Astrology: Film: Review: ‘Force Majeure’ (2014)

Magnolia Pictures

Magnolia Pictures

Blindingly white and light-reflective, snow shows a surprisingly dark side in Force Majeure, which abruptly detours from its seeming family-vacation premise to one family member’s full-blown side trip to a hell of his own making.

Written and directed by Ruben Östlund, the movie is set in a postcard-perfect ski resort in the French Alps, with a Swedish family – sporting the sort of good looks that trump the natural scenery – as the movie’s focal point. Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli), with their two pre-teen children, cozy into the architecturally breathtaking complex. When rumbling pockets of disturbance to the terrain announce themselves, Tomas reassures his brood that all such middle-earth activities are controlled.

Early in the film, as the quartet gets seated for a meal on a balcony facing the mountains, Nature gets the upper hand. An idyllic eyeful of snow suddenly becomes a willful, chaotic mass of an avalanche, quickly turning the dining area into a black hole, minus Tomas who has conveniently fled the table. Sunlight quickly cuts through the darkness, but the damage has been done. The rest of the film consists of the other three family members trying to make sense of Dad’s unforgivable, cowardly behavior. Ebba doesn’t sugar coat, accusing her husband with, “You ran like hell away from me and the kids.”

Although the movie suggests it will behave like a domestic drama depicting Ebba’s attempts to get at the core of her husband’s need to escape his family during a potential life-and-death crisis, Force Majeure is way more cunning and cutting. Östlund cleverly uses the avalanche – a brief one in which no one experiences physical harm – as a few seconds of life-out-of-control that are enough to derail the bearings of a middle-class achiever like Tomas. Utterly raw, impersonal and unfiltered energy, Pluto and the roiling incident it fuels clearly takes Tomas on another vacation straight to his own personal Hades. It’s a place buried so deeply inside him as to be virtually inaccessible, despite a supportive life partner.

As one of Tomas’ friends, Mats ((Kristofer Hivju), who’s also vacationing at the same resort, remarks, being in survival mode means not always being able to live up to your values. Force Majeure is one male director’s bearing witness to such a misstep – Tomas’ fear of being buried alive emotionally and spiritually and his panic at the prospect of having to change – which, in real life, needs no avalanche to trigger.

Archetype: Coward, Survivor, Death

Astrology Archetype: ♇ (Pluto)

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