Film Review: The Square

Writer-director Ruben Östlund’s The Square is through-provoking, engaging, and at times eye widening.

Christian is the curator of a prestigious modern art museum in Stockholm. As he makes preparations for the museum’s next exhibition, Christian finds himself in times of personal and professional crisis…

Focusing on a museum curator, The Square works on multiple levels. On the surface, it is about how the protagonist deals with the upcoming exhibition, and how the distinction between his professional and private lives blur. On a more cerebral level, the film questions societal prejudices, and how the various social strata interact in a modern, liberal city.

Writer and director Ruben Östlund has crafted a broadly good-guy protagonist; one that audiences will be able to get behind. As the narrative progresses, Christian gains a deeper understanding of his privilege, and questions his prejudices. The filmmaker paints a strong contrast between the elitism of arts philanthropy and the realities of the poor in a wealthy city.

The Square‘s narrative works well to intrigue viewers. T film begins with two distinct set pieces, which work to establish the protagonist as well as the theme of the film. It then seems to settle into a straightforward narrative style. A break comes in the final third, with a very striking dinner sequence. There are other elements that point to the abstract, such as the surreal appearance of an animal.

The Square, named for the conceptual art that features in the film, has plenty of visual flair. Geometry is important, this is most visible through the framing of the staircases. The art direction makes good use of colour to strike a contrast between different locales. The sound veers between the extreme and the unnoticeable; sound design works well in all cases.

Claes Bang actor delivers a strong performance as Christian.  Supporting characters come and go, however Elizabeth Moss is memorable in a small role. The Square is smartly humorous and sometimes surprising. Highly recommended viewing.

The Square is released in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema on 16th March 2018.