"This filmmaker's chilly, detached style has been compared to that of the Austrian director Michael Haneke, but Mr. Ostlund is a more astute chronicler of behavior. His long takes suggest a psychologist observing group dynamics"
New York Times
Internationally acclaimed Swedish director Ruben Östlund was born in 1974 in Styrsö, a small island off the West Coast of Sweden. An avid skier, Östlund directed three ski films, alluding to his taste for long sequence shots, an affinity which he pursued and developed throughout his film studies and which to this day remains an important trademark of his work. A sly, trenchant observer of human behavior under duress, Östlund has quickly become one of world cinema's most distinctive voices, equal parts satirist and sociologist.
For the past decade, his extraordinary work has been collecting prizes at major festivals, including Cannes, where his latest, the widely acclaimed Force Majeure, took the Grand Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard competition. Two of his four features have been chosen as the official Swedish Oscar entry: 2008's Involuntary and now Force Majeure this year. In Östlund's bracing, darkly funny movies, modern life takes shape as a series of simultaneously devastating and absurd crises, no less real for being imagined, and the civilized veneer of Western bourgeois society barely conceals all manner of foibles and prejudices. His deconstructions of ego and privilege are elegant provocations, designed to defy easy identification and, in his words, "make the audience take a moral stand on its own." (Film Society of the Lincoln Center)
This touring retrospective is produced by Comeback Company, in partnership with the Swedish Film Institute and Plattform Produktion and with additional support from the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, the Embassy of Sweden in the U.S. and the Consulate General of Sweden in New York.
Coup de Coeur Prize
Cannes Film Fest
"It's the rare contemporary film that's as majestically and gruelingly rigorous in its form as in its thematic interrogations"
Set in Sweden and drawn from 40 actual cases of bullying by a single group, Ruben Östlund's gripping tale follows a gang of teens who intimidate and rob three younger boys without using any physical violence. Issues of race become paramount as tightly controlled scenes expose the shifts in power and attitude that accompany group behaviors, illustrating the path between open-mindedness and racial profiling. All violence is implied, but the graver implication (which inflamed critics on the home front) is that political correctness debilitates society, as "good people" stand by and do nothing for fear of being thought racist.
Play, which won a Swedish Oscar for Best Director, poses more questions than it answers, as it lays bare attitudes lurking beneath the surface tranquility of Scandinavian life, a peacefulness that can sometimes be tragically shattered. As Östlund has stated, "I want to make the audience active and reflective."
Directed by Ruben Östlund, Sweden/France/Denmark, 2011, 35mm, 118 mins. In Swedish with English subtitles.
- Sat., March 14 at 5:30 & 7:45 p.m.
Cannes Film Fest
"The best formalist black comedy about marriage since Eyes Wide Shut"
Critics' Pick "This brilliant, viciously amusing takedown of bourgeois complacency, gender stereotypes and assumptions and the illusion of security rubs your face in human frailty as relentlessly as any Michael Haneke movie"
New York Times
"Confrontational and sharply observed"
"Writer-director Ruben Östlund proves himself a master of finesse"
Recommended "A precise, exacting psychological horror"
½ "One of the most impressive European dramas of late, Force Majeur is assured and finely calibrated on every level, with especially expert, nuanced performances by its leads"
Force Majeure was a critical hit at the Cannes Film Festival and confirms Ruben Östlund as one of the most daring and audacious filmmakers to emerge in the last decade. On a family skiing vacation in the French Alps, Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are enjoying lunch with their two children, when the sudden, shocking threat of an avalanche prompts an impulsive reaction from Tomas. Though no one is harmed, the foundational beliefs and expectations holding together the edifices of marriage and family have been shattered. As Östlund plumbs the aftermath of Tomas's split-second transgression, this wickedly funny psychodrama examines the conflict between social role and survival instinct as Thomas struggles desperately to reclaim his role as family patriarch. Force Majeure is an observational comedy about the role of the male in modern family life.
Directed by Ruben Östlund, Sweden/Denmark.France/Norway, 2014, 118 mins. In Swedish, English, French and Norwegian with English subtitles. Sweden's 2014 Official Oscar® Entry for Best Foreign Language Film.
- Sun., March 15 at 5 & 7:30 p.m.
New York Times
"Östlund's cool, unemphatic compositions are uniformly beautiful, allowing your eye to edit the unpredictable action on its own"
"His film is the product of tough-love, arresting, unexpected"
Described by Östlund as "a tragic comedy or a comic tragedy," the director's second feature examines group dynamics and the dark side of human nature in five tales of social discord. In one, a teacher sees a colleague carry discipline too far and mentions the act in the staff room, with startling consequences. In another, a party host, afraid of losing face, unwisely neglects an injury. Two parallel stories detail groupthink among young men and women respectively. Co-written with Östlund's long-time producer Erik Hemmendorff, and inspired by personal experiences, Involuntary situates the viewer inside each social powder keg, where recognition and uneasy laughter coalesce. (Film Society of the Lincoln Center)
Directed by Ruben Östlund, Sweden, 2008, 35mm, 98 mins. In Swedish with English subtitles.
European Short Film Award
A young man boasts to friends that he will jump from a high bridge into the river below, then begins to have second thoughts. This penetrating short presages Östlund's Involuntary for its illustration of peer pressure and Force Majeure for its critique of the fragile male psyche.
Directed by Ruben Östlund, Sweden, 2005, 35mm, 9 mins. In Swedish with English subtitles.
- Sat., March 21 at 2 & 4 p.m.
"One of the quirkiest Swedish films of recent memory, The Guitar Mongoloid has all the makings of a cult classic"
"Distant, enigmatic, fragmented, and possessing a dead-eyed steeliness in the tradition of Michael Haneke, Tsai Ming-liang, and Ulrich Seidl"
Östlund's feature debut is set in Jöteborg, a fictional Swedish city resembling the director's own hometown of Göteborg (Gothenburg). Eschewing traditional narrative, euphoric joy and purposeful destructivity is present in Östlund's feature debut. In each sequence, the camera remains in a fixed position, recording events as they unfold. On a roof, a young boy twists TV antennas so viewers' reception goes fuzzy. A woman leaves her apartment, showing signs of compulsive behavior. A boy plays his guitar, screaming the lyrics. Young men destroy all the bicycles they can find. The Guitar Mongoloid describes moods and feelings for life in Sweden during the new millennium and although this is not a documentary, most of the people seen in the film are non-actors, more or less playing themselves.
Directed by Ruben Östlund, Sweden, 2004, 35mm, 89 mins. In Swedish with English subtitles.
Best Short Film
A single take where more than 96 people perform a meticulous choreography for the camera.
Directed by Ruben Östlund, Sweden, 2009, 35mm, 12 mins. In Swedish with English subtitles.
- Sun., March 22 at 2 & 4 p.m.
$10 general admission
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