Involuntary (3 stars)


(15) 98min

In contrast to recent high drama hits from Sweden (Let the Right One In, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Ruben Östlund’s quiet and thoughtful film Involuntary concentrates on the small conflicts of everyday life.

Five unconnected stories explore the nature of group mentality and what happens when an individual stands in opposition. In one instance a teacher challenges the attitudes of her colleagues after a child is punished in school. In another an elderly man struggles through a family celebration to keep face after an injury. And in a third, a sensitive bus driver halts his journey and refuses to go any further until one of his passengers confesses to a broken curtain rail.

The everyday subject matter is contrasted with Östlund’s distinct style; he shoots his characters from unusual angles, often framing them with their faces obscured. This approach has the effect of distancing the viewer, adding an almost anthropological dimension to the film while simultaneously introducing an element of intrigue to the scenes. As a result Involuntary is a film conducive to quiet contemplation rather than dramatic revelation, a subtle yet perceptive work that shows a different side of Swedish cinema than that recently seen by audiences.

Filmhouse, Edinburgh, from Fri 29 Oct. See profile, listings.


  • 3 stars
  • 2008
  • Sweden
  • 1h 41min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Ruben Östlund
  • Written by: Ruben Östlund, Erik Hemmendorff
  • Cast: Maria Lundqvist, Leif Edlund, Olle Lijas

A thoughtful and perceptive film from Sweden that uses five everyday unconnected stories to interrogate group mentality and explore what happens when an individual stands in opposition to the norm.

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