This post includes a brief plot summary, an explanation about the ending of the film Force Majeure (2014) and a relationship analysis between Tomas and Ebba. Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Ruben Östlund, the 2014 comedy-drama stars Johannes Bah Kuhnke as Tomas and Lisa Loven Kongsli as Ebba.
Force Majeure (2014) – Plot Summary
A couple (Tomas and Ebba) and their two kids check-in into a luxury resort in the French Alps.
During lunch time, the family sees a avalanche coming in their direction. Tomas panics and leaves his wife and kids in the restaurant. Shortly after, the heavy fog dissipates and Tomas reunites with his family as if nothing happened.
Later on, Ebba and Tomas have dinner with another couple (a friend and her date). While chatting, Ebba brings up the avalanche incident to the table and Tomas argues that he did not run away. The two cannot come to an agreement about what happened.
The next day, Ebba goes skiing all by herself. Meanwhile, Mats (Tomas’ friend) and his girlfriend (Fanny) drop by at their suite. After dinner, Ebba brings up the avalanche episode again and Tomas tries to deny it once more. However, this time Ebba grabs Tomas’ phone and shows the footage of him running away from the heavy fog.
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Mats and Fanny return to their own suite and argue over a hypothetical situation. They get irritated at each other and the couple eventually grows apart. The next day, Mats and Tomas go skiing. After venting out, Tomas returns to his suite, but he forgot his keys. The man waits for his wife but she takes a while to open the door. That same night, Tomas confesses to Ebba that he hates himself and then he starts to cry. The children rush to console their father.
During their last day at the resort, the whole family goes skiing one more time. However, due to the poor weather (heavy fog) that day, Ebba falls behind her family. Tomas leaves the children for a brief moment to rescue Ebba. He finds his wife and takes her back to their kids.
On their way down the hill, Ebba panics because of the bus driver’s poor driving skills. Out of despair, Ebba pleads the bus driver to open the door. He complies and Ebba exits the bus, while her family is still inside. Out of fear, the other passengers follow Ebba’s lead and get out of the bus too. While walking down the hill, Tomas accepts a cigarette from a stranger. When his son asks whether he smokes, Tomas replies with a “yes”.
Force Majeure (2014) – Ending Explained
The ending of Force Majeure is rather open for interpretation. However, it gives the impression that Ebba and Tomas are somehow “even”. Before jumping to that ending, let’s first discuss how it all began. Why is everyone in Force Majeure so agitated?
So during the entire film, Ebba is angry at Tomas for abandoning her and their kids during the avalanche. In the beginning, Tomas tries really hard to deny it, which makes his wife feel even more frustrated, but then, he has no choice but to admit it. Though Tomas admits his cowardice, that doesn’t make Ebba feel any better about the incident.
Things seem to take a different turn when Tomas rescues Ebba from the fog. For a split second, the couple seems to have reconciled but was Ebba really in danger?
When Tomas rescued Ebba, she put herself together rather quickly, which may lead some to believe that she was “faking it”. Why would Ebba do something like that? There are two possible explanations for her actions: one, Ebba was testing her husband; two, Ebba wanted to help her man get his ego back.
Giving Tomas a “second chance” to save her was Ebba’s way to test whether her husband is truly worthy or not. In addition, Ebba didn’t want the kids to think less of their father. So, she staged that little scene to make Tomas look good again.
Just when they were on their way home, another incident happens. This time, Tomas reacts normally, while Ebba has the most unexpected reaction: she panics and leaves her family. Although, the bus driver was struggling to go down the hill, it’s debatable whether the family was really in danger or not. Nevertheless, Ebba pleads the bus driver to open the door so can she get out.
While Ebba was pulling herself together (outside the bus), her family (husband and kids) were still inside the bus. Technically speaking, the woman left her family in a situation that she deemed dangerous. Therefore, it’s kind of fair to say that Ebba was only thinking about herself in that moment. So after almost chastising her husband for running away during the avalanche, she does the same thing.
