Film for Today
Recommended by Jacqueline Mézec (Honorary Secretary, Jersey Arts Centre Association)
- THE SQUARE
- Sweden: 2017
- Cert: 15 / 2 hours 31 minutes
- Director: Ruben Östlund
Starring Claes (Dracula) Bang and Elisabeth (The Handmaid) Moss, Palme d’Or winning ‘The Square’ satirises the art world while questioning the nature of altruism. Hapless art curator Christian encounters discord in his professional life at the X-Royal Museum in Stockholm, while his personal life also descends into chaos.
‘The Square’ of the title and of the central art piece (inspired by “relational aesthetics”) is a wonderful metaphor as a frame for the viewer to interpret and consider the film. Literally a 4×4 metre square marked in the paving outside the museum, it is “a sanctuary, a zone of trust and care. Within its boundaries we all share equal rights and obligations.” The PR team in the film set out to turn this art into product, making minimalism go viral with an incredible end result.
I enjoyed the film because there are some brilliantly embarrassing scenes of art gatherings and projects which go wrong, (and luckily I have never witnessed anything remotely similar). Some of the participants play themselves, so the satire is not cruel. However, there is an uncomfortable juxtaposition of the fortunate with the less privileged – the homeless, and voiceless and vulnerable – which calls into question why behaviour in the art industry does not always live up to the ideals of the work. In the arc of character Christian in the film, he has difficult lessons to learn about trust, our social contract to help others and freedom of expression.