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From ‘Square’ to ‘Triangle’: Palme d’Or Winner Ruben Ostlund’s New Project (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 6/9/2017 Elsa Keslassy
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After winning the Palme d’Or at last month’s Cannes Film Festival with “The Square,” Swedish director Ruben Ostlund is turning his attention to “Triangle of Sadness,” a satire set against the backdrop of the fashion world.

“Triangle of Sadness” – which Ostlund says refers to a “term used by plastic surgeons to fix a wrinkle between the eyes with Botox in 15 minutes” – follows two high-profile models who are approaching the twilight of their modeling careers and are searching for a smooth exit out of the fashion biz.

The two protagonists face different complications: The male model suddenly starts balding and sees his prospects shrink, while the female model is a lesbian and spurns rich men’s lavish offers.

“In the modeling industry, people start looking for an exit at a very young age, but for men it’s harder to use their looks to secure a stable financial future. Female models, meanwhile, often have the option to marry a very rich guy, unless they’re not into men, like our female protagonist,” said Ostlund, who acknowledged that he was alerted to the topic by his girlfriend, a fashion photographer.

Ostlund told Variety that the new film will “use satire to create a warm portrait of people trying to deal with a cynical industry and show the extent to which economics are connected with looks in our society.”

“The fashion industry is the epitome of this trend – models are becoming their own brand,” Ostlund said.

The bulk of the film will take place in a luxurious yacht hotel and other international locations. Like “The Square,” “Triangle of Sadness” will partly be shot in English. Ostlund said he was keeping his options open to cast the best actors regardless of their nationalities. “No matter how famous you are, no one will get a part without doing a test filming,” he said.

The director, who is represented by WME, will again be producing via his own Goteborg-based outfit Plattform Produktion. Erik Hemmendorff, co-founder of Plattform, will be producing the film. Ostlund said he was also looking forward to re-teaming with Philippe Bober at the Coproduction Office for co-production and international sales.

“The Square” will be released in U.S. by Magnolia, which will orchestrate the film’s awards campaign in the States. The failure of Ostlund’s “Force Majeure” to score an Oscar nomination two years ago was so devastating to him that he decided to make a video capturing his and Hemmendorff’s disappointment, which he has just released, Ostlund told Variety.

He has now also created a short video called “What It’s Like to Win the Palme d’Or,” which was filmed with cellphones throughout the day and evening of the awards ceremony in Cannes.

Reflecting on the award, Ostlund said he was particularly happy that the Cannes jury acknowledged a film that dealt with serious topics through dark humor rather than conventional drama. Citing Maren Ade (“Toni Erdmann”) and Yórgos Lánthimos (“The Lobster,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”), Ostlund said he felt part of a new generation of European filmmakers.

Aside from developing “Triangle of Sadness,” Ostlund recently finished writing his first TV pilot for a series project titled “You Know That Weekend You Were Away With The Kids?”, an English-language comedy about adultery.

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