Östlund’s Monkey business

The Square director goes animal crackers.

by Richard Mowe

Director Ruben Östlund and actor Claes Bang in Cannes for the premiere of The Square
Director Ruben Östlund and actor Claes Bang in Cannes for the premiere of The Square Photo: Richard Mowe

One of the more eye-popping scenes in Ruben Östlund’s new film The Square occurs when a monkey strolls around the apartment belonging to Elisabeth Moss’s character and proceeds to start using her make-up before being discreetly shut out of an intimate bed scene.

The Square director Ruben Östlund
The Square director Ruben Östlund Photo: Richard Mowe

So why the monkey, which is never explained in the film? In his encounter with the media today (20 May), Östlund was in jocular mood, saying “Anything can happen in a movie when suddenly a monkey puts in appearance in an apartment. In any case I love monkeys and I think that human beings love looking at monkeys because we are reflecting ourselves looking at them.”

Warming to his theme he added: “Everything should have a monkey in it.” Moss was none the wiser although she had been told before she arrived for the shot that a monkey would be appearing in her flat.

Östlund said the monkey was “very friendly and peaceful.” It was called Tiboo and was a bonobo by species. Actor Claes Bang seemed less than enamoured with its inclusion. “You can’t look the monkey in the eye and you cannot do anything around it because it might get really aggressive and kill you,” he suggested.

Östlund who directed Force Majeure, that as opposed to his previous film which had a clear set-up, this time he was dealing with multi layers although once he got to the editing he realised he could “make a solid film out of it all.”

Lead actor Claes Bang in Cannes for The Square.
Lead actor Claes Bang in Cannes for The Square. Photo: Richard Mowe

Elisabeth Moss, star of Mad Men, found the experience “incredibly challenging” with Östlund seeking out the truth and honesty of every scene. “It was definitely hard and tiring but worth it I think,” she said.

Her love scene with Claes Bang had a certain hilarity to it. “These scenes are always awkward and uncomfortable. We had to make it look real for what seemed a very long time. The trick was showing what the other person looked like which isn’t always good.”

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