Paper by Juliet Parsons.

“Any man can be a father but it takes a special person to be a father.” (unknown) It’s crazy to think that someone you look up to your whole life can change instantly and be someone you didn’t think they had inside them. Let’s take a look at Force Majeure and dig deeper to the shots where the role of a father ditches his family after an avalanche almost takes their lives.

This family comedy-drama film Force Majeure directed by Ruben Ostlund was made in 2014 where a family is on a casual vacation at Leo Ares, a ski resort in Sanoi, France. A plot twist occurs when the main characters are sitting in the back balcony having breakfast at this cafe and an avalanche decides to rush towards them, almost causing damage amongst everyone there and the father decides to remove himself from the situation quickly away from his loved ones then tries to return to the table as if nothing had happened. A main focus for the audience was really trying to determine why the father had gotten up and left everyone. In the beginning of the film, he didn’t seem distant from his family nor did he introduce himself as being self-centered. Ebba, the wife is having a difficult time trying to figure out answers from her husband Thomas but he continues to ignore what had happened during breakfast that one morning. The director of this film tries to play off the father with his lack of knowledge when it comes to certain situations. Although there is no conclusion, there’s a sense that his values may revolve around himself. Even after the whole avalanche scene, the father was still acting distant from his loved ones and he quietly knew something was not right but wouldn’t admit to his wrongs or approach the situation. Aside from this inner drama, let’s examine the different shots that occurred that might have to do with the circumstances.

You would think that a father figure is the person to protect the family and monitor the surroundings but some results can be different in some cases. A shot that is so lightened up and seeming to be a positive outcome came so quickly to a bad situation. There was no warning nor leading up to the father leaving the table. Camera angle was observing the whole environment including the snow in the background which made it seem sort of suspicious but since the family was having a conversation everything was ought to be normal. Even the background folks were laughing and just having a phenomenal time at the resort. This came very unexpecting in which case the father acted quickly and perhaps he values himself more than others. Since this scene did happen at the beginning of the film, before then, there wasn’t much action or sense given off of Thomas. I could notice the father being very quiet and less excited about that whole vacation Ebba planned for their family. I’d say that this scene was definitely a shocker because it’s rarely known that a father figure would abandon his family during a crisis.

When filming Force Majeure the lack of camera movement was obvious. It was very plain and simple to see the point of view of this scene. During the avalanche scene, it seemed to be a long take while the audience just observes what’s going on. This was enabled so the audience was surprised with that scene. It definitely was not expecting so the director did a great job with creating suspense with the camera angle.

A big lead up to the personality of this film was all the lines that were said. The acts were very soft spoken and not much was being said or produced. Listening to this film was somewhat hard to understand. When I watched this I couldn’t tell what most of the conversations were leading up to. Even at lunch, the father is lacking communication and the first thing he did when the avalanche broke was to grab his phone out of his pocket to take pictures. He had no concern on whether or not everyone was going to be safe. It’s just clear that he really didn’t care much about his surroundings.

Even after the avalanche scene, the father continues to act detached from the family. It’s very evident that the children were affected by this whole situation. There is a lack of communication when they continue to go day by day skiing. When the family is standing going through the tunnel, there is a severe awkward of silence. Everyone including the kids were just staring at each other not knowing what to say. The father was shown to be extremely nervous and a little guilty. The neck turning, and the kids standing away from the parents was a sign that tensions were not in good hands. I can personally tell that the little boy was having a hard time dealing with it because he’s the one who keeps looking around and the camera had a tad more focus on his personality towards everything going on. He was the outcast from being connected to the family. You can notice the sense of depression and sadness just by looking at his face expression.

The explicit meaning behind the scene I had chosen is contemplating between individual needs v.s. family responsibilities. Thomas seemed to be very confused with how he was feeling about the whole vacation. I predicted maybe he is so tired from work and everything that is going on in his daily life that maybe this trip still doesn’t feel like relaxation. It just may be that Thomas is extremely stressed out and doesn’t know how to deal with it. I would write down some of his quotes in the movie but most of his actions were by face expressions and the attitude he was rubbing off on us audience.

I picked these specific shots because this is the part in the film where a huge turning point begins. By that whole situation with the avalanche, the vacation basically went downhill from there on out. The family seemed totally normal at the beginning of the movie but after the avalanche scene, everything including the acting, lighting and camera movements makes sense on why the film is so sympathetic. Also, after that portion in the film, drama continuously started to evolve. Not only the wife but the kids began to increasingly be angry from the father’s actions.
There is a shot where Thomas looks at his wife and kids trying not to make it obvious and his face looks very sad. He seems like he’s starting to realize that something is wrong as if he knows nothing about leaving his family during the avalanche. His oblivious attitude throughout the film basically defines the role and character he is playing in this film. In other scenes during the film, Thomas tries explaining how terrified everyone was and his actions reacted so quickly but it’s understood that he is truly guilty in the inside. Even Ebba, the wife is playing the role of trying to hold in her sadness how the father of her own kids would leave them without protection. She’s having a hard time accepting what had happened and moving on is a struggle for her.

