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Film/TV The Square

Published on March 16th, 2018 | by voxx


The Square

Out: 16 March
Cert: 15
Length: 151 minutes
Rating: 4/5

Director: Ruben Östlund

Cast: Claes Bang, Elizabeth Moss, Dominic West, Terry Notary, Christopher Læssø

Plot: Christian (Bang) is a respected curator of a contemporary art museum, yet at the opening of his new exhibit he finds himself in both a professional and a personal crisis that could tarnish his long-standing career.

Some films you watch, some films you feel, some you cherish and some you hail for their pure ingenious techniques to make you think. By that same meticulous logic, ‘The Square’ – yet another film about the contemporary world – is also a film you get smacked hard in the chops by. Not by its genius techniques of artful pleasure or its masterful plunge into society monkeys, but by its plain ferocity, it’s ambitious style and its pure ability to harm you with shock tactics. Put simply, it’s both inherently shocking and brilliantly smart at the same time, which makes Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund one to watch and to cherish. He’s a man who isn’t afraid to make films from his own point of view, a view that sees the complications, the crisis and the challenges of the world we live in. Previously, these tactics were seen in his festival favourite ‘Force Majeure’, a film about confronting the inevitable and learning to surpass it.

His latest is just as complicated, just as challenging and just as thought provokingly smart. He switches from the cold summits of the French Alps to the warm, comforting cityscape of Stockholm. We open with Christian (Bang), the respected chief curator of a contemporary art museum which is on the brink of  unveiling a new exhibit that he hopes will change the art world by bringing people together, with trust and by sharing. It’s also one which he hopes will make him famous by becoming a viral success. On the journey to world-wide success his life starts facing difficulties; he becomes a victim of a personal and professional crisis, and he often falls to his own egotistical actions.

Östlund’s technique is not only using Christian as the victim through his often hilarious and super-smart script and political correctness, but also by making him take a bit of a bashing. There are some moments here that are genuinely harsh (Moss’ American journalist mimics the foul-mouthed stuttering of a man suffering from Tourette’s syndrome), but apart from that moment, which may leave viewers divided, his script is smart and laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a film where grown-ups behave so appallingly, for example with an argument over a condom in one of the funniest sex scenes and post sex scenes in recent years. Another standout is Terry Notary’s (‘War for the Planet of the Apes’) terrifying chimpanzee shriek during a party dinner.

As a director he’s brilliant, beautifully exploring Stockholm’s Art Nuveau landscape as his camera stunningly glances through the poorer regions of Sweden’s capital. The Square isn’t a perfect film though, as at 2 hours 31 minutes long Östlund’s astute gazing loses its touch within the last act. In other words, it wouldn’t have done any harm to add some cuts to the final product. Still, this is an inherently stunning film and while it may not be perfect, it’s surely something to cherish.

VERDICT: Despite the sudden drop, Östlund’s latest project is a powerful, sometimes silly artscape that’s ambitious and so jaw droppingly funny that it hurts.

- By Corey Denford

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