Swedish provocateur Ruben Östlund, the director of Force Majeure, returns with The Square, one of his most audacious pieces to date and winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes. A spot-on, no-holds-barred satire of the more vapid foibles of the postmodern art world, the film follows Christian (Claes Bang), the imperious, self-centred, and hopelessly befuddled curator of Sweden’s most cutting-edge art museum. Christian’s attempts to promote his exhibits are deflected by personal misfortunes and culminate with a less than successful online campaign designed by two twenty-something chuckleheads who have been inhaling even more rarefied air than Christian.
The Square is full of brilliant and dazzling set pieces, including an onstage interview gone horribly awry and a performance piece gone even more horribly wrong (in possibly the year’s most indelible onscreen moment).
Östlund refuses to score easy points, outlining the challenges that face artists trying to examine the increasingly complex and absurd world we live in and dealing with the privileged (and often borderline hostile) members of the audience who consider art only as a social statement or financial investment.
One of the most undaunted examples of the comedy of extreme discomfort and social collapse, The Square is worthy of the great Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel or Östlund’s mentor, Roy Andersson.
“The Square means to send you out of the theater arguing, and its success on that front should not eclipse its more lasting, unsettling achievement. It affirms that art, this movie very much included, can tell us things about ourselves that we’d prefer not to know.” (Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times)
“This is a movie with a lot on its mind, from art to altruism to the so-called bystander effect, and it could function as a Rorschach test for its audience, reflecting viewers’ anxieties and insecurities right back at them. It’s also just really, really funny, at least for those who can find humor in humiliation.” (A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club)
“Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund takes modern society’s temperature and finds it dangerously overheated in the madly ambitious and frequently disquieting The Square.” (Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter)