22 November 2017 | kyanberu
Satirizing the Cultural Elite
Director Ruben Ostland has followed up his 2014 Golden Globe nominee Force Majeure with Cannes Palme d'Or winner The Square. The film is both a satire of the cultural elite of Stockholm and a sad commentary about the separation between individuals both within circles and between circles. The lead character, Christian (Claes Bang), is the curator of a museum of modern art that seeks to draw attention and donors through avant-garde exhibits and over-the-edge social media campaigns. The film follows Christian through a few weeks of his life when one of the hot new exhibits is "The Square", an actual square in the museum courtyard that is meant to be "a sanctuary of trust and caring." But rather than show trust and caring, the movie The Square raises a number of troubling questions: How thin is the veneer of civilization? Can political correctness substitute for empathy? Is art whatever a curator chooses to put in an art museum? And enveloping these questions is the separation of the circle of Stockholm's cultural elites from the City's homeless and immigrant population, as well as the separation of individuals within the City's cultural elite. One set piece in particular portrays the inability of the Stockholm's elite to communicate on a human level: It is Christian's meeting with Anne (Elisabeth Moss), a publicist, the day after a night of sex—and a bizarre argument over what to do with a used condom. In this scene Christian is totally unable to say the needed words about what had happened between them. (Anne, an American, comes across as much more able to relate to others than any of the Swedes in the movie.) Another memorable scene is the one in which a banquet for museum donors is interrupted when the performer (Terry Notary), playing an ape, goes out of control. The diners, who are initially frozen by their need for decorum, or perhaps by their need to display political correctness, ultimately go ape themselves. Perhaps not a total surprise since the same donor diners had earlier stampeded their way to a luncheon in a lighter scene. There are many sub-plots in the film—some satirizing interactions within Stockholm's upper class, others between classes— perhaps leaving some viewers displeased by the way the film jumps without warning from one set piece to another. Others may dislike long stretches of art-film inactivity in many of the episodes—something that explains why the movie lasts for 2 hours and 22 minutes. Nevertheless, The Square does capture the alienation of modern society, and does it with plenty of dark humor.