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Workshop with Ruben Östlund

After the screening of last year’s winner of Palme d’Or, The Square, the film’s author held a workshop with the students and guests of the 11th Küstendorf.

The Swedish director spoke about a specific approach to film and his mode of research into human nature very similar to the methods of sociology. Talking about the ideas and inspirations behind The Square, Östlund spoke about his own installation bearing the same name. As with the whole film, Ruben claims that he wanted to use the installation to challenge the bystander syndrome, which became a standard response of the civilized man to violence, and to human suffering in general. Collective rage towards an uncivilized individual is the most dangerous thing in our society, said Östlund.

Further expressing his dissatisfaction with traditional film approach to problems of human behavior, Ruben pointed out that digital video and especially platforms such as YouTube, allow us to question standard forms of film narrative structure, which offer viewers form instead of content ‒ meeting set expectations instead of questioning human condition. We must question the obsession with Anglo-Saxon dramaturgy, Östlund concluded.

He shared the way he works with actors, cinematographers, and the way he edits. When describing the reasons behind static shots, which sometimes hold entire scenes, Ruben pointed out that this allows him to focus on the actors’ behavior, thus leaving them room for free interaction and personal inquiry into ways to bring a scene to life. Also an editor, Östlund gives an impression of someone who insists on making films only in ways that would allow an intense depiction of problems he is tackling. As film professor, and lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gothenburg, Östlund had many things to say to young authors, in particular that they must not be afraid of failure and that making films must be treated far more freely than it is usually done.

After valuable lessons, the audience had the opportunity to hear the whole synopsys for Östlund’s next film Triangle of Sadness, which deals with human beauty and how it establishes social dynamics.