The Square

The Square does well to juggle the need for modern art (as an expression) as well as the pretentiousness of it all.

The Square begins with a fantastic scene: an American reporter interviewing a Swedish curator about his museum. This sets the tone of the movie for a straight-faced satirical look at the culture of modern art. The story revolves around a contemporary art museum in Stockholm, and mainly its curator. Much like director Ruben Östlund’s previous work Force Majeure (which played at DIFF 2014), the movie puts a cultured and socially comfortable person in situations that explore his need to get back to normalcy. Something as simple as his wallet & phone getting stolen derails him, and the movie observes him trying to get back on track. Although the movie is fascinating when it gives its subjects this “petri dish” treatment, it meanders often enough in its narrative that it loses its impact bit by bit, and at regular intervals.

The Square does well to juggle the need for modern art (as an expression) as well as the pretentiousness of it all, and mostly fulfils in this promise. Just like the Modern Art Museum at its centre, there are many fascinating sequences that ensure the movie never loses interest from its audience. But it also has many over-the-top or stretched-too-long sequences that amount to little within the film’s context. This is a problem that Force Majeure suffered with too. The movie’s central set-piece sequence, an art performance during a formal dinner, is the most fascinating scene in the movie, but is also the least effective. It carries on for too long and provides little insight or context for when it appears within the movie.

Eventually, also like Östlund’s previous work, The Square’s greatest achievement is conveying its message in a most unsophisticated way, yet without making it stupid. The situations are rarely ever extraordinary (hey, anybody can lose their phone, right?). The characters and especially their uncomfortable reactions are immediately identifiable. How often does a movie make you dislike and root for its characters at the same time?

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.