Friday, 10 July 2015

After the avalanche, the meltdown!- A film review of Force Majeure

Hi all

Just had another review published in this month's Therapy Today -yeah! So here is it below! (as an ironic touch to the hot Summer weather, this film is set amid the snow on a ski resort)!

Enjoy! :)



Force Majeure is an uncomfortable yet darkly funny film about a picture-perfect Swedish family on a five-day skiing trip.

 The family is caught up in an avalanche as they dine at a mountaintop restaurant. Gasps of delight at the scenery soon turn to shrieks of fear as the rumbling snow gathers pace and heads for the restaurant. Our Swedish family scrambles for safety: Ebba grabs the two children and calls out for her husband, Tomas, to help. But Tomas has already run for cover, taking his gloves and mobile phone with him and leaving his family to face the onslaught alone.

As the snow hits, it soon becomes apparent that the avalanche has been controlled and that there is little danger. Somewhat dazed, Ebba and the children settle back to their seats, quickly joined by Tomas, to finish their food in the most awkward of silences.

The happy family
The rest of the film depicts the emotional fallout from Tomas’ abandonment of his family in their time of need. We see Tomas try unsuccessfully to reassert his masculine status through various macho activities, including raucous, heavy drinking and mild flirtation. Traditional family roles are reversed as Ebba, cold and withholding, watches her husband sink into an emotional and hysterical crisis. The children rush to comfort a tearful Tomas, taking the parental role to their infantilised father.

Ebba, in a reflective mood
The end of the film sees the family suffer another ordeal when Ebba gets lost in a snowstorm. Tomas finds her, and (rather unnecessarily) carries her back in his arms to their children, thereby restoring his identity as the family’s protector. It seems the family collude in restoring Tomas’ role as they find it preferable to the current confusion.

Male meltdown ensues

Force Majeure raised a number of issues for me relating to my practice. Our sense of identity is enmeshed with gendered roles; cultural stereotypes, as the film demonstrates, are immensely powerful and tenacious. We psychotherapists need to be aware of the gendered roles that we and our clients embrace. The process of therapy may well challenge assumptions about gender roles but our ability to alter these fundamental beliefs is often limited. It is important that we do not underestimate their power and influence, as change can cause an imbalance in the family dynamics, which may be unconsciously reversed in order to preserve the status quo. And, of course, we have to apply the same searching questions to ourselves as therapists, and watch out for those moments when we too have been pushed out of our comfort zone and are struggling as hard as we can to get back there.