What happens in a marriage when one spouse acts in an unexpected way, one that is deeply disappointing to the other partner? And what happens when that spouse is the husband and the action is not only unexpected and disappointing, but does not conform to societal views on what is masculine? This is the set-up for Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s engaging and thought-provoking film Force Majeure, which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2015 Academy Awards.
This darkly comic film looks at cultural expectations of manliness, particularly as it relates to expectations for men to behave courageously
Tomas arrives at a ski resort with his wife Ebba, and children Vera and Harry. On day two of their vacation, while lunching at an outdoor café, a controlled avalanche seems anything but controlled and appears to threaten the diners. Tomas grabs his iPhone and runs off, leaving Ebba to protect Vera and Harry. The avalanche does not reach the café and everyone and everything returns to normal. Or does it? Tomas denies the obvious truth that he ran away from his family and Ebba finds his instinct for self-preservation and unwillingness to acknowledge what happened unforgivable.
This darkly comic film looks at cultural expectations of manliness, particularly as it relates to expectations for men to behave courageously like the action heroes that typically dominate at the movie box office. In one scene, before breaking down in hysterical sobs, Tomas confesses, “I get it that you’re disappointed in the person who materialized. I’m really disappointed in him too. I hate him … I hate him so damn much. And I … I can’t forgive the guy.”
The DVD version includes an interview with director Östlund and actor Johannes Bah Kuhnke (Tomas) that is recommended viewing for their discussion of masculine and gender stereotypes and expectations.