Ruben Östlund is a Swedish director who has won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival twice. He is currently working on a new film called The Entertainment System Is Down, which will be a social satire about a plane that descends into chaos when the inflight entertainment system goes down.
Östlund says that he wants one of the scenes in the film to be the biggest walkout in the history of cinema. He plans to do this by filming a 10-minute real-time scene of a young boy waiting for his turn to look at the family iPad.
Östlund has taken inspiration for the film from Ingmar Bergman’s 1968 film The Wolf Hour, in which a character takes out his watch and declares how long a minute is and then proceeds to watch it pass in real-time. He has also taken inspiration from Maastricht University’s 2016 “Self-Inflicted Pain Out Of Boredom” experiment, in which participants were made to sit and do nothing for 15 minutes with the option of self-administering small electric shocks.
Östlund says that the aircraft in The Entertainment System Is Down will go down and everyone on board will die. He has also said that he wants to buy the rights to the poster for the 1980 spoof picture Airplane! and use it for his new film.
Östlund is a professor at Gothenburg University and says that teaching fits with his filmmaking style. He is open about his process and enjoys meeting people and learning about their projects.
One piece of key advice he has for emerging filmmakers is to always have one standout scene on which they can sell their project. He says that on Force Majeure, he said, “We’re going to do the most spectacular avalanche scene in the history of filmmaking.” When someone says this, it makes the listener sit up.
Östlund has a strong relationship with the Les Arcs ski domain, having shot Force Majeure there. He first visited in his 20s, when he was a ski bum in Val d’Isère.
Östlund says that he still loves being in the mountains, but more for the sense of risk than a continued passion for skiing. He says that making a $13 million picture like Triangle Of Sadness is not an entirely risk free affair.
The new film will likely be financed in a similar way to Triangle Of Sadness, with distribution rights being sold territory by territory to long-time theatrical distribution partners. Östlund says that he likes this way of slowly progressing and slowly building.