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‘The Square’ Director Ruben Ostlund on Follow Up Black Comedy ‘Triangle of Sadness’

Director Ruben Ostlund, who won the 2017 Palme d’Or and was Oscar-nominated for “The Square,” says he is assembling an A-list international cast for his follow-up film project.

The English-language dark comedy “Triangle of Sadness,” which centers on a fashion model celebrity couple, will lampoon the worlds of fashion and the super-rich.

Speaking to Variety Saturday in Cannes, Ostlund compared the cast to the all-star lineup of one of the world’s top soccer teams. “The goal with the film was to create an ensemble that is like Real Madrid,” he said. He wouldn’t reveal who has been recruited so far.

Ostlund said he has been casting the parts himself, travelling to Paris, Berlin, London, New York, Los Angeles and Stockholm for the casting sessions.

He says that the strong critical reception for “The Square” and the 2015 Golden Globe nominee “Force Majeure” has helped him attract interest from top Hollywood actors for parts in the film. “A lot more people are curious about my work,” he said.

In the film the celebrity couple go on a cruise for the super-rich, but the captain is a Marxist and sets out to punish his spoiled passengers by staging a grand dinner during a violent storm, where a combination of food poisoning and seasickness has extreme effects on their digestion.

“The captain is a Marxist and there is a reason for that: Marx had theories that are really useful when you are trying to understand the world and why we act as we act,” he said. “From a thematic point of view, it is going to focus on how our behavior changes [depending on] which position we have in an economic structure.”

He added: “I am going to take as my starting point that these models — with their [good] looks — have a currency that makes them able to climb in a class society.”

When they are shipwrecked on an island, the power dynamic changes with a cleaning lady suddenly gaining an elevated status as she is the only one who can supply food to the marooned glitterati.

Ostlund hopes that the film, which will have a comic tone, will provoke heated debate among filmgoers. “There is one reason why we watch films together: it is because we need content that we can talk about when we are leaving the cinema. We need to have a problem for the audience that they can relate to,” he said.

Ostlund said the films of Michael Haneke had “a huge impact” on him because of “the way he challenges the audience,” and that he wanted to touch a nerve with audiences and make them feel uncomfortable. “But there is no contradiction in that and being entertaining,” he said.

“Triangle of Sadness” will go into production early next year. It will shoot on location in the main centers of the fashion industry, on a yacht on the Mediterranean and an island, either in Greece or Thailand, he said. He will also shoot scenes on the stages of Film i Vast in Sweden.

Ostlund likes to have long shoots — this film will shoot over 65 days, while “The Square” shot for 70 days. “What we need is time to evaluate what we are doing, and to make decisions [about how to shoot the scenes],” he said, adding that he shoots different versions of scenes to see which works best. “I do on average about 40 takes on every camera setup.”

He explained that he acts out the roles with the actors himself during casting sessions, which he regards as his “rehearsal time” as director. “For me, it is super helpful because then I understand how I should direct the scenes, and what kind of mechanism there is in the scenes the actors can use,” he said.

Ostlund shared some of his storyboard images for “Triangle of Sadness” with Variety, shown above and below.

Ruben Ostlund

Ruben Ostlund

Ruben Ostlund

Ruben Ostlund

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