With all the scenes put together, everything is connected with the tone of voice, sounds in the background which are very calm, it being a visibility lighting and the attitudes of the characters. Also, the camera is slightly moving in this film where it allows the audience to analyze everything that is going on in the whole frame. In other scenes, the father is not as around as he was in the beginning of the film. Whenever the family goes skiing, he’s very distant. On top of that, the kids were having breakfast one morning and Thomas wasn’t there for that and keep in mind that night he decided to go out at a club, intentionally getting hammered. One scene that really popped out to me was when Thomas had fallen in the snow, towards the end of the film and he screams as loud as he can while his friend is watching him. That him yelling was trying to relieve some stress and weight off his shoulders. Just in this movie, this poor father is going through hardships that are hard to read. Everything adds up in this film how the main focus is upon Thomas and he’s having a tough time dealing with things.

I would consider this film very contradicted in which it makes watching very interesting. Since it’s not fullfilled connecting with what is happening in this movie was hard to do. Personally, I didn’t expect the father to just abandon his family while the avalanche was going on and I was also thinking Thomas might be able to bring the vacation back to having a good time but instead there was no action and the dull attitudes continued. The plot segmentation in Force Majeure allowed us audience to look for the relationships that were bound to develop. The patterns, repetitions with attitudes, and the developing from beginning to end of the film was well done by the director from what I observed. Overall, the relationship with the father and the rest of the characters in this film was the main focus.

The theme that is created from all the scenes is what the father values either it’s between himself or his family. It’s pretty obvious that he cares more about himself though. After watching this film, I found myself noticing Thomas just continuously being self-centered and acting apart from all the activities. For example, the family went skiing a ton but the father was always going away from his family and there was just awkward tension. Ever since the avalanche the theme stuck because once the audience saw the father leave then it was a trigger that the movie was going to revolve around him. Ebba is doing a lot of convincing in this film. Aside from the shots I had chosen, she’s very conservative with what the family is doing. She tries really hard to keep the family staying connected but the father is just continuously lacking his effort.

The scene I decided to choose falls under a narrative because it connects with relationships that creates a chain of cause and effects. To add, this movie is not a classic Hollywood film. A cause and effect example in this film was when the avalanche fell and it affected the rest of the movie. Everything basically was a rollercoaster there on out. The father was acting very spacy and that was all because of the cause of the avalanche which was diegetic. It was a huge turning point which lead to many negative downfalls in the rest of it. I wouldn’t say this film was a story only because the plot was unfolding in front of the audience, and it presents itself in a way where the audience is watching the events happen in order.

Referring to a three-act structure the exposition was the scenes showing the family getting to the vacation up and introducing all the characters. That involves revealing the characters, setting and the overall view with how the director set up the film. The second part in the three act-structure is when the avalanche falls towards the family at lunch. That part in the film was a huge turning point especially when Thomas left the scene and returned back like his actions wasn’t a bad thing. The conclusion to the three-act structure is about Thomas just carrying about his own needs. It’s came down to the end where the father is not as involved with the whole family thing going on. Although he tried explaining his position and where he stands with that whole situation, it never met Ebba’s standards continuing a perfect vacation getaway.

This scene is very unexpecting as to why I chose it. If this part was taken out of the film, there would be no explanation why the father is acting the way he was. All these shots are put together to really create the plot. The evolving of the vacation seemed as if it was going to be a casual family vacation but really turned into having drama within the main characters. When I first watched this film, I genuinely thought the purpose was going to be like watching a family go on a great ski and maybe have a couple tiny issues. I was surprised to see that the movie was about the father showing what types of personal needs he allows himself to have. The relationship I thought that was going to develop was no where near close to what had really happened.

I don’t think many people that have watched this don’t understand or notice the pattern that goes on to create the overall theme. The scene I picked shows the meaning behind the purpose of this film. If it weren’t for the rising action, I don’t believe the movie would be good. The concerns the audience feels is a big part when watching Force Majeure and that’s what the director intended. By really focussing on this film and taking a deeper intake, it can allow you to think about your personal own needs.

A main reason I decided to pick this scene is because I grew up with a single father raising us on his own and I couldn’t imagine him leaving my side. Those kids in the film had the absolute right to be heartbroken by Thomas’s actions. Since the conflict is very unexpecting, the father’s values was clear to say that himself and working is something he cares most about. It’s a good thing that he has a passion for his work and what he does but having family responsibilities should be first of his priorities.
Force Majeure is a prime example of a father who doesn’t come close to concerning about his family and the way they feel about certain things. Being able to analyze this scene was important to the rest of the film because it really brought out what the director was trying to say. Sometimes you can’t expect the best outcome with family members when a crisis situation happens. Especially the “hero” of the family may not always be there for you without any warnings.

Works Cited
Stephen Holden, “Every Man For Himself! Forgot The Wife And Kids” 23 October 2014 The New York Times


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