In his ongoing relationship with literature, Ostlund doubled down on his coverage of human subjectivity, with such films as "The Royal Family." His latest film, "The Square," is a potentially career-defining cinematic farce in which character and plot barely matter. The film enacts the central absurdist tension: Could there be more to people than the stories they tell themselves about themselves?
Ostlund based the movie on a story he had been working on for years. In early 2012, the four-time Cannes Film Festival winner wrote a story about a vacation that a group of American couples take in an idyllic Italian village. Entitled "The Royal Family," the short story was inspired by his own 2011 visit to Sicily.
"I lived a regular, commonplace life, showed up at work looking like a regular person - shift worker-like, no sportswear, no fashionable anything. My shirt would not have had a red flag on it. In the square, I saw myself walking along, a father with kids, not a vulgar rich guy or a celebrity."
He produced a script for the project and struck up talks with several banks, scraped together enough money to buy a fishing lodge, and plunged into a project that would consume the entire next two years of his life. Ostlund's wife, the painter and filmmaker Ida Szymanowska, moved to Italy with their four children and rented a house for him and his collaborators. Everyone was invited to join - most prominently, a heavily pregnant Szymanowska.
Ostlund wrapped principal photography on a private beach beside Lake Como in August 2013, shooting in and around the city of Bergamo. He interviewed 60 actors for the film, which is scripted and ad-libbed according to the whims of the actors' performance rather than the cinematic or artistic needs of the artist. The on-screen chemistry between the actors is the movie's most remarkable achievement. d2c66b5586