The concept of a ‘controlled avalanche’ seems paradoxical; while engineers can predict the outcome of an avalanche set off by an explosion with some certainty, the expectation of complete control for thousands of tonnes of rolling snow is patently ludicrous. One such ‘controlled’ avalanche, tumbling towards the ski resort housing Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and their two children, sets into motion the events of Force Majeure, and an interrogation of ‘control’ in the context of this couple’s precarious marriage.
Ruben Östlund’s film would be an excellent companion piece to Gone Girl, with its examination of a marriage in crisis and competing narratives. There are obvious aesthetic differences – the French Alps invite cool, crisp cinematography at odds with Fincher’s slick neo-noir – but the biggest difference lies in how the two films each approach their contradictions and deceptions.
The catastrophic catalyst that is the avalanche is presented to the audience objectively, unambiguously. As Force Majeure progresses, and the avalanche’s aftermath intensifies, we see that there aren’t always two sides to every story. That subjective experiences twisted by personal interpretations are not equivalent to objective truth. That the man you want to be is not the man you are. Recommended.