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We Lost Dancing: How Fred again.. And Ruben Östlund Found Each Other
Ella Kemp , May 29th, 2022 10:16

As Ruben Östlund wins his second Palme d'Or with Triangle Of Sadness, Ella Kemp reflects on the filmmaker's kinship with Fred again..

There is little more infuriating in the world of art consumption when someone has a good idea before you. The kind of thing that seems so obvious you almost immediately hate it, and you would, if it wasn’t so obvious that it was a little bit of genius.

This logic applies to the music of Fred again.. and the cinema of Ruben Östlund. Fred again.., full name Frederick John Philip Gibson, has been working away on his project Actual Life since 2019, receiving mainstream attention slowly growing in late 2021, after the first album in the project, Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020 spoke to pandemic-enforced claustrophobia and isolation in a way many hadn’t quite grasped by that point.

Östlund capitalised on this for his most recent feature film Triangle of Sadness. The Swedish filmmaker has been concerned with the politics of money and people throughout his career, wryly commenting on the fallibility of families, the greed of artists, the arrogance of men and the eternal clusterfuck that is capitalism. In Triangle, Östlund opts for a supremely straightforward eat-the-rich – or rather, vomit-the-rich – scenario, in which key player Dolly De Leon shines, and one needle drop wraps everything up.

The three-chapter story ultimately points fingers at the rich and horrendous, gives them food poisoning, sinks the ship, pits them against one another, and suggests everything is at risk when you are at your most lonely and vulnerable. It's hard not to think of 2020.

Fred again.. worked with the Blessed Madonna on ‘Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)’, the closest the DJ will probably ever get to a Number 1 record. “All these things that we took for granted / We’ve lost dancing,” The Blessed Madonna goes before an infectious earworm of a riff begins to loop. The song plays over the final moments of Triangle of Sadness, at which point the remaining shipwrecked passengers and employees of a luxury yacht are begrudgingly adapting to a secluded new way of life until they can find a way out. Will they make peace with each other’s differences in this secluded world? Or will they lose everything?

Of course, Östlund doesn’t really care about the answers, he just knows these are trendy questions to be asking right now. In the era of Succession and The White Lotus, it’s clearer than ever that above all else, money is what sells: the people you love to hate for having it, the loss of it all. It’s no coincidence that Fred again.., although popular among every person under the age of 35 who’s ever walked through London Fields, is the godson of Brian Eno and the great-grandson of aristocrat and financier Shane O’Neill, 3rd Baron O’Neill and socialite Ann Fleming.

It’s no coincidence that Östlund is now the two-time Palme D’Or winner (after 2017’s art satire The Square everyone loves to hate for picking easy targets and criticising rich people while premiering his films at the Cannes Film Festival, yacht parties waiting to start once the credits roll. He gets Fred. He saw his star rise in the edit room, before tentative post-pandemic ravers noticed. ‘Marea’ is supremely catchy, and is only now picking up steam a few months since it first reached the world on ‘Actual Life’.

It’s the kind of song every producer probably thinks they could write and wish they had, perfectly placed in the film every critic thinks they’ve seen before but can’t place. Östlund could. He speaks of his next film, in which there's no entertainment on a flight, and you'd hate it if you didn't also fear it, too. These wealthy but undeniably perceptive men, again, have won. Whatever comes next for them is the result of what they’ve earned, and what the world, with our too-loud criticism of too-plain problems, deserves. We might have lost dancing, in the pandemic and in the waves, but we’ve gained some kind of warning: if it looks like it’s too easy, ask yourself the hard question of why you didn’t get there first yourself.

Triangle Of Sadness premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. A release date is yet to be confirmed.