Spoiler Interview: Ruben Östlund on ‘Force Majeure’
“I’m the kind of person who smokes and I’m not going to be ashamed of it.”
No, no, and he’s like taking the cigarette and his son is asking, “You smoke, daddy?” And instead of saying, “No, no, no, I’m just taking one cigarette,” no, he says, “Yes, I do.” I think that’s…
Heroic smoking. You don’t see that very often.
Yeah, just on the paper I immediately understood. I want to end this film with, “Do you smoke, daddy?” “Yes, I do.” [Laughs.]
Even Ebba, she gets to be the one who stands up for the family, and yet she was wrong to do so. We learn she was freaking out for no reason. She was overly anxious. That’s a great capper for her as well.
When you’re dealing with a cast that’s… a lot of this film is gender roles, and the expectations of gender roles… was your cast completely on board, like, “I know how I see men, that’s fine?” Or was it difficult to get them into the right emotional headspace?
Well, I mean during the cast I made it very clear for Johannes [Kuhnke] that he was going straight down to the bottom. […] Yeah, that was something I told all the actors that were [auditioning for Tomas] for the film, that there is one scene in the film there is one you’re going to have to do the worst man cry ever. So that was building up the strength of, also the knowledge of the kind of humor I have, that I really like to be mean towards the characters.
You really do!
I like to change the set up so it gets even worse for them.
The never-ending argument in bed. After a while they’ve been doing this for hours. I’m like, “You have? Oh god, that sucks. And I’ve been there!” That’s brutal.
“I want the worst case scenario for every character.”
Do you ever worry you’re too mean to your characters? Or is “mean to your characters” always better?
No, but there was one case actually. It’s nice to hear when you bring that subject up, because when he’s crying the worst man cry, the janitor is the one that opens the hotel room door for them, and I actually had in mind that he should be standing there all the time with the door open. So, [Tomas is man crying], and we think they are at least in the apartment and no one else [can see them], but I actually had… I think I would end the scene like, you see the scene and the janitor is standing there. But then the producer said to me – he’s a very good friend of mine, and we have been working together now like ten years – and he said, “No, he shouldn’t be there. Can’t they be alone? Please?” [Laughs.]
The janitor character is funny because on one hand he’s a bit of comic relief, but he’s also… When you’re on vacation it’s hard to get time alone when you’re with your kids, so it seemed to me that he represents the idea that they’ll never have a moment together.
But if he’s in their room, then he’s just a creep!
[Laughs.] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But I think of him as the [anthropologist]. The social [anthropologist]. The one that, “Hmm… Here we have human. What is human doing? He is standing and arguing outside the hotel room. Hmm… Interesting.” And he is also like, he’s from a total different social/economical part of society, so he’s looking at those rich people having arguments about non-existing problems almost. Yeah, it’s connected to a part of the world, this problem, of course also. Because we have an electric toothbrush… [Mimes electric toothbrush.]