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.
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.
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.
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.