By Ryan Keating-Lambert
The Square is a satirical take on the modern madness of the art industry. Packed with subtle nods to our doomed society, it makes for deep post-viewing discussion and a few laughs. However, director Ruben Östlund gives a bit too much to ponder here, and that makes this Cannes Palme d’Or winner fall short.
Christian (Claes Bang) is an arrogant modern art gallery owner in Stockholm dealing with the stress of starting a controversial new exhibition known as ‘The Square’.
Swedish director Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure) has created a chaotic and satirical vision of the art world in all its pretension and ridiculousness. From the get-go there’s a deadpan comedy feel to the whole thing with some especially awkward moments. There’s a particularly cringe worthy condom scene with the great Elisabeth Moss who plays an American journalist… with a chimpanzee?
There seems to be a not so subtle nod to humans as apes in general here, as one of the film’s most memorable scenes involves a posh gala dinner going bat-shit crazy, with a fantastic performance by movement actor Terry Notary (Kong: Skull Island). It’s an interesting scene that Östlund made with the posh audience of Cannes in mind, but drags on for way too long.
The film drags in general, especially in the the third act where things are somewhat resolved, but too much time is spent dwelling on some of the stranger and unnecessary moments, like Christian getting back some stolen belongings.
Claes Bang’s performance though, is a memorable one. Christian is an interesting and complex character that you love to hate, but his incoherent and dramatic changes in identity eventually become exhausting. There’s a whole variety of interesting characters here that are never really taken advantage of, and it would have been nice to see more of Elisabeth Moss who is criminally underused in this film.
This is one of these Palme d’Or films that’s particularly hard to get your head around. At times, it’s even a bit mundane due to the fact that it’s just way too long, but then there’s this voice in the back of your head saying ‘It must be good though, it won Cannes’.
Love it or hate it, The Square is very easy on the eyes and will certainly get you talking, which is exactly what it did at the Be2Can Film Festival premiere last night in Prague’s Kino Lucerna. Check out the website for more screenings.