Film review: The Square (2017) (spoiler free)

 

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Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year. The funniest scene might be the press conference with the tourettes guy in the audience. The director has admitted “I like horrifying awkward moments”, and The Square and Force Majeure (2014) are full of those. But where Force Majeure felt like a cohesive story arc, The Square is far more loose and fragmented. He returns to the theme of, when are you allowed to be a coward and when are you not, and what would you do in these situations yourself? If you are a cynic, you could argue the director is repeating himself in this regard.

 

 

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Ruben Östlund’s film leaves you with stuff to contemplate. If anyone could create these art exhibitions (piles of grit on the floor) it makes a mockery of paying to see them. And if you turn a person into art (the ape man on the poster) what happens to that actor, or any actor? The dinner theater scene has an unpredictability and an uncomfortableness that gives it tension, with the guests as much a participant of the event as the performer.

 

 

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I liked the observation that we are suspicious of strangers today, whereas in years gone by people were more trusting. The latter is a good topic for a museum exhibition. There are absurd comic moments in a shopping mall and in the streets, which awkwardly point towards empathy, charity and indifference towards others. “Will you help a person?”  a woman asks passers by. The moments are about ourselves and question if we do enough, how difficult it is to be human, and the struggle to always do the right thing.

 

 

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The personal problem the main character (Christian) has to deal with felt a bit overdone, although I think Claes Bang was given the role of a lifetime as the distracted curator of the museum, who is experiencing a tumultuous few days.  In this age of politically correct behavior and fear of scandal, The Square is highly topical. There’s a link between the mess Christian finds himself in and the idealism of the square exhibition.

Contains interesting ideas and scenes, but the film is arguably a bit too long and unfocused. Was Elisabeth Moss’ character really necessary? Despite some flaws, and wanting to be too many things all at once, I think the film does a good job of taking the viewer behind the scenes of a contemporary art museum and showing us the challenges they face in having to compete for people’s attention. I’ve heard The Square described as the discreet and shameful mirror of the privileged class. Amusing, awkward, and thought-provoking. Has many memorable moments and is among my top 10 films of 2017.

11 thoughts on “Film review: The Square (2017) (spoiler free)

  1. Thanks for this review as I now want to look out for it although I do struggle with awkward moments in film and telly and have to cover my eyes sometimes as just too cringe-worthy!

    You are right in that we are a lot less trusting of strangers nowadays which is sad. We are swamped with news stories of all the really bad things that can happen in life, but not enough of the good. Messes with your head.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Alyson: haha you might have to cover your eyes often for this one. Awkwardly funny, not awkwardly disturbing. If that makes sense.

      I think The Square encourages us to be a little more aware of our surroundings and our own selfish behaviour. Trusting is important, within reason of course. Presents the main character Christian in a humorous way. He has such lofty goals, yet (like we all are) is disorganized and having to make moment-to-moment decisions.

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    1. @Ruth: There are more memorable scenes in The Square than any other 2017 movie I’ve seen. Isn’t a particularly emotionally immersive experience, the lead is a bit of an arsehole, but very entertaining to see him stumble from one situation to the next. Taken as a comedy (with food for thought) I think it works fine. I would put Force Majeure just ahead of this in terms of originality.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. @Jordan Dodd: If you loved Force Majeure , I think you’ll connect with the similar humor in Östlund’s latest

    Awards don’t really matter, but I just noticed The Square won 6 European Film Awards, and is nominated for a Golden Globe in the foreign film category . And they are even talking about lead actor Claes Bang as a potential James Bond!

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  3. As I said in the other comment I left on your November recap, I’m really looking forward to watching this. You just reminded me that the film’s director is the same behind Force Majoure, which I didn’t love necessarily, but found interesting nonetheless. In this case, I like the idea of a film taking us behind the scenes in a post-modern museum, and the parallels that may exist between what the artwork is supposed to say and ourselves as people, as well as the always inextinguishable topic of what is considered to be art and what isn’t.
    Nice review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Niels at Blog of Big Ideas: Hope you like The Square, it’s entertaining for sure, even if you don’t like museums. Ruben Östlund is an interesting filmmaker. I look forward to his next projects. The Square is a bit messy, yet has many memorable moments. The film goes into freedom of speech territory. in relation to art museums (tacitly acknowledging the “Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy” in Denmark back in 2005).
      You could certainly imagine the movie artifacts existing in an actual museum setting so not that far from real life! Thanks for reading.

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