Due to its controversial scenes, its clever use of humour and its reflection of society, The Square is THE talking point in film right now. And after watching this comically dark satire of the art world, it is easy to see why. From the very start, the film reflects all the art-house films that have gone before it, as Christian, the chief art-director for a contemporary art gallery in Sweden, sits in a plain, white room, surrounded by the newest exhibition where he is being interviewed by an American journalist about his latest project. The project is literally a square of fluorescent light set in stone outside the gallery and the audience are reminded several times that: “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.”. An ironic foreshadow of things to come.
The most famous scene within the film, that even graces the cover of the poster, is the uncomfortable 12 minutes where a group of wealthy art-types are introduced to a monkey impersonator as part of a piece of performance art. Here the director, Rubenn Östlund, wanted to create the connection between humans going back to their natural instincts whilst taking a look at the world we live in now. However, the performance artist within the scene takes things a bit too far which makes for very intense, powerful, and some might just say plain weird, watching as he intimates, harasses and embarrass guests which brings forth questions about individual ethics and group mentality. But the real controversy comes when the marketing team create a video for the exhibition that leads to outrage and anger from the general public.
Despite the obvious overtones of mockery, the film also has a strong underlying message about hierarchy and the way that people are treated in society, which is made clear not only through the arrogant behaviour of protagonist, Christian, but also through scenes that have reflections of behaviour in society that we are all guilty of.
Overall, the many layers, the humour and the serious message of the film make this one to watch. However, be prepared that the film is long and perhaps would have benefited from being just twenty minutes shorter, but is still worth the numb bum.