The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Force Majeure: A Seinfeld scene in a Bergmanesque take

with 5 comments

Do you remember the Seinfeld episode when a fire breaks out at a birthday party and George panics, rushing out pushing down everyone that comes in his way in the process? Afterwards he tries to justify his behaviour, but nobody buys his explanations.

The recent Swedish movie Force Majeure begins with a similar scenario. A Swedish family goes for a skiing vacation in the French Alps. One day as they’re sitting at a restaurant, an avalanche comes running down the hillside straight in their direction. The mother in the family tries to protect the children. The father on the other hand doesn’t look out for anyone else. He runs away as fast as he can in order to save himself. As it turns out the avalanche never hits the restaurant. But it hits the family hard in a different way. Everyone, including the children, knows what happened. Not everyone wants to talk about it. How do you even talk about such a thing? And can you forgive it and move on from there?

The tone is a great deal more serious in this take on the male protector who flees in time of danger compared to the Seinfeld version. There are scenes that made me think of classic plays and movies about couples who speak out and hurt each other in the process, such as Long Day’s Journey into the Night, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or Scenes from a Marriage. However it’s not quite as heavy material. While it’s no Seinfeld for sure, there’s a lot of humour in the film. Sometimes I didn’t know if I was laughing at the shortcomings of fleeing father or crying over how miserable he was. I’m pretty sure I was doing both at the same time at one point. Reoccurring themes in the film: music by Vivadi, snow machines doing various jobs at the mountain, avalanches released on purpose all contribute to the sense of experiencing a concert, directed by Ruben Östlund.

Compared to his last movie Play, which I also loved, I found Force Majeure a little bit more accessible. If you’ve been on a skiing holiday with your family at some point, it’s easy to identify with the feelings of claustrophobia they’re experiencing in their hotel room and the tiredness and frustration you can feel when your child is having a tantrum in public for no good reason.

I know that there are several colleagues from the film blogosphere who are attending the TIFF festival in Toronto. I hope some of them will take the chance to see this film. It makes me a little proud that it was made in Sweden. Great movies sometimes come out of small countries.

Force Majeure (Turist, Ruben Östlund, SWE 2014) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

September 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

Posted in Force Majeure, Turist

5 Responses

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  1. This sounds fantastic. The premise lends itself to great drama AND comedy. Looking forward to watching it. Great review 🙂


    September 3, 2014 at 1:31 am

    • Thanks! It’s going to be Sweden’s contribution to the Oscars, so that might increase your chances to get to see it.


      September 3, 2014 at 10:46 pm

  2. Thank you, the mental image of the running avalanche gave me the best laugh of the day 🙂


    September 3, 2014 at 8:14 pm

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