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The Square

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Sweden, Germany, France · 2017
Rated R · 2h 31m
Director Ruben Östlund
Starring Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West, Terry Notary
Genre Drama

A prestigious Stockholm museum's chief art curator finds himself in times of both professional and personal crisis. 'The Square,' the newest exhibit at his museum, is supposed to represent human peace and love among whoever steps inside, but what follows after its installation is a cavalcade of controversy, violence, and primal instincts that lie within mankind.

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What are people saying?

Billy Donoso Profile picture for Billy Donoso

'The Square' goes in a lot of directions, from the sterilized contemporary art world to the dangerous milieu of poverty, from the sophistication of the urban ballroom to the primitive nature of man in the bedroom, from the outrage over staged abuse of a girl to the neglected neglect of an art curator's own little girls. Humor is juxtaposed with gravitas, the polished with the crude— these are juxtapositions that I thoroughly appreciate personally. My love for the artful techniques of cinema have only come after my love for the simple pleasures of life growing up: playing sports, hanging out with friends, and existing. Ostlund seems to share this sentiment, as he takes the side of the reality of situations rather than the ideal of situations. Christian and Michael blast music and headbang to it as they drive in their cushy luxury sedan to do battle against whatever fiend dare steal his wallet and phone, "sending a message" by inserting warning notes into each tenant's letterbox. They scheme loudly and boldly, but are reduced to feeble individuals when they have to actually do it, in a place where they don't belong since it houses a people they don't respect. Even much later in the film, when Christian videotapes himself apologizing to the family of the boy he harms and rambles into the territory of grand structural flaws in society, it is a self-serving and ego-pumping act that has no purpose: he never delivers it to the family. Ostlund's irreverence for performative activism and empty gestures is refreshing. It is a reminder to envision the bigger picture of the smaller picture of life. Art, sport, business, and other passions we devote ourselves to can use culture as a mechanism to exploit identities of the marginalized when sometimes, we just have to step away from the middleman-media, live the life we have been given, and help others to enjoy the quality of life that we are lucky enough to enjoy. I not only recommend watching 'The Square,' but I also recommend matching the $3 or so you pay to rent the film with a donation to somebody or some organization that genuinely needs it.

What are critics saying?


IndieWire by Eric Kohn

The director excels at generating a nervous energy around his character’s mounting desperation, and the movie’s intermittently engaging for that reason alone.


CineVue by John Bleasdale

There is much to enjoy here - especially at the beginning - and Östlund's ambition and vision are to be applauded. However, The Square would have been greatly improved had the director taken his scalpel and his demanding critical eye and applied it to the film itself.


Variety by Owen Gleiberman

Ostlund, at his best, is a heady and enthralling filmmaker, but unfortunately, he has so much on his mind that he is also, at his weakest, a shapeless and didactic one.


The Guardian by Peter Bradshaw

This movie really brings some gobsmackingly weird and outrageous spectacle, with moments of pure showstopping freakiness. Eventually it loses a bit of focus and misses some narrative targets which have been sacrificed to those admittedly extraordinary set pieces.


The Film Stage by Rory O'Connor

While The Square is not as slick and streamlined a film as Force Majeure it still hunts for that same meaty psychological game and is never afraid — no matter how close to the bone — to twist that knife.


Paste Magazine by Tim Grierson

Sporting the ambition and sweep of a limited-run TV series, The Square may be overstuffed, but it never stops churning ideas and incidents.


The Hollywood Reporter by Todd McCarthy

What’s perhaps most impressive about Ostlund’s evolving style as a filmmaker and social commentator is his compulsion to enrich every scene he creates with a multitude of tones and nuances across the serio-comic spectrum. He’s like a virtuoso chef driven to try increasingly wild combinations of spices and ingredients; often the result is terrific, once in a while it’s too much.

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