THE SQUARE – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Calling all, as the film puts it, “Culture Vultures” – modern art enthusiasts, thinkers, and hipster wannabes! The 2017 Cannes film festival winner of the coveted Palme d’Or award is now showing at a theater near you. The Square is a riveting satirical drama about the times we live in. It deals cunningly with heavy topics such as community, homelessness, and affluent first world dilemmas in an uncertain world.
At its core, the film is about out of control publicity surrounding an art installation. A young team of marketing people decide to create a promo video for the event that shows a baby holding a kitten being blown to bits. Which is ironic because they thought it would somehow support what the exhibit called “The Square” stood for and have the ability to go viral and stand out for the press.
However, the installation is supposed to remind people of their role as responsible fellow human beings. Really, it’s just a blue neon square on a cobble stone floor with a brass plaque that reads, “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring, within it, we all have equal rights and obligations.” It was partly inspired by an actual art installation Ruben Ostlund and producer Kalle Boman had made in Sweden.
The movie does a wonderful job showing the multiple examples of art and what it can be through following around Christian (Claes Bang) the famous, good-looking, fashionable curator at the X-Royal Art Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Stockholm. He is, after all, responsible for X-Royal hosting the exhibit “the Square.” I felt like the filmmakers used it to show the epitome of art that condescendingly imposes its morality on the viewer, and the kind of art that has fueled complaints against what “Modern” so called “Art” can be at times.
The film in not just art, art, art 24/7. It also has several story lines that are triggered by Christian being pick-pocketed on the street and his misguided attempt to retrieve his iPhone using the app that shows you where it is. What he does to get it back causes all kinds of repercussions. Add to that his responsibilities as a weekend dad plus sleeping around and Christian ends up being a very busy man.
All the while, no matter what was going on, the director chose to quietly show immigrants and homeless people living and begging on the clean upscale streets of Stockholm. They’re always in the background, like wallpaper as wealthy people go about their lives, too busy to acknowledge their cries for help.
The Square is really one of the best foreign films of the year. It’s touching, funny, skillfully directed, and the use of different Bobby McFerrin songs as its soundtrack is genius. You have to see this film if only for the bit where a ballroom full of wealthy patrons of the arts are at a dinner event at the museum and a performance artist that behaves like a great ape terrorizes the group in the name of “Art.” That scene will have you holding your breath and daring you to look away. For this and many more reasons, I give this film a Solid A rating and hope you will see and enjoy it on the big screen.
Directed by Ruben Ostlund
Written By Ruben Ostlund
Selig Rating A
Drama / Comedic Satire / Foreign
Release Limited To Wide Angelika Dallas and Plano
Starring: Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.