The Square Review

Recently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, The Square is a bizarre, at times surrealist, look at the power of controversy and the complications of publicity when gimmicks surrounding an art installation go horribly wrong. It occasionally loses focus, but it has been a while since a film has puzzled and flabbergasted me as much as this one did. Whether you think the film is a masterful look at the state of our society or simply a giant mess, most would probably agree that Ruben Östlund's satirical drama contains sequences that viewers are unlikely to forget about anytime soon.

The Square stars Danish actor Claes Bang as Christian, the well-dressed, if somewhat pathetic, curator of the X-Royal art museum, situated in Stockholm. He doesn't lead a particular fulfilling life, hopelessly attempting to care for his two young daughters whilst aimlessly trying to draw attention to his museum.  His PR team insists that, if Christian wants discussion around X-Royal to gain momentum, he will have to create something provocative and contentious. Christian responds to this suggestion by conjuring up an idea known as The Square, which is "a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it, we all share equal rights and obligations." However, things begin to spiral out of control when Christian discovers that someone has stolen his phone.

It's humorous that the conflict within this story begins with something as simple as a petty robbery, but The Square becomes more amusing and strange as it progresses. There's an incident between Christian and a journalist name Anne (Elisabeth Moss, whom he unsurprisingly sleeps with) where they argue over who gets to dispose of a condom, but the standout insane scene is an extended sequence where Oleg Rogozjin (Terry Notary) is hired to entertain guests by imitating an ape. Although he initially succeeds in pleasing the audience, it is soon revealed that he's an extreme method actor when he starts terrorising the visitors. Despite its comedic undertones, this is a very tense and unnerving moment, executed brilliantly by Notary (who, interestingly, has already provided ape-like motion-capture performances in the Planet of the Apes reboot series).

In fact, all of the performances compliment this extremely unorthodox environment. Claes Bang perfectly encapsulates that his character has no idea what he's doing with himself, both in his professional and private life. He tries to give off an aura of suaveness and sophistication, but he often appears more like a lost, naive child. He's not the type of person with leadership potential, that's for sure, and he has great difficulty dealing with his staff, most notably Michael (Christopher Læssø), a hilarious character who expresses genuine excitement where opportunities to seek revenge and justice arise. That is, until Christian asks him to carry out a rebellious act himself.

The Square is long, running for two and a half hours, but make sure that you stick with this one. It'll make you laugh, squirm and question what on earth your eyes just witnessed. If the film strived to be memorable, it certainly achieved its goal.


Darkly funny and admirably bold, The Square is an absurdist satire that entertains you whilst also having something important to say.


out of 10

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