The Square, directed by the Swedish director Ruben Östlund, is an outrageous swipe at the pretensions of the art world, in which a museum curator has the idea of creating a space entitled ‘The Square’ in the courtyard of his gallery. In this space, people are encouraged to treat each other with kindness and humanity. It is ironic that this takes in a busy city where homeless people are everywhere ignored as they beg for a few coins. Claes Bang plays Christian, the tall urbane curator, and it is in his life that the wilder events of the scenario act themselves out.
He is caught in a scam one morning, when he, as he thinks, comes to the help of a woman in distress. A few moments of self congratulation, and then he discovers he has lost his phone, wallet, and keys. He is totally enraged.
He enlists the aid of a junior colleague to help him search and out and confront the authors of this crime. But that is just one strand of the story. He becomes so preoccupied about his losses that he takes his eye off the ball when the PR firm he hires to promote ‘The Square’ creates a confronting incident which mocks the whole intention of a peaceful space. It goes viral, as they intend, but only incites disgust.
At a party he is seduced by a woman, Anne, played by Elizabeth Moss, and responds in a lacklustre kind of way. Their emotionless coupling creates some of the greatest laughs in the film, as she tosses her head about in an absurdly affected way, and especially afterwards as they become involved in a serious tussle over the discards of their encounter. Outside the bedroom, sitting on a sofa and looking bored, is a large black primate, who is never referred to. His presence is a foreshadowing of another incident with a human/primate in a scene at a posh dinner, which begins to nervous laughter and mounts to a terrifying climax.
Gradually we see Christian’s life unravel. He becomes obsessed with the young boy, about ten years old, who pursues him in an attempt to have his name cleared of the theft of phone and wallet. The boy turns up at his apartment building, yelling, threatening to turn Christian’s life into chaos.
Christian appears to become more trusting. During an incident where he becomes anxious about the whereabouts of his young daughters in a shopping centre, he asks a beggar to guard his belongings as he goes to search for them.
We leave him driving through a dark tunnel in his Tesla, accompanied by his young daughters. It is not clear what life has in store for him.
I have tried not to give too much away. If you want to read a full account of the plot of the film replete with spoilers, go to the New Republic. But whatever you do, don’t miss The Square.