The Square
(Ruben Östlund)

Elisabeth Moss in a scene from Ruben Ostlund's  The Square  {Photo: MAGNOLIA PICTURES}

Elisabeth Moss in a scene from Ruben Ostlund's The Square {Photo: MAGNOLIA PICTURES}

The Square screens at the AMC River East 21 on Friday, October 13 at 8:15PM and Saturday, October 14 at 5:15PM. Actor Terry Notary is scheduled to attend both dates for a post-screening Q&A. For additional ticketing information, refer to the Chicago International Film Festival website here

Ruben Östlund follows his breakthrough Force Majeure by amplifying his concerns in The Square. He pits the male egocentrism of Christian (Claes Bang), a playboy/curator of Stockholm’s X-Royal Museum, against the sweeping backdrop of white privilege, class malaise, urban poverty, artistic authenticity, liberal guilt, and etcetera. The film’s title refers to one of the museum’s upcoming installations, where a placard from the artist denotes that The Square is “a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it, we all share equal rights and obligations”. It’s the kind of banality one utters that suggests everything and means nothing. And that’s where Östlund leaves you: attempting to make out his fuzzy distinctions between art and avocation, performance and reality, ambivalence and awareness, love and fucking, etc. Yet Östlund is only intermittently successful, where his unfortunate tendency is to didactically spell out his thematic ambitions with each quasi-vignette. The moments that work truly sing though, as displayed by a Force Majeure-esque scene where two men think they’ve saved a woman from an assailant, only to realize they’ve been swindled. Or the all too familiar argument had by Christian and a female journalist (Elizabeth Moss in a terrific yet all too brief supporting performance) discussing the direction of their relationship, set against an anxiety-ridden backdrop involving an eavesdropping museum guard and a rickety tower installation composed of school desks. What comes of The Square as a whole is not all too different from perusing through a museum corridor – some pieces settle into your cognition while others do not. Its slights become increasingly less important to me compared to its affecting, memorable strengths.