Dir|Writer: Ruben Ostlund | Cast: Dominic West, Elisabeth Moss, Terry Notary, Linda Anborg, Claes Bang | Drama | Sweden\Denmark\US |
Swedish director Ruben Ostlund returns to Cannes, in competition, with another startling satire on modern society, the moral of which is simplistically: don’t lose your mobile phone. Not a very helpful caveat but one that leads to the downfall of the film’s central character, a suave gallery owner who provides the prism through which Ostlund explores the state of Sweden’s art world and, more widely, its sociopolitical and national identity – going forward, as they say.
This is a frightening and ambitious thriller not only for its thematic richness but also for its resonant performances and darkly comic moments. As in his 2014 hit Force Majeure, Ostlund’s is a tale of guilt and responsibility but also political correctness and freedom of speech in the light of Sweden’s influx of migrants, and all this coalesces to provide a provocative watch but also an nail-bitingly tense one that will possibly leave you shattered, it did me.
Claes Bang plays the aptly named Christian, a sympathetic, sophisticated and broadminded gallery owner keen to keep at the cutting edge of art world. To this effect he has created a space in the museum’s courtyard called The Square which allows ‘freedom of expression’ for all, provided that they abide by society’s ‘rules’. But a PR stunt upsets the status quo and Christian discovers his wallet and mobile have been stolen while he is protecting a woman from the advances of a hostile man outside the main train station.. Encouragingly, sources provide a putative zone – a block of flats – where his stuff is located and after requesting his belongings be returned they soon emerge leaving him with a feeling of largesse. But after an ill-advised one night stand with Elizabeth Olsen’s American journalist, who has interviewed him that day, things start to go awry in a bizarre way, and seem link to the robbery highlighting the film’s racial dimension. Without disclosing the storyline, this is an intriguingly dense thriller, sumptuously mounted and full of inventive elements and subtle performances that will sear it to your memory for a very long time to come. MT
CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 17-28 MAY 2917 | IN COMPETITION