Focus on Play Director Ruben Östlund

Focus on Play Director Ruben Östlund

Ruben Östlund is the Swedish director of The Guitar Mongoloid (2004), Involuntary (2008) and the Golden Bear-winning short film Incident By A Bank (2010). He works with producer Erik Hemmendorff and his won production company, Plattform Produktion. Play is his new feature.

 

Östlund's background is in sports films, making several skiing films through the 1990s. Watching his films now, they are characterised by the self-imposed limitation of long takes, reportedly a hangover from his skiing films. He says: “When you film someone skiing there is one rule, the longer you can keep filming without a cut the better the exploit. For as soon as a cut can be seen the audience could take it as a sign of covering up a fault made by the skier”. Now, in Östlund's fiction work, he has said that these long shots create a sense of real time, creating fascinating effects in terms of storytelling and mood.

 

His films are Swedish by their formal innovation. In this respect we can consider Roy Andersson, that other noted Gothenburg filmmaker, as a kindred spirit. Perhaps the cinema of both these filmmakers tells us something about their shared culture? Andersson's stiff, grey tableaux reflecting the perceived stillness and reserve of Swedes and likewise, Östlund's, distanced camera illustrating the space between people that this reserve may create.

 

What Östlund calls the “Gothenburg bubble”* is in fact a close-knit community of film school students and graduates that live together in halls of residence, working on each other's films and exchanging ideas. It is from the crest of this wave that Östlund comes to us and it is this we have to thank for his already striking body of work.