×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cannes Facetime: Ruben Ostlund

After his 2014 Un Certain Regard prize-winner “Force Majeure,” Swedish helmer-writer Ruben Östlund takes on the competition with “The Square,” a language satire and social commentary starring Dominic West, Elisabeth Moss and Terry Notary. Alissa Simon

Where did your interest in social behavior come from?

Maybe it was because of my parents. My mother was a teacher in primary school. I remember when I was quite young she had this experiment with her class [where] they point at lines and say which line was the longest, to show social conformity within groups. That also became a scene in [Ostlund’s 2008 feature] “Involuntary.” I guess that’s a part of it — an awareness about these things from childhood and parents that were interested in these topics.

As in “Force Majeure,” “The Square” includes a very powerful set piece that will have people talking. To me, it felt like a metaphor for life in Trump’s America, but what is it about for you?

When we shot that scene, no one had a clue what would happen in America. For me, it is very much about the bystander effect. When we are in public spaces and don’t know who’s in charge, we have a problem with taking responsibility. For me, it was a way to point out how we are herd animals, how we are paralyzed when something happens that we are scared of and the feeling is, “don’t take me, don’t take me, take someone else!”

How long did it take you to shoot that particular scene with the stunning performance by Terry Notary?

It took us three days. After we were finished, Dominic West said that the performance that Terry Notary did was the best performance that he had ever seen. I think it was the feeling of everybody on set — around 300 extras. Every time Terry entered that room, he was so present in this situation that everyone related to the scene in a very, very strong way.

This is the first time that you’ve cast a number of English-speaking actors. Would you be interested in directing in English?

We decided quite early that “The Square” should be a Scandinavian film. I work with Danish and Norwegian actors, not only Swedish. But then I went to London to meet a couple of English-speaking actors that I was interested in. Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West were the best in the improvisations we did on those parts. I was a little bit nervous about starting working with English-speaking actors because I didn’t know how sensitive my instrument would be when I’m directing, if I could lose some nuance. But now that I have the experience, I’d definitely be interested in continuing working in English. But it’s very important that I have a production that I control and the way that we want to shoot the film. So, I don’t think I will go to the U.S. if we aren’t in control of the production and the shooting.

More Film

  • Macon Blair27th Annual Gotham Independent Film

    Macon Blair to Direct and Write 'Toxic Avenger' Reboot for Legendary (EXCLUSIVE)

    Macon Blair has been tapped to write and direct Legendary’s reboot of the cult classic “The Toxic Avenger,” sources tell Variety. Legendary acquired the feature film rights in December and have quickly made the project a high priority at the studio. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers with Alex [...]

  • Danny Boyle Bond 25

    Danny Boyle Calls His Exit From 'Bond 25' a 'Great Shame'

    Director Danny Boyle has finally spoken out after leaving the upcoming 25th James Bond movie over creative differences. After splitting from the new 007 flick last August, Boyle told Empire in a story published on Thursday that the script he penned with his “Trainspotting” co-writer John Hodge “wasn’t finished, but it could have been really [...]

  • Film Review: 'Everybody's Everything'

    Film Review: 'Everybody's Everything'

    An elegiac documentary exploring the brief life of rapper Lil Peep, “Everybody’s Everything” certainly doesn’t lack for perspectives. Interviewing virtually everyone who knew the musician (born Gustav Ahr), directors Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan cover the waterfront, from Peep’s family to his girlfriends, his innumerable collaborators, his managers and his fans, trying to distill exactly [...]

  • A Brinks armored truck pulls into

    Layoffs Hit Fox After Disney Completes Deal

    Layoffs have hit Fox following the entertainment company’s sale to Disney. The staff cuts are hitting employees at the SVP, EVP, and president level. Senior staff is expected to be among the first to be impacted. However, the cuts will be deep, with the ax falling hardest of Fox’s film team. There could be as [...]

  • Emily Blunt in Talks for Inspirational

    Emily Blunt in Talks to Star in Annapurna Drama 'Not Fade Away'

    Emily Blunt is in negotiations to star in Annapurna’s inspirational drama “Not Fade Away” with David O. Russell and John Krasinski producing. The project is based on Rebecca Alexander’s 2015 memoir “Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found.” Alexander was born with a rare genetic mutation called Usher syndrome type III and [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma' Nabs Nine Nominations for 6th Premios Platino

    As was widely anticipated, Alfonso Cuaron’s triple Oscar-winning “Roma” dominated the 6th Premios Platino nominations, unveiled Thursday at Hollywood’s legendary Roosevelt Hotel, the site of the very first Oscars. It snagged a total of nine nominations, including best film, director, art direction, cinematography, and acting for its two Oscar-nominated actresses, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de [...]

  • Stephen Bruno

    Stephen Bruno Exits Netflix for Top Marketing Job at MGM

    Netflix global marketing chief Stephen Bruno has exited his post for MGM, where he has been named chief marketing officer. His departure follows that of Netflix CMO Kelly Bennett and marks a major shake-up for the streaming giant. Bruno had been with the streamer since 2014, and is known as an innovator. He joins MGM [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content