Ruben Östlund

  • Words Elle Hunt
  • Photography Sina Östlund

Crude, contrary—and killing it: Meet the auteur of awkwardness.

Issue 49

, Scandinavia

  • Words Elle Hunt
  • Photography Sina Östlund

There are very few scenarios that Ruben Östlund can’t turn into a social experiment. When the Swedish filmmaker first started flying business class, for example, he noticed himself eating more slowly, holding himself with greater control and behaving in general “a little bit more sophisticated,” he admits.

Östlund quotes from psychological papers like they are knock-knock jokes, and passes on insights into human behavior as if engrossed in irresistible gossip about mutual friends. One of his favorite findings is that people would prefer to give themselves an electric shock than be left alone with their thoughts.

“I think sociology is hilarious,” he says. Östlund’s work, as a writer and director, is like a rollicking game of “Would you rather?” with the most clued-in, ...


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