“In Case of No Emergency: The Films of Ruben Östlund” is the first major US retrospective of the Swedish filmmaker, whose latest film “Force Majeure” is Sweden’s official Oscar entry and now a Golden Globe nominee.
Focusing on the shorts and features from the first 10 years of his career, the retrospective launches a 15 city tour at Los Angeles’ The Cinefamily on January 9th and New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center on January 14. Östlund will appear in person at special screenings in New York; Los Angeles; AFI Silver Theatre in Maryland; and at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. As part of their ongoing program Filmmakers in Conversation, the Walker Art Center extended on-stage conversation between Ruben Östlund and guest moderator Dennis Lim (Director of Programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center).
The program is as follows:
“Force Majeure” (2014)
On a ski vacation in the French Alps, a young Swedish couple and their two children have a close call with an avalanche that sends the father, Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke), scurrying for his life, leaving behind his panicked kids and equally terrorized wife, Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli). 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 scalpel-sharp, often squirmingly funny film examines the flimsy bonds of coupledom, the conflict between social role and survival instinct, and the impossibility of undoing that which has come before. Winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and this year’s official Swedish Oscar entry.
“I want to make the audience active and reflective,”Östlund has stated. He does just that with this controversial record, inspired by actual court cases, of five black teenagers harassing white and Asian youths through scams and role-playing. 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. Östlund, who won a Swedish Oscar for Best Director and a “Coup de coeur”prize at Cannes, imprisons his actors within a frame, not unlike our social mores freezing us in place. Unabashedly impolite, PLAY offers food for thought and fuel for fury.
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.
“The Guitar Mongoloid” (2004) U.S. PREMIERE
Östlund’s feature debut is set in Jöteborg, a fictional Swedish city resembling the director’s own hometown of Göteborg (Gothenburg). His focus is on outsiders and nonconformists, in particular the titular musician, a young man facing dire obstacles in life. The mostly nonprofessional cast brings a documentary quality to this loosely scripted communal portrait, wrought with compassion and touches of humor. Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2005 Moscow International Film Festival, THE GUITAR MONGOLOID is shot in typical Östlund fashion, with an observant camera capturing life from fixed positions.
“Incident by a Bank” (2009)
Based on a real-life account of a bank robbery witnessed (and filmed) by two bystanders across the street, Östlund’s study of surveillance earned the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at Berlinale. His slow zooms and pans across vast public spaces-and his implicit question, “who watches the watchers?”-may remind some viewers of Michael Haneke’s Caché.
“Autobiographical Scene Number 6882” (2005) NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
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.
“Free Radicals” (1997) NY Only
Östlund discovered his penchant for long takes making ski films, in which unbroken shots prove the authenticity of the unbelievable feats depicted. Stunning compositions and an energetic soundtrack (featuring Swedish hip-hop, electronica, ska, and thrash metal) make this a sensory delight, even for those who aren’t skiing enthusiasts.
“Free Radicals 2″ (1998) NY Only
Östlund’s follow-up to his highly praised Free Radicals was shot in breathtaking locales throughout Sweden, France, Switzerland, Norway, and Alaska. If FORCE MAJEURE is, as he describes it, “a ski trip to hell,” the natural beauty on display here conjures a celestial vision of heaven on the slopes.
The venues will screen the retrospective in this order:
* The Cinefamily, Los Angeles, CA –January 9-18
* Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York, NY –January 14-22
* AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, Silver Spring, MD (Washington DC area) – January 15 – February 28 * Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN –January 17-18
* Austin Film Society, Austin, TX –January 23-27
* Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA –January 28-31
* Northwest Film Forum, Seattle, WA –February 5-8
* Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA –February 12-26
* Jacob Burns Film Center, Pleasantville, NY –March 4-25
* Cleveland Cinematheque, Cleveland, OH-March 5-15
* The Cinematheque, Vancouver, BC, Canada –March 12-22
* Northwest Film Center, Portland, OR –March 26-29