The new short from Swedish auteur Ruben Östlund, Autobiographical Scene Number 6882, starts appropriately mundane—a group of friends are walking across a bridge, discussing the finer aspects of alcohol, when they begin cajoling each other into jumping off the bridge into the river, approximately 100 feet below. It's all laughs and good times even as a group member named Martin, decides to go for it. The scene unfolds until, moments before Martin takes the leap, an old man bikes by to lay a bit of information on them: A guy died two years ago, jumping from that exact spot.
All of the sudden the dynamics within the group shift and societal expectations kick in. Their opinions on the safety and plausibility of the whole thing are up for questioning again. Most of the group decides outright that it's not worth the risk, while Martin is reticent to believe the old man. Regardless, the moment seems to be over, and the group heads back across the bridge towards land. But this is the precise moment things starts to get interesting. Östlund is a masterful observer of groupthink, and he deftly shows his different characters fall victim to various pressures, be them machismo, ego, fear, peers, spontaneity, morality, and more.
The short is cold and calmly observed, shot entirely in widescreen—we see nothing but body movements. It is through this distanced style that Östlund hopes we can see the absurdity of our own compulsion to construct meaning and justifications for our actions.
Ruben Östlund is the director of four feature films and as many shorts. He's also made a documentary and a number of skiing films. His work, including the recent feature film, Force Majeure, explores many of the same themes found in Autobiographical Scene Number 6882. Force Majeur is in theaters now and is also Sweden's entry to the Academy Awards.
Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as a film curator. He's the Senior Curator for Vimeo's On Demand platform. He has also programmed at Tribeca Film Festival, Rooftop Films, and the Hamptons International Film Festival.