Critic - No.142
Director: Ruben Östlund
Casts: Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West, Terry Notary
Language: Swedish, English, Danish
Genre: Comedy / Drama

Disaster strikes when an art museum curator, Christian (Claes Bang) hires a public relations team to build some buzz for his renowned Swedish museum. 

Ruben Östlund sets out clearly to sketch a character study of a curator who is stuck in a whirlwind of situations and emotions in midst of his art gallery installation, ‘The Square’ – the space of faith. The simple narrative is told with symbolic complexity and weirdly arresting narrative but not without generous amount of slice of life black comedy. 

The main attracting factor for me is the character design and the brilliantly engineered situations that pushes him to many brinks, bringing out a slice of him each time. It’s interesting to witness how poignantly director Ruben Östlund juxtaposes Christian’s emotional bustles to the idea of ‘The Square’. When Christian knows that he has accused an innocent person for his lost mobile phone, the track of guilt, redemption and ego clashes takes an accelerating graph in the film that ends of in a thought provoking manner or rather sums up a chuckling social and cultural commentary.

Claes Bang carries the complex roles neatly while the sharply presented Elisabeth stands on par with him at many instances. Her post-sex confrontation of the commitment phobic Christian is a scream. There are many bizarre but poetic scenes in the film that stands in between absurdism and magic realism. 

One fine example is grand dinner scene where a performing artist, Oleg (Terry Notary) starts to climb, grunt and hoot like an ape. Based on the Stanford Experiment, the method acting goes out of control that becomes the most nail-biting and thrilling scene of the film. The symbolism of how an animal is vulnerable removing social conditions and fear to be open was remarkably acted out by Terry Notary. When the animal shows his dominance, the sophisticated crowd becomes beast themselves. Again Östlund brings in these kind of theatrics symbolism side by side with the primary character study of Christian suppresses most of his feelings with the mask of egoism. 

However, the film does gets too self-indulgent and the PR black comedy doesn’t work as much as the drama worked for me. Let’s say we ignore a few logical loopholes in the universe of Östlund (major ones), but the fact that the film’s speed and excess sub plots hamper the film from being a perfect cinematic experience, is really unsettling. 

Film maker Östlund constructs a highly metaphorical social allegory driven by a theatrical presentation that is ambitious, poignant and sometimes overstuffed. 



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