Ruben Ostlund

Run Time:


Synopsis: Shot using a single camera, 90 people meticulously recreate a failed bank robbery that took place in Stockholm in June 2006.

Where did you hear about this story?

It was something that I and my producer, Erik Hemmendorff, witnessed in Stockholm when we were on the way to the Swedish Film Institute. Suddenly, I hear Eric say: “Hey aren’t those guys wearing ski masks?” I look across the street and I see two guys on a scooter wearing these ski masks. We became eyewitnesses to an attempted robbery that ended up being a disaster.

Did they run into the wrong building at first?

(Laughs) Yeah, exactly. They were going through the wrong entrance. We didn’t realize it was a robbery until they parked their scooter, lifted up the seat, and pulled out their guns. Then they went into the entrance on the left hand side of the building which was the wrong entrance. A few seconds later, they came out of the building looking up and acting very confused. They had realized they had gone to the wrong entrance to the bank. And then they got back on their scooter and drove to the right entrance to the building.

What inspired you to make it into a film?

There were such strange actions that took place during this robbery. Afterwards, I started to think about why I got so confused. Why did this robbery attempt fitted so bad with my imagination on what a robbery attempt would look like? I had never seen a robbery attempt before, but I thought I would have an idea what one would look like. Of course, I got those images from Hollywood movies. Those movies were a reference for me that I thought I could rely on if I saw a bank robbery in real life. After being a witness to this incident, I realized these Hollywood images were not quite correct in real life. Making “Incident by a Bank” is a way to correct the false images of robberies we see almost daily in action movies made in Hollywood.

How did you coordinate the extras?

I was talking to them one month in advance, sitting down with them, and showing them blueprints of the scene. Everyone in the shot had a very detailed map of where they were going in the scene and how to react to the actions that were happening. On the day of the shooting, I told them that they all have to take responsibility for their own character. If they felt anything or wished to act on impulse, then do it. If I see it and don’t like it on screen, I will tell you.

How many takes did you shoot?

The camera is fixed in one position. And in the editing, I did all the movements, all the pans and all the zooms using the Final Cut editing system. When you are making a pan from one side of the image through to the other side of the image, then you can actually change takes. We used four different takes on the film.

Have the two bank robbers seen the film?

No, they haven’t. I think they are both in jail somewhere now.

Is there anyway we can hold a special screening in the jail? They can sign autographs for all the inmates after the show?

Yeah, it may be possible if we call the court in Stockholm, but I can’t see the autographs happening. I think the two bank robbers would lose quite a bit of status among the other prisoners.

What advice do you have for someone making their first short?

Be interested in what is happening in front of the camera. Don’t be too interested in being in the film industry and the film business. If your interest is about what is happening in front of the camera, then I think the audience will feel that your film is made with an approach that is honest. My advice is to find something you are really interested in and put it in front of the camera.

What are you working on now?

I just had the premiere on my third feature, “Play,” in the director’s fortnight in Cannes..

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