Ruben Östlund, the thought-provoking two-time Palme d’Or winning filmmaker, will direct audiences during an interactive screening of his latest film, “Triangle of Sadness,” at the Göteborg Film Festival.
Titled “This is Cinema,” the on-site event will see Östlund break the fourth wall and step into the movie theater to challenge as well as engage audiences in the movie, which marks his English-language debut.
“The unique selling point of cinema is that we are watching things together and we process the content differently than when we watch things alone. Keeping this tradition alive is important because it’s part of the cinematic culture and audiences play an active part in it,” Östlund said, adding that getting audiences to discuss what they’ve seen together is also essential for a film to “reach its full potential.”
Set on a cruise for the super rich, “Triangle of Sadness” is a wild satire following two supermodels on a doomed luxury cruise. They find themselves stranded on a deserted island along with some of their fellow passengers and a Marxist captain. Amid the chaos, social hierarchies are overthrown and the economic value of beauty is unveiled. The movie stars late actor Charlbi Dean, Harris Dickinson, Dolly De Leon and Woody Harrelson.
When it world premiered at Cannes, “Triangle of Sadness” earned a rowdy eight-minute standing ovation following a lively screening that Östlund compared to a “football game” during a presser at the festival.
The director said he always has audiences in mind from start to finish when he makes a film, including during the editing. He pointed there is a “huge difference” in the way he edits a movie when it’s “for a single screen or for a collective experience.”
The Swedish helmer said through his travels, he has noticed that Scandinavians are particularly passive audiences compared to people in countries like the U.S. and France. “Maybe not the Danes but the Swedes for sure. They think they can hide in the darkness and they’re not willing to show their engagement in order to create a good show,” Östlund continued. “But it’s important that people let go of their fear of losing face and being silly.”
Östlund will pop in ahead of the screening to give the audience specific instructions. The screening will then be split in two parts, with a break during which Östlund and audience members will discuss, mingle and have a glass of wine. The helmer said he will also pull in audience members randomly to spice up the screening.
“I want to instill that fear that you have as an audience like when you’d go to these free theater groups in the like 1980s and 1990s — when you knew that all of a sudden you could be kidnapped and brought up on the set,” quipped Östlund, who added that he tried a similar experiment during the premiere of “Triangle of Sadness” in London at the Royal Albert Hall.
“This Is Cinema” will take place at Cinema Draken at Göteborg Film Festival on Jan. 28. On the same day, the festival will also be hosting several panels discussing the cultural and social impact of movies. The future of cinematic culture will also be one of the topics discussed during Göteborg’s Film Policy Summit on Jan. 27.
“At Göteborg Film Festival, we’ve talked a lot about cinema culture and audience behavior. And these are things that we as a festival have been very engaged in or a long time through various reports, experiments and special screenings, said Jonas Holmberg, artistic director of Göteborg Film Festival. “This new experience is part of our mantra and we’re very excited by the prospect of having Ruben Östlund challenging traditional ideas about the relationship between director, audience, and film.”
Holmberg said the event will showcase an “interactive performance with the audience” and will be “provocative,” striving to “change people’s ideas about cinema, culture, audience behavior and the theatrical experience.”
Aside from Ingmar Bergman, Östlund ranks as the most successful filmmaker in the history of Swedish cinema. His credits also include “Force Majeure,” which played at Cannes in 2014, as well as “The Square” which won the Palme d’Or in 2017.