The Square – Review

Not ‘Eastenders: The Movie’. Sorry.

Comfortably well-off gallery curator, Christian, played by the handsome Claes Bang, struggles to keep his focus on the upcoming exhibition in a series of strange events.

Focusing on the art world, but clearly making a comment on social standards, director Ruben Östlund – previously director on Force Majeure – takes you on a journey via a number of vignettes in the run up to Christian’s latest curated piece of art “The Square”.

Things begin innocently enough, and without giving anything away about the succession of events, things go awry for Christian. With a running time of 2 hours 31 minutes, this is a beast of a film, but because of the way in which the film feels like it’s made up of shorter films, there is not much call to look at your watch.

The unfolding events are engrossing, amusing, awkward and biting. Taking a number of swipes at modern art and the genuineness of the whole thing, as well as social media and what we’re offended by, modern life gets a thorough dressing down. What’s more, the constant theme of help – whether it’s the homeless, the boy from the 7-Eleven or the animalistic violence – is there to point out how little we do to help one another.

That theme of help and a middle-class guilt gets turned on Christian in a number of ways, some of them surreal and others a little more scary. You stay with him as he navigates questions from his one-night-stand, Anne, played by Elizabeth Moss, and battles with PR nightmares, putting you firmly in the boat with him. While the humour is eked out enough to make for fun viewing, there is admittedly an underlying tension which builds as the exhibition approaches.

‘Claes Bang is a newcomer to the world of film, but not to acting, and his performance is what keeps you hooked’


Central messages can often ruin films, battering you over the head, and that criticism can probably be made here, but the finger-pointing is done in a smart and entertaining way, mixing up the moods from portion to portion. Will you be changed by the message held within? Maybe not, but it’s worth thinking about where our values lie as a society and where we’re going.

At one point, when Christian is showing his daughters parts of the exhibition, the visitor is faced with the choice of admitting whether they mistrust people or trust people. It’s a more powerful moment than the film gives weight to, but I honestly said to myself :“I’d go down the mistrust side”, and I think you’ll be intrigued by that test, too.

In many ways, Claes Bang is a newcomer to the world of film, but not to acting, and his performance is what keeps you hooked. He’s not kooky, he’s not crazy and he’s not evil; he is the suave version of you, doing artsy work while remaining oblivious to the irony in many situations.

Obviously, we’re not talking about a blockbuster here, and while it isn’t exactly experimental (aside from the man-gorilla scenes) the dialogue is Swedish and the subject matter a little more personally targeted – that might be enough to put most people off, but I’d urge you to see this film. Be entertained and let it stew with you – see what you take from being in The Square.

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