Exclusive interview: Ruben Östlund Palme d’Or 2022

“What interests me is when the human being fails,” he says.

One of the few directors to enter the circle of the two Palmes d’Or at Cannes, Ruben Östlund won the Palme d’Or 2022 for Triangle of Sadness and, in 2017, for The Square. Met at the Marrakech International Film Festival, he recounts his inspirations with great humor and simplicity, shares his thoughts without restraint and offers other glasses to look at the world. In the simplicity of the moment and the generosity of sharing of one of today’s great directors, cinema shines in all its dimension… human above all.

After the festivals, the palms, the towers… what do you have left?

I feel like a pressing desire to start a new project. I’m a little tired of having to present the film repeatedly in cinemas. However, I also think it is part of the director’s role, since cinema is more and more part of an event live that is happening. By the way, I could on the contrary say that after reflection, this process gives me energy.

Where do you draw your inspiration from on a daily basis?

My wife, Sina, no doubt. We often discuss my projects. She is a fashion photographer and has therefore been largely part of the Triangle of Sadness, since the film takes place in the world of fashion. These discussions are indeed fun and enjoyable for us, as well as observing the world, human beings, their behavior. I am a very sociable person. I love meeting people and talking to them. It’s my big inspiration.

Does the humor in your films accompany you? Is this your everyday perception?

I think so. I grew up with Swedish director Roy Andersson. It has a humorous aspect to perceiving human beings; we are somewhere not very intelligent. That’s what I like; it’s what we call humor in Sweden, when you have a rope around your neck. I am sometimes told that I am a misanthrope, that I find men to be horrible… I don’t agree at all. In fact, I have a positive outlook on human beings. We collaborate a lot, we want to create a fair society, the creators fight for that… But in my films, what interests me is when a human being fails. I think that’s what’s far more interesting than success. Sometimes we get confused, we think I see everyone is horrible, but in reality, it’s not true at all. I’m just interested in missing out.

Speaking of failure, did you expect this success – two Palmes d’Or at Cannes?

When I received the first Palme d’Or, I couldn’t believe it, I was floating on a cloud. When I received the second, I started to think that I could win a third one! The second Palme d’Or put less pressure on me than the first. The fact that Triangle of Sadness could not be part of the official competition this year made me very nervous. We wanted the film to be in Cannes, but we weren’t invited yet; there was a selection committee. When we were selected, I said to myself that my job is done. I knew the previous jury had made the right choice, so I felt liberated. I’m sure I’ll feel the pressure again when cutting the film, but at the moment I don’t.

You are not a classic director, you have your own vision of things. Do you see things the same way in your mind, or is it the film that imposes it in its process?

I believe if you look at the Western world and the dominance of Anglo-Saxon culture and the perception of neoliberalism in relation to human beings, it’s completely in the veins of how cinema tells stories from an American point of view . It’s always a main character in the face of peril and then who wins or not. It’s always the good and the bad. You then explain the world through individuals and I don’t like that way of seeing the world. I prefer to explain rather the social context that individuals face and it is a big difference in perception compared to the audience too. I want to offer him an angle on the social and behavioral approach in my films. I do not believe in this perception of neoliberalism that explains our behavior. Take the example of Sweden: I was brought up in the American Anglo-Saxon way. When my wife, German, first arrived in Sweden, she said to me: “You are so Americanized.” Even on television, there are certain restrictions on dubbing. I think we have to start looking at things from a social point of view. One of the founders of sociology is Marx. He looks at the world with a naturalistic approach.

In your films, you criticize the “contemporary” or contemporary art, while you go beyond the classic yourself…

I’m happy about it because a director or an artist gives human beings the opportunity to see the world differently. The great artists I know gave me another perception of the world. I would say to myself, for example, I have a Roy Andersson moment…when someone would say I have a revelation à la Ruben ÖstlundI will be glad I gave people glasses and they will be able to see the world differently.

What do you do so that success doesn’t go to your head?

I have a one year old child, I am also a little advanced in age. I have worked in the industry since I was twenty. I was a skier and started with sports action movies. I have done this for a long time. I have always worked with the same people for years. My wife is the harshest critic I know. I ask him to admit that I’m not as terrible as that…

What do you keep from the child you were?

My mother was a painter and a teacher. She always said that the approach of a child is to look at the world with curiosity. It is what makes life worth living. That’s what I try to keep.

Marie-Christine Tayah
Instagram: @mariechristine.tayah

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Exclusive interview: Ruben Östlund Palme d’Or 2022