Sweden's Ruben Östlund: 'My goal is the biggest walkout in Cannes history'

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Sweden's Ruben Östlund: 'My goal is the biggest walkout in Cannes history'
Swedish film director Ruben Ostlund poses at his house in Campos, on the Balearic island of Mallorca, on April 18, 2023. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP

Swedish director Ruben Ostlund vowed to keep his ego in check as jury head in Cannes, and also told AFP's Camille Bas-Wohlert why his next film may cause the biggest walkout in the festival's history.


Östlund spoke to AFP in the garden of his townhouse on the Spanish island of Majorca about his excitement over leading the jury at the world's most prestigious film festival next month.

It comes just a year after he won its top prize Palme d'Or for a second time for his biting class satire "Triangle of Sadness".

Among the filmmakers he will be judging is another two-time winner -- 86-year-old Ken Loach -- and Ostlund promised to be scrupulously democratic if the Brit's latest, "The Old Oak", seduces the jury.

"If it's the best film we are going to give it the Palme," he said, adding with a laugh: "I will definitely work very hard to get over my own egoistic goals of being the first director with three Golden Palmes."

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As soon as jury duty is over, the 49-year-old will be back to work on his next project, "The Entertainment System is Down", about a group of plane passengers who discover they have nothing to distract them on a 17-hour flight.

"I actually have a goal with the film which is that I'm going to create the biggest walkout in the history of the Cannes Film Festival," he said, laughing.

The plan is to include an unbroken 10-minute scene of a child having to wait for his turn on an iPad.

"When they start to realise that this is a real-time shot, I think a lot of people are going to be very, very frustrated," he said, still chuckling. "I want to create history."

'Most important time' 

Östlund lives for these awkward shared moments. His films take an excruciating but hilarious look at middle class foibles as in his previous Palme winner about the art world, 2017's "The Square", and whack audiences with near-unbearable scenes like the extended vomiting-and-pooping sequence in "Triangle of Sadness".

He shares the Cannes organisers' devotion to the theatrical experience -- arguing that cinemas play an even more important social role in the smartphone era.

"You could say that the most important time of cinema is today because it's one of the few rooms where we are watching things together. All other content, we consume it by ourself in front of an individual screen," he said.


Östlund takes on the role as jury chief exactly half a century after legendary fellow Swede Ingrid Bergman had the honour. The other members of the jury have yet to be announced, but they will have a particularly illustrious bunch of directors to judge, including other previous winners such as Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda, Germany's Wim Wenders and Italy's Nanni Moretti.

Cannes "is one of the few arenas where you feel -- okay, money plays a role, but you can't buy your position in competition," Ostlund said. "You can have, like, a small Iranian film done by a 19-year-old director who is making a film on a (digital) camera next to really, really big budget movies, and these two films must be evaluated equally."

Cannes is seen as favouring past winners in its selection, but Östlund remains modest about his own prospects of returning to the competition.

"They are going to pay respect to my next film and definitely consider it... But if it's not a good film, it's not going to be competition," he said. "I don't think that Cannes is loyal to anyone."


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