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Epstein, O.B. (2016). Force Majeure, Director Ruben Östlund, 2014. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 10(1):47-49.
(2016). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 10(1):47-49
Force Majeure, Director Ruben Östlund, 2014
Review by: Orit Badouk Epstein
In this atmospheric family drama, a Swedish family of four travels to the French Alps to enjoy a skiing holiday. On their second day at the resort, while sitting for lunch in a scenic sunny Alpine restaurant, an avalanche suddenly occurs, filmed in a single, breath-taking take. At this moment chaos erupts, with diners fleeing for their lives in all directions. The mother, Ebba, calls for her husband, Tomas, while she tries to protect their children. Tomas meanwhile grabs his cell phone and runs away.
It is from this frenzied moment that things unfold subtly in front of us. After Tomas has run away from the avalanche, it turns out that, what had appeared as a catastrophe, was just a side effect of a controlled explosion and the avalanche had stopped well short of the restaurant. But what it has actually done is to expose his selfish and cowardly behaviour. This heart-stopping moment, which lasts less than five minutes, determines what takes place next. Ebba cannot get over what has happened. The children, looking upset and fearful, are the first to notice their father's abandonment and distressed by this traumatic experience later communicate this as the marriage buckles under the strain. What could have been a catastrophic event has turned into an internal torment for a family who on the surface seemed to be perfectly happy and ordinary.
In the aftermath, unable to fully acknowledge what happened, the family spend the remainder of their holiday imprisoned in their claustrophobic hotel room and relive their trauma in some dissociative bubble. Lit by the eerie, blue light from the snow outside, the room changes colour according to the time of day, from a pale grey to a darker charcoal colour; leaving the viewer feeling just as trapped as this confused family.
Tomas tries to redeem himself but things seem to be irreparably broken and the family finds it difficult to come to terms with the psychological impact and its consequences upon them. It takes them a while to express what took place.
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