Spoiler Interview: Ruben Östlund on ‘Force Majeure’

Force Majeure Charlotte

 

There’s the character… Forgive me, I’ve forgot her name…

Charlotte… 

Charlotte is the woman they meet who is in an open relationship? 

Yeah. 

I assume that’s there to provide a little bit of context, to show that it is possible to have a relationship that’s free of these expectations. Because Ebba just won’t let Charlotte live without depending on a man for her identity.

No, no. Exactly. Of course I wanted to highlight the conventions of the nuclear family, and also I wanted to… I mean, Charlotte is talking about her life almost in a hypothetical manner. So she’s like above her own emotions, which I think is provocative for the audience and provocative for people like [Ebba]. “You are saying things that are so easy. It can’t be that easy.” And what I wanted with that character is, a character like that, that is living this unconventional way of life, very often in movies get punished in the end.

Too often, I feel. It’s unfair.

Yeah, exactly.

“How dare you not conform?!”

Exactly, and she’s the only one who’s in the bus at the ending of the film. So everybody else is standing out there [outside of the bus]. I almost wanted the audience to hope for that bus to go over the cliff’s edge. “See? Now she will get punished for her sinful lifestyle.” Instead she’s the one who goes away to the airport. [Laughs.]

 

Force Majeure Bus Scene

 

I love the ending of this movie because you could have ended it a couple different times, and it would have been effective, but everyone gets their moment where they get vindicated, or get to prove themselves, or get to prove that they didn’t know everything at the end. 

Mm-hmm.

Was that difficult? Did you ever want to try to shove all those together in one scene? Were you concerned about how to end your own story?

I was so in love with the ending scene. I mean, both of them, because some people say they wanted the film to end in the whiteout, in the mist… 

So Tomas just goes off and never comes back?

No, no, no, they really wanted them to [rescue Ebba]. For me it’s a group therapy ski run that happens. I mean, Ebba is leading Tomas to be the leader of the family again. I think that some people wanted it to end when he says, “We made it. We made it.”

And then, credits.

Yeah. I want the worst case scenario for every character. They lose their dignity even more in the [actual] ending. The bus is leaving all those tourists standing up on there on this solitude road, and the sun is about to set, and the sky’s totally red. It’s completely black in the valley. And they are starting to walk into those clouds. They have clothes that are supposed to be [worn] in an airport, like high heels, and they’re walking. They don’t know how far they have to walk, and in the beginning they are ashamed of themselves, because maybe we overreacted. But after a while they’re feeling okay. 

But this is what it’s like to be a human. We are so afraid of dropping face in front of each other, and losing face in front of each other, and we are so ashamed of our instincts, of our needs. And in the end it’s a small step in the right direction for Tomas, I think, when he’s offered a smoke and first he turns it down, and says, “No, no thank you.” And then, “Actually, can I have one?”