to not collapse into pain, especially for the children. Is this male instinct being questioned not actually about protecting the family in a time of danger but about his infidelity? And when another couple starts to bicker over whether the man would be braver in the face of the avalanche, is it really an argument over views of fidelity?

Monogamy is not natural enough for the majority of people to successfully practice, yet we have structured families in such a way that when this likely event occurs, we practically demand that it shatter families. It is kind of interesting to think of this film as a family holding things together after infidelity, but I'm not sure it is tight enough as a metaphor to pay off fully.

Of course, if this isn't metaphor, the results are worse as things like the discussion over the woman's polyamory seem like baffling non sequiturs. After such a rousing start, it feels a bit aimless for a large chunk of the second half, at least when it is not giving in to scenes of pretty absurdly overemotional response. I mean, when Tomas ends up in a big tent with a bunch of half-naked guys, is that some sort of reclaiming manhood voyage? When Ebba panics on the bus ride down from the mountains, is that a restoration of the proper order, where women are hysterics? When Tomas decides to accept another man's offer for a cigarette and the film closes on him proudly embracing to his son that he smokes, are we seeing smoking as the ultimate sign of secured masculinity? No, smoking give you cancer you dumb ass. The exploration of masculinity approach gets rather frightening so I guess I'll stick with the slightly frayed monogamy approach.

B-
The polyamorous woman baffled me, too, as I thought the film's primary critique was of the notion of masculinity - but I think its larger critique is of the (supposed) sham of the nuclear family unit, and the critique of masculinity (a concept that is necessary to maintain the classic nuclear family) falls within that larger critique. In the end, the family unit is, the film seems to want to posit, as false as the classic notions of masculinity (where men have to rescue women and children, remain stoic in disasters, where the bar is/should be their kingdom within which they can secure women, and where they rawhr together in frenzies of primordial aggression) - and when the family walks together in slo-mo towards the camera (a very funny shot, btw), after the sham rescue of the ski slope, they feel confident, Tomas's manhood secured, but we know he is/they are ridiculous. I thought the film was going to end there - and had it ended there, I would have thought it was, essentially, a critique of masculinity, and the polyamorous woman a loose end.  But it didn't end, and we get the bus scene, where, I think crucially, it is the polyamorous woman, alone, who keeps her head and is not left walking down the cold mountain on her own. She is, in a sense, above the "silly" nuclear family politics, not having to prove anything to anyone or keep anything that is a sham intact. Notably, then, too, the nuclear family walks down the mountain in tatters - none of the four of them in their previous, self-assured unit, each of them solitary, or with someone who is not a family member (Ebba, for example, asks Mats to carry her child, not her husband). 

Anyway, I think the film aims to overturn the entire notion of the nuclear family (the notion of masculinity at its center) and replace it with something "better," and frankly, while I think a lot about the film works (the smaller moments which take jabs at masculine posturing, eg. the moment in the bar when Tomas's ego/masculinity is built back up and then crushed within moments with the appreciation and then rejection of the woman), its argument is pretty flimsy, simply asserting that polyamory is the better way, via that polyamorous woman, who insists her children, her husband, and she are all happy and fine with the arrangement, rather than demonstrating it.  If the film had tried to argue for something less sweeping and grand - or if it had simply offered a critique rather than a critique and an alternative - it probably would have worked better for me, on the thematic level, that is. (Again, so many small moments were great - loved the acting - and Mats - and that after dinner scene.)

No, I think you're misreading it. True, she stays on the bus, but you're only seeing her as not getting fussy over not getting off the bus. But, as the film shows - she's alone. It may be the "logical" thing to do, but she's still left alone, without community, which, with the wide angle shots on everyone walking down the mountain, it's pretty apparent that, despite getting off the bus being "irrational", it's still the more human action to take. Tomas gets a cigarette - this is his first real acceptance back into the fold of society along with his prideful stride - which suggests that he understands thing clearer now, he's better for not attacking Ebba over it, etc. And while they're apart, she's coming close to him at the end of the film. I think the critique is pretty damning on the polyamorous woman, ultimately. She may have taken the "rational" choice in staying on the bus, but I believe the last we see of her is her looking on to the people walking down the mountain. She doesn't realize that she's missing out in this community.

FlickingDC

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Re: Force Majeure
« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2015, 12:48:34 PM »
On rewatching, I think the film suggests that Ebba initiates the rescue drama on her own. The scene follows Tomas's crying jag. As they are ascending in the gondola, Ebba seems to be expressing through her looks (and wonderfully subtle but expressive acting) that she is reflecting mischievously, cooking something up. Tomas seems oblivious to this, simply engaged normally in the moment. He seems genuinely surprised when Ebba starts to cry for help.

My interpretation is that Tomas probably catches on that Ebba is pretending and plays along. It's moving in that Ebba is doing this because she cares how Tomas feels (and how the children feel about him). It is particularly striking in contrast to the previous scene in the hotel. As Tomas was lying in a heap and the kids were calling for Ebba to join in comforting Tomas, she seemed nearly unable to do so. Something now has changed.

jdc

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Re: Force Majeure
« Reply #19 on: March 31, 2015, 11:26:22 PM »
I didn't think Thomas was in on the ski rescue though it did seem clearly setup by her.  I did wonder if it really was responsible for him to go back to find her without the kids given the conditions.  If she really is hurt, what is he to do?  He wouldn't be able to help her and leave the kids for too long without soon having to be able to find them.  You can tell them to stay put but after too long they wouldn't.

I suppose I never read very much into the polyamorous woman as being part of the theme, there was some need for the side characters as well as they would have to have discussions.   But I did think it possible linked to one event that happened later.    At some point during Thomas's breakdown and crying fit I thought he admitted to adultery along with cheating on board games with the kids.  After everything that happened, this certainly would not have been accepted given her view of the idea she had prior to discussing it with that women.  But it slide by without being an issue at that point.  I could be wrong, but I thought he admitted to it along with all the other things he didn't like about himself.
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