If you enjoyed Ruben Östlund’s 'Force Majeure' then you will like his new outing, 'The Square'. I say enjoy but perhaps endure is a better word, as this new film runs for two and a half hours. Like 'Force Majeure' it starts with a dramatic event involving a mobile phone. In this case an elaborate street theft of the main protagonist, one Christian, (Claes Bang), a high profile curator of a Stockholm based contemporary art museum. The event spirals him into a personal catastrophe forming the spine of the story.
To a large part, the film is a biting satire on the world of conceptual art, with its convoluted post rationalisations on art in the form of impenetrable curatorial speak, we've all read it in gallery brochures. The film opens with journalist Anne, (Elizabeth Moss) quoting back to an American artist, Julian (Dominic West) a statement he made about his work that Anne had difficulty in understanding. The response from Julian is highly amusing.
Peppered throughout the 156 minutes are more hilarious moments of ridicule on the art establishment. Another such is when an alarmed member of staff nervously tells Christian that one of the twenty-odd regimented piles of pristine gravel displayed in one of the many stark gallery spaces has been accidentally destroyed by a cleaner. What to do? " Should we call the insurers?". "No," says Christan, "Where is the gravel now?". "In the basement". "Okay, I will rebuild it, no one will know".
In addition to this art finger pointing, there is a myriad of themes from the politically correct and inclusive nature of Swedish society to the elite wealthiest patrons of the corporate world. And the seeming epidemic of homeless people on the streets of Stockholm to the animalistic possibilities in mankind. It takes a lot of knitting together and keeps you thinking long after the film. But, and there usually is one, like many directors Ruben Östlund has fallen in love with what his cinematographer, Fredrik Wenzel has captured for him. Östlund wants it all up there on the screen for all to see. Unfortunately, in parts, it makes for many unnecessarily lengthy scenes. But for all that like 'Force Majeure,' it is an unusual and highly original work.