YOU KNOW you're doing something right when you're 40 years old and have directed just four feature-length films, and yet you're the subject of an internationally touring retrospective.
Such is the fortune of Ruben Östlund, a Swedish filmmaker far from having completed his life's work. In Case of No Emergency: The Films of Ruben Östlund runs at the NW Film Center this weekend, and includes nearly everything Östlund's done (minus his early days making ski films), which amounts to an approachable handful. Unlike the "here's what you missed" feeling of most retrospectives, think of this as a red-flag notice to start following Östlund's films now—to start the dialogue and have the arguments in the time they were made to be had—so that in 40 more years, when an Östlund showcase can more seriously wear the word "retrospective," you won't have missed a thing.
The film in this collection you'll most likely recognize is Force Majeure, which narrowly missed out on a 2015 Oscar nomination. Following the announcement, Östlund released a YouTube of himself hearing the news, complete with a terrible off-camera "man-cry" and the apparent rending of garments. It was an apt response, given that much of his work takes an interest in the failure of modern men to live up to the societal expectation that they be noble and heroic. Indeed, picking apart behaviors one might exhibit in order to feel connected in a group or to preserve situations from awkwardness are Östlund's specialty. Failed masculinity is one example; fear of being interpreted as racist, as in 2011's Play, is another.
In Östlund's approach, characters are often filmed from a distance in long, unbroken shots, something he's explained is a holdover from his ski film days, which taught him to concentrate on a subject's body language in order to anticipate their movements. Catch a few of Östlund's films this weekend—maybe you'll be able to anticipate his next movements, too.