In Cannes, an enjoyable satire explodes class and gender relations

published on Saturday, May 21, 2022 at 8:17 p.m.

Cult of appearance, unbridled materialism and patriarchy: in “Without filter”, the Swede Ruben Östlund, again in the running for the Palme d’or after “The Square” in 2017, shatters the codes of modern society in a playful satire.

Yaya, supermodel and influencer, obsessed with her image and her career, is offered a luxury cruise with her boyfriend, Carl, also a model.

On board the yacht, a gallery of wealthy characters, alcoholic Russian oligarchs, charming British retired couple who made their fortune selling anti-personnel mines and other obnoxious passengers harass the head of the crew with all their whims, while the latter torments in turn the small staff.

But a big storm — which the captain of the boat doesn’t care about, a totally drunk Marxist at the crucial moment — will rock the ship and upset this balance.

In a kind of inverted “Titanic”, where this time the weakest are not necessarily the losers, Ruben Östlund dissects the springs of class from top to bottom: the rich against the poor, but also men against women, and Whites against blacks.

A concern at the center of his work, he admits to AFP. “I think humans are very sensitive to hierarchies, we are conditioned for the great + social game + from our birth”, he assures, “every day the question is + what is my position in the social hierarchy? +”

Raised by a communist mother in the 70s and 80s when “it was really one bloc against another”, the Swede calls himself “socialist”: “I believe in a strong state and a mixed economy”.

– “social shame” –

The character of Carl, with whom Östlund has “identified a lot”, never ceases to seek “equality” in his relationships, including with his companion, who is more famous and better paid than him.

With him as with other protagonists of the film, Östlund excels, as in “Snow Therapy” or “The Square”, in dissecting the small cowardices, which always adapt better to propriety than to the truth.

“In the scene where everyone vomits (during a dinner on board the boat, editor’s note), this is what is at stake: everyone tries to keep their composure, to hold their fork, despite being seasick”, explains Ruben Ostlund.

Harris Dickinson, who plays Carl, adds: “It’s very provocative, of course it’s political but beyond that Ruben in his script pushes our behavior, our morals, our sense of decorum to the limit…” .

Even the character of Yaya, resigned to becoming a “trophy woman”, “may seem superficial, but in fact I think she is afraid of her future, in an industry where you have a very short career”, assures the model Charlbi Dean, who plays him.

Ruben Östlund does not take it easy: the weak are as mean and mediocre as the powerful, and in turn abuse their power when they get it.

With the climax of the dinner in the middle of a storm, an orgiastic scene during which the screen pitches to the rhythm of the boat, the grating satire turns into frank comedy.

Despite its 2h30, “Without Filter” – cut into three parts for each major sequence of history – goes at full speed.

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