For Ruben Östlund, a movie camera is an instrument of provocation and exploration. Often shooting his subjects from above or from a great distance in order to emphasize their relationship to one another, he studies his own culture like an anthropologist, dissecting social norms and looking for patterns in the ways individuals relate to one another.
An evolutionary line can be traced from 2008’s Involuntary through 2011’s Play to the filmmaker’s latest, Force Majeure, Sweden’s entry for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. With each successive film, the acting becomes more polished and powerful, the storylines more cohesive, and the questions raised more subtle and yet—or maybe therefore—more haunting. But if the two earlier features are a bit rough around the edges, they’re also magnetic and thought-provoking.