Ruben Östlund, Swedish filmmaker: “If you understand Marx, you understand where I come from”

Ruben Östlund is one of the rare directors to have won the Palme d’Or twice at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2017 for The Square and in 2022 for Without Filter , two films which paint, with scathing humor, a cruel portrait of Western society. At 49, the Swedish filmmaker is preparing his seventh feature film, The Entertainment System Is Down. Or a closed door in an airplane during a long-haul flight during which passengers have neither visual distractions nor telephones. On the occasion of a meeting in Les Arcs (Savoie), in December 2023, where he was guest of honor at the fifteenth edition of the Arcs Film Festival, dedicated to independent European cinema, the director (who knows this ski resort well for having filmed several sequences of Snow Therapy there in 2013) spoke about the influence of his communist mother.

I wouldn’t have gotten here if…

…If I hadn’t had such an interest in skiing. It was the ski films that I discovered as a teenager that sparked this passion. At the time, snowboarder Régis Rolland, director of the Apocalypse Snow series, was my hero. My mother is from Haparanda, a small Swedish town on the border with Finland. We spent all the winter holidays there. But I dreamed of the resorts of the Alps, higher, larger, and where all the ski films that populated my adolescence had been filmed.

As a teenager, did you have professional desires?

At 12 years old, I was convinced that my life would be spent in the mountains. At the same time, I discovered the Camcorder and fell in love with it. The town where we lived offered young people the opportunity to borrow them during their free time. I thought I had found my two lifelong loves. Pointing the camera at an activity that interested me made me very happy. Between the ages of 20 and 25, I spent a lot of time in different resorts in the Alps filming off-piste skiing. I loved these moments.

When you’re on the mountainside and you press play, there’s an incredible intensity. You think you’re catching something sensational, the situation is exacerbated. There’s always risk, there’s always anxiety, and a few minutes later you’re in a postcard-like space where everything is fine. At that time, I was more interested in what happened in front of the camera than in directing or the idea of making cinema. I wanted to capture the feeling of sliding.

Your parents were teachers. What education did you receive?

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