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FORCE MAJEURE Falling Down The Mountain

force-majeure-avalancheDirected by Ruben Ostland

Starring Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli

While on holidays at a luxury ski resort, a typical Swedish family have a close call with an avalanche, making them reconsider their relationship and their perceptions of each other. At first they are reluctant, unable to accept what has happened, but it slowly eats away at them over the course of a number of days. Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) must come to terms that at a crucial juncture he was willing to flee and abandon his wife and children to their fate, while Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) realises that the man she married is not what she believed him to be. The question soon becomes if their marriage will survive such revelations, or even the holiday.

The crux of Force Majeure is an interesting philosophical question about how people react in a crisis. If in a moment of weakness, someone did not live up to the “better angels of their Nature,” could you trust them again? Tomas’ action may be cowardly and deplorable, but it is also understandable, motivated by survival instinct. Director Ruben Ostland forces audiences to wrestle with this question in a piece that neatly combines its comedic and dramatic elements.

Part of this comedy comes from the impish way Ostland portrays the resort. He has a familiarity with the environment due to starting his career filming skiers in places like this, and the impression it has left is telling. Each frame has a beautiful absurdity about it which is mined for the film’s humour, such as the identical blue long-john clad family, or the sprinklers watering the snow, it constantly emphasises the surreality and artificiality of such places. It is a clever trick of filmmaking, lightening the tension of the family drama that is unfolding and the devastating effects it is having for all involved (even spilling out beyond the family unit).

For it is, as we are playfully reminded by the frequent explosions and battalions of tracked vehicles trudging across the snow, a war. Each skirmish draws its own blood and escalates the conflict. The brush with death has disrupted Ebba and Tomas’ relationship, throwing them into conflict and spiralling towards separation, with their children’s distress as collateral damage. That shift between comedy and drama, and that strange uncomfortable hinterland between the two is the hallmark of this film. Meticulously constructed it plays that balancing act for all it is worth. Hence the audience is not inured to tragedy as it hits it crescendo, and can clearly see how it is playing out on all the family. Perhaps it may falter at the end, not giving an entirely believable conclusion in its attempt to reconcile, but as the film so readily points out – nothing is perfect.

Strikingly beautiful, darkly humorous, and remarkably astute in its observations of families under crisis, Force Majeure well deserves the praise and awards that it has been garnering.


Force Majeure screens at Somerville, UWA from Tuesday, January 27, until Sunday, February 1, and at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday, February 3, until Sunday, February 8, as part of Lotterywest Festival Films. For tickets and session times, go to

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