The Square (15)

The Square (15)

Directed by Ruben Ostlund
Picturehouse, Liverpool
From 16th March 2018

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

The Square attacks the elite in the art world, of which there are many, and therefore there are a lot of easy targets to aim at, including self-important and pompous curators, PR people, media scribes and gullible audiences (in black dickie bows and evening dresses).

Pretension with a large capital P rears its head throughout the overlong film (150 minutes), overblown in keeping with the contemporary art scene, particularly conceptual art.

I remember an incident at an art gallery in Liverpool, which shall remain nameless, where a cleaner had left some utensils and apparatus by mistake on one of the exhibition floors. Visitors gathered round them, proverbially rubbing their chins with their fingers, pondering what it represented in terms of art.

I recalled this absurdity when an American journalist (Elisabeth Moss), while interviewing Christian (Claes Bang), the curator of X-Royal gallery in Stockholm, the focus of the film, was asked by him if her bag, which was beside her, was left in the exhibition space, would it be regarded as a piece of art work?

Christian has arranged for an art installation, created by an Argentinian artist, titled The Square, to be placed in the plaza in front of his gallery. It declares itself as a miniature utopia. The P word immediately springs to mind! The artist states that “this patch of sidewalk will be a place where mutual respect and individual responsibility are the rule”.

But unbeknown to Christian a video has been produced promoting the installation, which goes viral when it depicts a homeless blond Swedish child stepping into the square and getting blown up along wtith the kitten she was holding.

There are a number of disparate scenes throughout the movie – some work, some go on too long. But the turning point of where The Square nosedives is in the closing 30 minutes or so when the two young daughters of Christian, who live with his estranged wife, are introduced into the proceedings, adding very little, or nothing, to the story of what had gone before.

The final moments leave one bemused as to what the point director Ruben Ostlund is trying to make with this closing shot.

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