Force Majeure was written and directed by Ruben Östlund, an award-winning Swedish writer and director. Force Majeure follows Tomas, Johannes Kuhnke, and Ebba, Lisa Loven Kongsli, on a family ski vacation to the French Alps. They meet up with friend Mats, Kristofer Hivju of Game of Thrones fame, and his girlfriend Fanny, Fanni Metelius. The movie revolves around both couple’s relationships. Tomas and Ebba have two children. Mats has children from a previous marriage and is now dating a much younger woman, Fanny. It provides three perspectives on relationships. If you also consider the hotel concierge who is in an open relationship, relating handshakes to sex, you get yet another perspective on love and companionship.
On the first day of the vacation, a controlled avalanche rapidly approaches the outdoor patio where Tomas, Ebba, and their children are eating. As a cloud of snow fills the patio, Tomas grabs his phone and runs away, in ski boots. Ebba, meanwhile, grabs both of her children and stays put, trying to console them as she fears that all their lives are ending. It unsettles the family and causes a palpable rift between Tomas and the rest of his family.
When Mats and Fanny meet up with Tomas and Ebba, the Avalanche story is recounted by Ebba. Mats tries to help Tomas with excuses for why he ran. Both couples spend the rest of the movie reflecting on the avalanche event. Mats questions what he would do in that situation while he is away from his children. Fanny is twenty years old and brings a youthful ignorance to her perspective. Tomas and Ebba spend time apart and the kids retreat to the protection of their mother. Everything feels real and there are multiple vectors that the audience can insert themselves into the story.
The film was shot on location of a ski resort and had me wishing for snow. It has long beautiful tracking shots showing the wide expanse of the mountain. It also has compact and cramped indoor shots of the bathroom and the gondola. While the family can spread out during the day, at times they must be on top of one another. It is a wonderfully subtle choice by the director.
Force Majeure won many awards for the best foreign film at various film festivals around the world. It is a wonderful film that can be related to all over the world. It shows that films do not need to be in English or have high profile Hollywood actors to be great. All that makes the film Downhill even more pointless. Downhill is a, sometimes, shot for shot remake of Force Majeure targeted at American audiences. Force Majeure is the far superior film.