Like a lobbyist to a constitution, I’d like to make an amendment. Back in March I posted my “Top 15 Films You Probably Didn’t See Last Year (and Should Spend All of This Year Catching Up With)” for 2014.
It’s a list I was happy with until about a week after the event. That’s because I saw the Swedish film Force Majeure and immediately realised my grave error…just like this cat did:
Haha! He’s stuck in a sandal! That one always cracks me up. Look at his stupid face. “Help me!”, Dawwwwww!
Anyway, I should have put Force Majeure up at number 6, that’s how good it is! Here’s the plot:
“A family on a ski holiday in the French Alps find themselves staring down an avalanche during lunch one day; in the aftermath, their dynamic has been shaken to its core, with a question mark hanging over their patriarch in particular.”
IMDB, why are you always so vague? Ok, so basically it’s about a family that incorrectly thinks, for about 27 seconds, that their life is about to be snuffed out by a torrent of snow. But that’s just the inciting incident. Luckily for them everything’s fine, yet in those 27 seconds everyone’s true character is revealed. The kids yell for their parents, the mother protects her children, and the father…runs away!
The rest of movie is about the elephant in the room; the fact that the father didn’t protect his family at the most crucial of moments. Everyone tries to pretend that things are fine, but clearly they’re not…and the real avalanche is a-comin’ down the track.
Oh yes! It’s one of those movies. Prepare for 2 hours of excruciatingly awkward silences. Take a shot of the good stuff every time eye contact is properly maintained and you can bank on being the designated driver tonight.
Maybe this isn’t your particular poison, but I love these movies. My favourite comedy of all time is The Office (the real one) for exactly this reason. I know people who can’t stand awkward silences, but I soak em’ up like I’m in a warm bubble bath. Maybe I’m just sadistic, or masochistic, or both.
Eventually, as rumours are whispered about, this failure of heroics begins to infect other men with the same self-doubting question; “if it was me, would I do the same thing?”. Wives begin questioning their husbands, and husbands protest at the audacity. Eventually, an important debate emerges, a debate about…
How’s my font size? Is it big? Is it bulging? Yeah, you bet it is!
There are other films that address this issue, but none do it quite like Force Majeure. It’s a piece that actually discusses the virtues of, and need for, a particular strain of gender-specific self esteem; namely male pride. Oddly enough, in a post-feminist era, an intelligent defence of masculinity has become unusual. Who’d have thunk?
Now, courage isn’t something that men have the monopoly on, obviously, but that exuberant, “chest-beating”, Tarzanian assertiveness kinda’ is. Dominance, assumed authority, hyper sexuality, violence, and objectification are all pitfalls of testosterone, there’s no question about it. Still, that doesn’t warrant the total dismissiveness of male pride that appears to be commonplace these days. It’s laughed at and breezed over with groin-flicking remarks like “compensating for something?”.
What happens in Force Majeure is that the central father figure is robbed of his male pride and needs to regain it. That’s not a non-issue, ladies…it’s really not. There’s a reason why male pride exists, and it’s not a construct. Women have to understand that the very thing they giggle about can, for many men, be as important to a male’s sense of self-worth as a females own child-nurturing instinct is to hers. Your gender is a massive chunk of your identity, and with it comes an innate gender-role, so don’t dismiss the necessity for a man to keep core aspects of his ego intact.
What was Breaking Bad if not a bittersweet cautionary exploration of male pride? As Gustavo Fring said to Walter White – “a man provides for his family”. He also protects them whenever possible, and if you remove a man’s confidence in himself to do it…well, then he just might crumble.
Of course, I don’t have any children of my own, but I am a man. No doubt about that. I have my own pride, strength, courage, and all-round masculinity…
Haha! That cat is still stuck in the sandal! Adorable! Awww, so cute! What was I saying? Something about my masculinity…i forgot…
Force Majeure isn’t really a family drama, it’s a black comedy. As much as it makes the case for male pride, it also takes shearing jabs at it. In fact, no archetype is safe from ridicule. The actors all exhibit that beautiful Scandinavian mixture of stoic stiffness, naturalism, and humble self-deprecation that we’re known for. As the running-time ticks away, the pressure builds towards an explosive confrontation that has to happen. It’s amazing just how fun it can be watching a family spiral into potential disintegration. Don’t feel bad, enjoy it!
It’s a film that makes me proud, considering how many terrible Swedish and Norwegian films there are out there. These are the kinds of films we should be making. I’ve heard rumours of an American remake in the works. Who knows, maybe they’ll have their own impressive take on the material. For now, though, I urge you to see the original so you can add it to your already extensive list of “Northern-European family crisis skiing comedies.”
I believe that Force Majeure is easily available on Netflix, so please check it out. In the meantime, here’s the trailer: