In Force Majeure, a 2014 film directed and written by Ruben Östlund, a Swedish family,
Tomas, Ebba and their two children, are at a ski resort in the French Alps. The holiday is supposed to be a chance for the family to get together, as the father is often away at work. An avalanche occurs – a real that Östlund depicts through a white screen and loud sounds.
When the avalanche occurs, Ebba cannot escape with her children, she stays with them. Tomas, on the other hand grabs his smartphone and runs away. From running away from work to running away from the avalanche, he is not where he is expected to be. According to Freud, the earth’s glaciation has produced a universally anxious humanity which Éric Laurent translates in terms of anxiety of the real: the paternal function for Freud protected against this anguish of the real. Tomas is not a Freudian father. This film is situated in the era of the exit from the age of the father, highlighted by Jacques-Alain Miller.This avalanche makes “the cracking of old conformisms” heard. Tomas cannot present himself as a hero. Tormented by his symptom of impotence, he saves his skin, but his desire is not there: “I am a victim of my own instinct”, he says. He cannot recognise himself in this coward, and therefore he cannot expose himself to the demonstration of his castration as his wife wants. Ebba insists. As he filmed the avalanche, he unknowingly filmed his own debacle. This cinematographic finding stages the return of the repressed for him. What was it like for Ebba before the avalanche? She was lulled by the image of a father who would be present and able to cope. But the avalanche cracked the image. If, for Freud, the function of the father is to protect against the anguish of the real, for Lacan his function is to é-pater. Tomas no longer impresses his wife. Driven to confess, he cries out that he is disappointed in himself, in his cowardice and in his lies.
Following this confession, R. Östlund presents a restoration of semblants, which appear from the outset to be tainted with the looming fiasco. The family goes skiing. Ebba disappears in the fog and Tomas goes looking for her, leaving the children alone. He thus accomplishes, in a climate of anxiety, the long-awaited rescue. It is through this pantomime that he regains virile semblance. The white screen of fog echoes the memory of the avalanche, but it is no longer a depiction of the real, it is the smoke screen of the imaginary, blurred, inconsistent.
The cries, the screams, the confession have not given rise to an exchange of words. In this film, what R. Östlund suggests for managing the real is the fog: to continue on the road without knowing in advance, to annul the moment of seeing the avalanche produced before. The film forms a loop: at the beginning and at the end Ebba puts up with this man who leaves his children alone in the fog, mistaken for “the most handsome man in the bar”, but whose phallic brilliance is unconvincing: he can be ridiculed.
References from the author:
 Östlund R., Force Majeure, film, Sweden, France, Office coproduction, 2014.
 Freud S., A Phylogenetic Fantasy: Overview of the Transference Neuroses. Edited by I. Grubrich-Simitis (Frankfurt: S. Fischer Verlag, 1985). Translated by A. and P. Hoffer. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. 1987.
 Cf. Laurent É., « Le Nom-du-Père entre réalisme et nominalisme », La Cause freudienne, n°60, June 2005, p. 136-137.
 Cf. Miller J.-A., « Sortir de l’âge du père », Lacan Web Télévision, broadcast, 20 April 2013, available on the internet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0S020Zoy9XQ.
 Miller J.-A., « Sortir de l’âge du père », op.cit.
 Lacan J., The Seminar, book XIX, …or worse, Cambridge, Polity, 2018, p. 184.
Translation: Robyn Adler
Proofreading: Cédric Grolleau
Picture : © Pascale Simonet