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The Square

Absurd scenes in the museum milieu. This year’s Cannes winner is either a satire about the art industry or a performance art piece, depending on how you view it.

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This year‘s Cannes winner is either a satire on the art world or a piece of performance art itself, depending on your perspective. Like in FORCE MAJEURE, Östlund focuses on middle-class sensitivities and a man is once again in crisis. Christian, always well dressed, bordering between chic and relaxed, is a curator of a large museum. The new exhibit “The Square“ is about social interactions. The centerpiece is a square embedded in the floor with the inscription “the square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations“.

Young social media types, who want the exhibit to reach as many people as possible, find this message to be too charitable and bland. They‘d prefer a really controversial video that will go viral. They have an idea for it too. Something with children and an assassination attempt, that should get some attention. The rest of the team begrudgingly agree to the suggestion. Christian isn‘t really listening – he is busy trying to track the thief of his cell phone who is hiding in social housing. He decides to write a threatening letter to everyone in the apartment building. While the ad machine does its thing, Christian follows his personal vendetta that confronts him with realities that he has obviously never thought about it, despite his charitable art.

THE SQUARE consists of strung together sometimes more, sometimes less absurd, carefully framed scenes that deconstruct the museum‘s middle-class personnel. While the dicourse is superficially about art, it‘s actually about status, sex, money, and greed. The scene where all the well-dressed people run to the buffet as if they don‘t know when they will eat again is emblematic of that. When Christian dares to go outside of his museum bubble, he is filled with panic. The confrontation or rather the non-confrontation between those that have money and status and those who live off of handouts seems to be the central theme of this meandering satire. Christian keeps encountering beggars on the street. He once offers to give a woman a sandwich but when she asks for “chicken without onions“ he is insulted that she has special wishes. He‘s in a great mood the next day and gives lots of money. At one point he needs help and everyone passes him by.

Östlund loves to showcase the discomfort of the privileged, those who would prefer to not have the others, the poor, the badly dressed, and the uncultured around, or at least not see them. They are seemingly kind, but elitists at heart who can‘t admit to themselves that they are the elite. At the same time, Östlund seems to be most comfortable at the center of the art circus that he mocks. Aside from the good blows at modern art and its discourses, which THE SQUARE also belongs to, there‘s a contradictory, self-doubting tone throughout the film.

Hendrike Bake (INDIEKINO MAGAZIN)

Translation: Elinor Lewy

Credits

Deutschland/Schweden/Frankreich/USA 2017, 122 min
Genre: Satire, Sociological Film, Drama
Director: Ruben Östlund
Author: Ruben Östlund
DOP: Fredrik Wenzel
Montage: Jacob Secher Schulsinger
Distributor: Alamode Filmverleih
Cast: Claes Bang, Dominic West, Elisabeth Moss, Terry Notary, Linda Anborg
FSK: 12
Release: 19.10.2017

Website

Screenings

Screenings

  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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