Ruben Östlund has no trouble being “harsh” to his audience. The Swedish filmmaker behind wonderfully discomforting movies like “Force Majuere” and “The Square” is also making crowds squirm with his latest film, “Triangle of Sadness.”
Set on a luxury yacht where the 1% enjoy their privilege — until a shipwreck finds the rich relying on a toilet maid named Abigail (played by BAFTA nominee Dolly de Leon), —“Triangle of Sadness” won the Palme d’Or at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, repeating the honor Östlund received for “The Square” in 2017. And now the film is nominated for three Academy Awards, including picture, director and original screenplay.
The accolades come in spite – or maybe because — of its dark and satirical take on gender roles and class warfare. Then there’s that vomit scene, which has to be the longest in cinema history. “I actually wrote in the script that I’m going to go 10 steps forward than the audience expects me to go,” Östlund revealed in this week’s Variety Awards Circuit podcast. Listen below!
In a wide-ranging conversation, Östlund discusses the ending of the film, which has been the subject of much debate since its premiere. Fair warning that spoilers will follow when the subject is brought up, midway through the conversation.
Östlund also discusses another memorable Oscar moment – when he was certain “Force Majeure” would be nominated in 2015 for foreign language film. He filmed himself and producer Erik Hemmendorff reacting to the announcement – only to be snubbed. The pair uploaded the video, featuring the sounds of Östlund crying hysterically and Hemmerndorff telling him not to disrobe. Östlund even remembers the exact title it was uploaded under. “‘Swedish director freaks out when he misses out on Oscar nomination,’” he recalls with a chuckle. “You call it gallows humor, right?”
Knowing the filmmaker’s style, many assumed the video was staged while others thought it was completely real. Turns out the truth is somewhere in between. The video was actually shot in real time —but the sounds of Östlund wailing and Hemmerndorff talking him down were added after the fact. “I’m like freaking out and doing the worst man cry ever,” he says. “It was a way of dealing with it.”
Östlund also teases a scene from his next movie, “The Entertainment System is Down,” which will be set on a long-haul flight and sounds like another dark comedy. In the film, a plane’s entertainment system loses power and passengers are “modern human beings that are have to deal with boredom and their own thoughts.”
Östlund plans on including a scene where a young boy asks to borrow his older brother’s iPad and is told he has to wait five minutes. “And then I want to challenge the audience,” Ostlund teases. “You stay with the kid in real time. And he’s looking in the catalog, putting it back and the restlessness is coming. So he asks his mother, ‘How much do we have left?’ And she says, ‘Well, now it’s four minutes and 45 seconds, you have to calm down.’”
Östlund jokes that his goal is to create the biggest walkout in the history of Cannes. “And I think it’s going to be more provocative than any violent, any disturbing content,” he says. “Because to be left alone with your thoughts and challenging the audience to do the same thing, then it’s going to be very interesting.”
Also on this episode: We sit down with “Everything Everywhere All at Once” directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. The dynamic duo talks about the origins of their collaboration which began in film school, assembling their outstanding cast and artisans ensemble and what’s next for them in the film and television space. And the Roundtable gives its SAG Awards predictions.
Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, who also co-hosts with Clayton Davis, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.