Film Review: The Square

The edgy art performance in The Square.

The Square
Directed by Ruben Ostlund
Release Date March 8

Ruben Ostlund’s latest film, The Square, which won the Palme d'Or last year at Cannes follows on from his Force Majeure of 2014 and, as in that film, features a man who makes a small mistake, actually several small mistakes, which start to destroy his personal, social and professional life.

The film is a send-up of current ideas about culture, art, taste, sex, media hype and money. It revolves around Christian, (Claes Bang), who is the chief curator of Stockholm art museum.  The square of the film is an art project the gallery is commissioning – a metre square section of the forecourt of the gallery.  It is supposed to put the gallery on the map but the staff and the PR people know it’s not a winner, so they try to dress the project up – with disastrous consequence.

He also has troubles with an art installation, which keeps being interfered with and a sculpture that is demolished unintentionally.

But there are other problems in Christian's life. He loses his wallet and phone in a brilliant piece of theatre carried out by some ace pickpocketers. He takes it on himself to track down the culprits with disastrous consequences. He starts a liaison with a hapless American arts writer (who has a chimp for a pet) with disastrous consequences.

The film is full of brilliant set pieces. At a fancy patron’s dinner, the entertainment is a performance artist who pretends to be some sort of semi-primitive man, prowling and growling around the room, making everyone uncomfortable but the patrons are nervously quiet – after all, this is art – until the man assaults a young woman and then chaos ensues.

The film is somewhat of a satire about the art world but mainly a satire about the struggles of the modern liberal man.


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