Matchup of the Day: Force Majeure VS Hard Candy
In the song “The Impression That I Get” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, part of the lyrics go:
I’m not a coward, I’ve just never been tested
I’d like to think that if I was I would pass
Look at the tested, and think ‘there but for the grace go I’
Might be a coward, I’m afraid of what I might find out
There are some people who may go through their entire lives without being tested. They may never have to muster the courage, resilience, nobility, etc. to make it through a trial unscathed. In the film Force Majeure, a husband and father of two is put in the position of demonstrating his familial loyalty when menaced by an avalanche. Though the threat turns out to be a false alarm, he chooses to run for dear life while leaving his wife and kids to fend for themselves. Even worse, he refuses to acknowledge his lack of bravery until confronted repeatedly by his wife over the matter. There are two definitions of the term force majeure that apply to the film –
- unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract
- irresistible compulsion or greater force.
The threat of the avalanche does indeed prevent him from fulfilling his obligation, and it also proves to be a greater force than his marriage can handle. His wife no longer sees him as a reliable partner. Nor can he rationalize his lack of character, which eventually leads him to a self-pitying display of sobbing before his family. The impression that one gets of this individual is that he never expected to be tested; that nothing in his life has ever challenged his mettle. His appearance of remorse over preferring self-preservation above facing danger with his family doesn’t even seem genuine.
Hard Candy features Ellen Page as an underage girl who is propositioned by a pedophile photographer on the internet. What the predator is unaware of is that he has made a date with a girl bent on revenge of a virulent nature. At first, she indulges his unsavory behavior, that is, until she gets the opportunity to drug him. He awakens to find himself tied to a chair. Page spends the rest of the film psychologically torturing the man, confronting him with the harsh reality of what kind of person he really is. In the article “Pessimism about pedophilia” it mentions that perpetrators try to rationalize their behavior by suggesting that the victim held equal responsibility. The villain in the film takes this attitude. He also attempts to promote his virtues as a “decent guy” in order to offset his criminal acts. Page, who could be considered a “greater force” from the above definition, is not impressed.
The director of Force Majeure, Ruben Östlund, says in this Spoiler Interview that the father in the film does reclaim some of his manhood at the end. Östlund talks about how people are so worried about looking bad in front of others that they aren’t open about their real needs. The father does take a minor step toward being assertive about his identity as a person, which perhaps indicates that he will be more genuine in the future. This also happens with the pedophile in Hard Candy, who, after being tormented for most of the film, says “This is me. This is who I am. Thank you. Thank you for helping me see it.” Page turns out to be more devastating than the avalanche, however.