With a track record of only 6 features, the filmmaker was already selected twice at Un Certain Regard, where he was awarded the Jury Prize in 2014, before later entering the Competition. No sooner does he appears there that the Palme d’or is awarded to him twice; first for The Square at the 70th Festival de Cannes, and then for his next film acclaimed last year, Triangle of Sadness.
After studying cinema in Gothenburg, he directed his first feature film, The Guitar Mongoloid, in 2004. On the edge of the documentary genre, the film describes the intersecting destinies of outcasts in a fictional city that closely resembles Gothenburg. Humor as a tool of sociological description is already apparent.
His next short film, Autobiographical Scene Number 6882, gathers all the ingredients of his future work, which are affirmed in Involuntary, a feature film selected at Un Certain Regard in 2008. Östlund positions the camera at a relevant distance to better observe human behavior: small weaknesses and major flaws caused by group dynamics are then dissected to the point of discomfort. Two years later, Incident by a Bank won the Golden Bear for best short film at the 60th Berlinale – it examines the reactions of passers-by to a bank robbery. His third feature film, Play, which was presented at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes in 2011, describes harassment between youth gangs. When it was released in Sweden it gave rise to a major debate across Swedish society.
In Force Majeure, which was screened at Un Certain Regard in 2014, the situation takes on the aspect of an avalanche where a father prefers to take cover rather than save his wife and children: how can he accept the aftermath, in bad faith and in fear of losing face? Such is the issue that the director examines with ferocious acidity.
Ruben Östlund repeatedly explores a provocative dialectic which has become his signature: an initial situation sets the stage for a sociological examination where the baser instincts of our humanity are painstakingly and uncompromisingly examined with corrosive humor.
In 2017, in The Square, he tells the fictional story of an artistic experiment he conducted in his native country. The film addresses brilliantly the boundaries of public space, art and the animal aspects within ourselves.
Finally, in 2022, Triangle of Sadness chronicles a cruise ship caught in a storm that reshuffles the cards of class struggle in Western societies in a nauseating hullabaloo.
By inviting Ruben Östlund to preside over the Jury, the Festival de Cannes wishes to pay a tribute to films that are uncompromising and forthright and which constantly demand that viewers challenge themselves and that art continue to invent itself.
Ruben Östlund has therefore become the third two-time winner of the Palme d’Or to be the President of the Jury, following Francis Ford Coppola and Emir Kusturica, and the very first to take on this role the year after his acclaim in Cannes.