Ruben Östlund, the era in the viewfinder

Why would it always be up to the man to pay? The question torments Ruben Östlund, this evening of May 2016, in a chic restaurant in Cannes. Imagine the scene: his companion, Sina, pretends to ignore the bill placed in the center of the table. The filmmaker seizes it, not without annoyance, in a final gesture of resignation. We get angry, the tone rises, and the discussion continues into the white marble hall of the Martinez hotel. Sina then pulls out a fifty euro bill from his wallet and forcefully slips it into his T-shirt. The filmmaker is furious, as if she had tried to “castrate” him. Highlight of the show: the small cut ends up at the bottom of the elevator shaft.

“The ticket should still be there, if you look closely,” laughs Ruben Östlund again, in a hotel in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. Mahogany decor, spectacular chandeliers and endless corridors where a few top models still roam at the end of Fashion Week. The household scene with Sina appears in his latest feature film Triangle of Sadness, in French Without filter (in theaters since September 28), as a reflection on the distribution of roles within the couple. The story of two influencers invited on a luxury cruise, where the worst of humanity is found: a Russian oligarch, retirees who made their fortune in armaments, a depressed tech billionaire and Instagrammers in search of notoriety . “I wanted to talk about beauty as a currency of exchange, analyzes the filmmaker. All these models turn into products on social networks. It is capitalist society reduced to the scale of the individual. »

A night of partying with “Yu-stice”

A little reminder for those who don’t listen to “The Mask and the Feather”: it is with this film that Ruben Östlund won the Palme d’or at Cannes in May 2022 – his second after The Square, awarded five years ago. He thus joined the very closed circle of double winners such as Ken Loach, Michael Haneke or Francis Ford Coppola. The particularity of his cinema: to question the rise of individualism, the dilution of social ties or the widening of inequalities, without ever renouncing to entertain. His films question, jostle, make people laugh or make them feel uncomfortable. “He’s a provocateur who constantly pushes the limits”, slips me the British actor Harris Dickinson, one of the protagonists of Without filter. It’s hard to forget this twenty-five minute sequence where the cruise passengers vomit, while the captain shouts at them on the microphone: “Pay your taxes! »

There is Marco Ferreri, the director of Feast, at Ruben Ostlund. Even the Cannes jury said they were “shocked” by the film after the closing ceremony. More surprisingly, the right-wing liberal press was conquered by this anti-capitalist farce. This is not to displease the director, who fears being locked in a box. In reality, he resembles the characters in his films: tanned complexion, sunglasses and a black jacket thrown over the shoulder. “I was passing through a fortnight ago and I finally discovered Parisian nightlife. There he partied until dawn at the Silencio club for a bachelor party with two members of the band Justice – which he pronounces “Yu-stice”, with a hint of a Swedish accent – ​​and the director Gaspar Noé. “I make fun of myself above all, he likes to repeat. I would be tougher than ever if I had to make a film about the cinema world. »

Find the rest of our portrait of Ruben Östlund in our October issue

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Ruben Östlund, the era in the viewfinder