Ruben Östlund: “Snow Therapy goes totally against the archetype of the great American hero”

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Ruben Östlund’s film can be viewed again on Arte and Arte.TV.

Update March 14, 2022: Ruben Ostlundwho received the Golden Palm for The Square during the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, had before that staged Snow Therapy, a squeaky comedy where a father panics and abandons his loved ones during an avalanche. We met the director at the beginning of 2015 to talk about this amazing film, and we are sharing this interview again when it is rebroadcast on Arte. Note that it is already visible on the channel’s website.

Interview of January 28, 2015: Snow Therapy snowballs. Presented at the Cannes Film Festival last May, the Swedish film Ruben Ostlund, a sadistic comedy about the ordinary cowardice of a father on a skiing holiday, never ceases to win over him all the votes. Renamed Force Majeure in the United States, he became a real critical darling there, before being nominated for the Golden Globes alongside other competition beasts like Ida or Levathan. The rumor logically predicted him an Oscar nomination for best foreign film, but he finally failed in the home stretch. Courageous (or completely masochistic), Ruben Östlund posted a video where he sees him learning live that Snow Therapy was not on the list of finalists. A nice little moment of humiliation where we understand that this Nordic disciple of Haneke and Alexander Payne can be as cruel with himself as with his characters. Meet.

The idea of ​​the film, super effective, probably explains the little buzz that accompanies Snow Therapy (review)

Ruben, what made you post this video? Hey, hey… It was an idea of ​​Eric, my producer, to film us watching the streaming nominations announcement. It was an important moment for us. And then… it’s always interesting to read the disappointment on a face, isn’t it?

Either way, it’s brave. And a little funny. Nobody usually does that… I find it stronger to see someone losing than reading a acceptance speech. That’s what I track down in my films, that moment when comedy and tragedy are so intertwined that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I had reservations about Snow Therapy because I find you really ruthless with your characters. But in fact, you are not very tender with yourself either… Ah, ah, that’s exactly it! It can be liberating, you know. Like taking off your bathing suit in the middle of summer to start swimming naked. At first, we are embarrassed and then finally it is those who have remained in jerseys who feel stupid. My characters are often ridiculous, of course, but I still have empathy for them.

You understand why Snow Therapy was so well received by American critics? In part, yes. Americans have invented the greatest archetype in cinema – the male hero who protects his family and his country against external aggression. And here comes a character behaving in a way totally contrary to this tradition (while an avalanche threatens to carry off his wife and children, the protagonist of Snow Therapy takes to his heels – editor’s note). It is a situation with which we can all identify, and them even more than us. The other part of the answer is the fact that in the United States, the nuclear family is sacred. And my film questions the validity of this system of structuring the family, which is taken for granted and irremovable when in fact it is a fairly recent phenomenon, a consequence of industrialization.

You say : “It’s a situation we can all relate to.” But your main character is so unsympathetic that it’s actually quite difficult to project yourself. I know it’s a defensive reaction on my part, but I spent the whole film saying to myself: “I have nothing in common with this asshole”Careful, careful, I said my goal was for you to identify with the situation, not the character. I recognize that he is not likeable, but I never had the ambition to film likeable people! I thought a lot about the captain of the Costa Concordia, who justified having fled before his passengers by explaining that he had fallen into a lifeboat! It’s such a huge lie, so pathetic, denied by surveillance cameras… But it’s fascinating to see what fear can make us do. These are the kinds of questions I like to ask myself.

You said in an interview that your ambition with Snow Therapy was to increase the divorce rate among your viewers. How’s your crusade going so far? Ah, ah! We will have to take stock when we remove the film from the poster. I must admit that an Oscar nomination would have really helped me on this one…

What is The Square, the 2017 Palme d’Or worth?

Do you know that David Fincher said the exact same thing about Gone Girl ? That he wanted the couples to separate on leaving the room? No really ? That’s funny. I read somewhere that Fincher really tasted when he was first married. I too am divorced, but I always go on vacation with my ex.

In Cannes, the film was called Touristit was renamed Force Majeure in the United States, it was released in France under the title Snow Therapy… What’s his real name? I like them all, they each underline a different aspect of the film. Although the best title, in fact, would have been The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie

Come on, a prediction for the road. Who do you think will win the Oscar for best foreign film? Ida, Leviathan, Tangerines, Timbuktu Where The New Savages ? I bet on Ida.

Interview Frederic Foubert

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