In 1983, the son of an American professor is enamored by the graduate student who comes to study and live with his family in their northern Italian home. Together, they share an unforgettable summer full of music, food, and romance that will forever change them.
Christian is the respected curator of a contemporary art museum, a divorced but devoted father of two who drives an electric car and supports good causes. His next show is "The Square", an installation which invites passersby to altruism, reminding them of their role as responsible fellow human beings. But sometimes, it is difficult to live up to your own ideals: Christian's foolish response to the theft of his phone drags him into shameful situations. Meanwhile, the museum's PR agency has created an unexpected campaign for "The Square". The response is overblown and sends Christian, as well as the museum, into an existential crisis.
Situational comedy about polarities (yes, it's artsy)
Most of you may know the Swedish screenwriter-director Ruben Östlund thanks to his previous project, 2014's Turist" Force Majeure" internationally , an acclaimed psychological drama about man not being man enough" when his family's lives are endangered by an avalanche in ski resort. Östlund continues exploring "Turist's" major theme further here: comfort zones and what happens when we dare or are forced to leave them. Comfort zones govern our lives we create them for personal use and on every level of human society but in order to reach new grounds, we need to leave them. And if the zones end or vanish for some reason, the life as we have known it can break down quite easily. Turist" is about one specific situation, The Square" explores the theme connected to art world, although art can be seen as metaphor for man's creative or spiritual side, which to me seemed even more suitable. The central character is an director of a museum (played by Claes Bang), a nice guy who gets into trouble both in private life and professionally. It plays out like a situational comedy about polarities, in art, our life and modern man in general. Through different scenes and events we get to witness and contemplate about how modern man wants everything to be "simple" black or white, either/or but there are always two sides to everything, and you can't really have the one without the other. For example, We want the art to mean something and touch us deeply, but don't like to invest ourselves and open up for it; we want to express ourselves freely but can't necessarily tolerate others also doing this; we want power but we don't like responsibilities, etc etc. Yes, the approach is rather artsy but the movie is still pretty mainstream friendly, thanks to all the "comedy". Actors do wonderful job illustrating all these polarities on screen. This long 142 minute movie follows and examines the characters closely and relies on nuanceful performances quite heavily. The main problem is the directing style which sometimes seems to slow down just because, not that a situation couldn't be done any faster. There are scenes where camera finds it target and just stays with it almost to the point of dozing off, just because it can. I think Östlund has tried to prove a point we want fast results, not to invest ourselves but I also think he has overused it here. Movies nowadays are usually not that slow anymore, and it wears you down getting accustomed to this slowness. But it's still an intriguing and quite powerful movie about what life and art mean, or can mean. For its common ground, but also for its dark humor, expressiveness and inventiveness, The Square" is like a dark companion piece for Jodorowski's joyous Poesía sin fin" which also hit our cinemas recently. I can't say I understood the meaning of the major setpiece of performance artist attacking" a fancy gala party, but I loved it (the poster shows him too). He's like an uncanny mix of Bruce Lee and monkey man! That's what art is supposed to be all about, I guess: taking us out of our comfort zones and making us feel something even without understanding it well. By the way, although most of the dialogue is in Swedish, some is in English and some major supporting characters are played by people we know from American entertainment, such as Dominic West (The Wire", The Affair") and Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men").
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