Involuntary - Ruben Östlund profile

Involuntary - Ruben Östlund profile

Swedish director of feature that explores group behaviour via five parallel stories

Ruben Östlund

Styrsö, Sweden, 1974

Ruben Östlund was born on Styrsö, a small island off the west coast of Sweden. He initially became involved in filmmaking through his passion for downhill skiing, and in the late nineties made several innovative films documenting the sport. It was here that his obsession with the long take began; a technique that was deemed essential when filming skiing to prove that no fault by the skier had been covered up. In 1998 he enrolled at the University of Göteborg to study Film and Photography and in 2005 his first film The Guitar Mongoloid, won the Fipresci prize in Moscow.

What’s he up to now?
Östlund’s award-winning feature Involuntary shows in UK cinemas this month. It explores the dynamics of group behaviour through five parallel stories that take in a range of characters from different ages and backgrounds. He is currently filming his second feature Play, due for release in 2011.

On casting Involuntary
‘All of the main characters in the five parts have experience in performing or standing on stage. A lot of them are dancers. I often think dancers perform very well on screen and they work well with moving images.’

On framing
‘I really want to activate the audience. If something happens outside of the frame you immediately have to start making images by yourself, you have to think what’s happening outside. You create an atmosphere where audiences have to reflect and activate themselves.’

On the future of cinema
‘Almost everybody has the opportunity to create their own moving images. I think that the most interesting moving images today are on the internet and not in the cinema. I think that the cinema has to go in that direction otherwise it will be like the opera in a couple of years, you will feel that it has nothing to do with its own time.’

Interesting fact
Almost all of the cast of Involuntary are unknown apart from the actress Maria Lundqvist who is one of the most famous actresses in Sweden and plays a version of herself in the film. As a long term admirer of her work Östlund devised the role especially for her.


  • 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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