Behind the scenes - Issue 108 - Magazine | Monocle

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Location: Split between Gothenburg and Stockholm
Films directed: 12
Awards won: 45
Production company founded: 2002

Ruben Östlund, currently Sweden’s hottest film director, is the first to admit that film-making – in the end – is a joint effort. “On set I have to be a bit of a dictator,” he says. “I have to hold onto my vision very hard because, if I didn’t, there would be no point in me directing anything. But at the same time, it’s important that all my team members trust their own artistic vision and dare to speak their minds.”

The 43-year-old director is currently enjoying international success with his latest film, The Square, a satire set in Stockholm’s art world that won this year’s Palme d’Or in Cannes. But he has been building his impressive filmography for more than a decade, creating both feature films and documentaries. Some of his closest team members have stood by him even longer: he met his producer Erik Hemmendorff, with whom he runs the production company Plattform Production, and his creative adviser Kalle Boman back at film school in Gothenburg in the late 1990s (Boman was his professor).

Östlund previously won acclaim with his 2014 film Force Majeure, a dramatic dark comedy that won numerous awards on the film-festival circuit. While the film didn’t help Östlund realise his dream of getting into the main competition at Cannes Film Festival, he found that setting ambitious goals and speaking about them publicly is what kept him motivated. “Goals are an essential tool in improving my own performance,” he says. “And it’s important to talk about them out loud. Because if you don’t, you’re not taking the risk of failure either.”

And what’s the next goal for Östlund and his team? Winning an Oscar for The Square, of course. The film is Sweden’s candidate in the Foreign Language category – and the director already knows whom he will be thanking onstage should he win. “I think surrounding myself with the right people is one of my strongest abilities.”

Ruben Östlund

Film director Gothenburg-born

Östlund began his career by making skiing documentaries in the Alps in his early twenties. He released his feature debut The Guitar Mongoloid in 2004 to critical acclaim. He’s since made another four films: Involuntary, Play, Force Majeure and The Square, which have all been critical successes and won several awards. Östlund is also a professor at his alma mater, Akademi Valand Film in Gothenburg. Sina Görtz  Erika Spetzig Make-up artist Josefin Åsberg

Erik Hemmendorff Producer and production company co-founder
“Erik and I run our production company Plattform Production together. As a producer you’d think that he’s interested in money but he’s not. For instance, after Cannes he wanted to edit ‘The Square’ again to make it longer”

Jacob Schulsinger Editor
“He’s usually involved in my movies right from the script stage. It’s so much fun to talk about ideas with him as he always has great suggestions.”

Ludwig Källén Assistant director
“He’s very knowledgeable in technology, which is good as I work a lot by building the images digitally.”

Pauline Hansson Casting director
“She goes into each movie with such energy and it costs her a lot. She’s called all the divas and talked them into being in the film.”

Sofie Krunegård Costume designer
“Costume design was an area I had to let go of in the film as I didn’t have so much knowledge about it. I had to trust her. It was the first time we worked together but I’m certain we will again.”

Andreas Franck Sound designer
“We have a special relationship. Andreas prefers to work alone and present his version to me when he’s happy with it. Sometimes he doesn’t even want me in the room.”

Fredrik Wenzel Director of photography
“Fredrik says that I have a cold view of people; he is sensitive and adds warmth.”

Vincent Larsson Post supervisor
“Today, the post-production technology develops so fast that it changes from film to film. Vincent is like my car mechanic; I trust him.”

Claes Bang Actor, star of ‘The Square’:
“I love Claes. We’ve worked together for three years. You work very closely with the person who has the leading role.”

Kalle Boman Creative adviser
“Kalle was my teacher at film school. At 75 he’s still one of the most vital people I know and very good at noticing and breaking conventions.”

Sina Görtz Fashion photgrapher and Rubens wife
“It’s very important to be able to discuss my films with someone. Sina is my sounding board and a tough one.”

Josefin Åsberg Set designer
“She’s behind all the museums and art installations in ‘The Square’. Nothing stops her; she brought her newborn wit her to work.”

Erika Spetzig Make-up artist Josefin Åsberg  
“Besides being a great make-up artist, Erika is great with people. That’s important when you’re dealing with nervous people who are about to go in front of the camera.”

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