The other passengers follow Ebba’s lead and they exit the bus too. In the end, they all walk down the hill. Now, why did Tomas take that cigarette and why was he smirking?
When Tomas’ son asks his father whether he smokes or not, Tomas proudly replies with an “yes”. Now, that he’s seen the “bad side” of Ebba, Tomas doesn’t feel the need to portray himself in a certain way any more, that’s why he was smirking while walking down the hill with his son.
EBBA AND TOMAS – RELATIONSHIP ANALYSIS
The avalanche was just a trigger to unveil the couple’s marital problems. They were probably struggling before they got into that luxury resort.
As the story unravels, it’s clear that Ebba has certain expectations about her man, hence, her frustration towards Tomas when he runs way and refuses to admit it. When Tomas was fake crying, Ebba called him out for it.
So why did it take so long for Tomas to admit what he did? His manhood was at stake. No man wants their significant other to see them as a cowards. Therefore, it was hard for Tomas to acknowledge what he did and realize that he’s not the man that his wife wants him to be.
At this point, Ebba is upset at her husband, but Tomas himself is also disappointed at his own actions. The man regrets running away from his family during a potentially dangerous situation, and he’s also sorry for being a poor husband to his wife (cheating confession).
Although Ebba is angry at her man, she also can’t stand to see him suffer. So, in order to help Tomas “gain his manhood back”, Ebba puts on a little show where she pretends to be a damsel in distress waiting her man to save her. However, this is debatable.
There are two possible readings for the heavy fog scene: Ebba fell behind (for real) or Ebba faked the whole thing. Personally, I believe in the latter theory: she was faking it. Now, Ebba might be the only one behind the plan, as Tomas seemed too pleased with himself when he “saved” his wife.
Everything seemed fine again, until the family leaves the resort and goes down the hill. Something unexpected happens: Ebba leaves the bus out of panic. At this point, it’s clear that Ebba herself can also cave in during stressful situations. Seeing his wife panicking and giving in to fear gave Tomas an enormous sense of satisfaction. Why? The man realized that he’s not the only coward in the house. Now, they’re kind of even.
Force Majeure is a bit of an acquired taste. At first, many will not find this film funny at all. Some might even say, that the pace is a bit slow, which I somehow agree. However, there’s something about Force Majeure that sticks with you.
Here’s the thing: the avalanche did not “break” the couple. However, it did expose the little cracks in their marriage. Neither Ebba nor Tomas are perfect human beings. Both can act quite selfishly under stressful situations.
The film uses Ebba and Tomas’ marriage as a study on modern masculinity. None of this (all the fuss) would have happened if Ebba and Tomas saw each other as equals. You see, Ebba expects Tomas to be brave and be able to protect his family. Why? Because he’s a man and in Ebba’s head that’s what men do. So when Tomas failed to be the man that Ebba wants, she couldn’t help to feel absolute despise for her husband.
The men in Force Majeure (Tomas and Mats) are definitely insecure about their own masculinity. For instance, in order to cope with feelings of shame and guilt, Tomas basically lies to himself and pretends that he did not act cowardly when that avalanche came for him (and his family). Mats on the other hand, couldn’t stop pestering his much younger girlfriend when she questions his “hypothetical bravery” during a dangerous situation.
Force Majeure is not a funny film, but it’s hilarious. Let me explain. So, the film has some comedic elements to it, but it’s not a full-on comedy. It’s the absurdity that makes the film so amusing to watch. First of all, there is a couple in absolute denial about what happened. Basically, they are lying to themselves. On one hand, Tomas tries to convince himself that he did not run way, whereas, Ebba tries to make sense of why her man ran away.
The film has a lot of nuances, and it’s hard to catch them all at once. What did I most enjoyed about Force Majeure? The ending: it felt very real. So, instead of sugar-coating the situation and sell us (the viewer) the idea that everything is fine between Tomas and Ebba, the film does the complete opposite with that ending. Having said that, Force Majeure is interesting and refreshing, definitely a very noteworthy film to watch.