Swedish film The Square is making its Australian debut at Melbourne’s most wonderful film festival, MIFF. After taking out the 2017 Cannes Palm d’Or, my fellow movie-watching crew and I had high hopes for filmmaker Ruben Östlund’s unusual and inventive film. We were not disappointed.
Self-absorbed art curator Christian lives in the world of over the top art gallery patrons, pretentious exhibitions and the rich elite of Stockholm. He has big dreams and personal connection with a launch of a bold new exhibition. On his way to work one morning, his wallet and mobile phone are stolen which sets into motion a series of ever increasingly bizarre events.
The cultural elitism and critic of modern art galleries is something we think a lot of the Melbourne audiences could relate to, especially the crowd at this screening. Danish actor Claes Bang is excellent as the uncomfortable Christian. Interestingly, actor Terry Notary was apparently hired for the role after the director Google searched for ‘actor imitating monkey’ and found one of his performances online. His scene had our entire audience holding our breaths and on the edge of our seats.
The Square reminded us at times of the 2008 Coen Brothers’ film Burn After Reading with its absurd look at ordinary people out of their depths. There are some very dark moments within the film, which discusses the conflicts of class, wealth, homelessness and the important role individuals must play as part of a functioning society. The absurdity of the life these people live in Stockholm, contrasted with the vulnerable and marginalised members of society hit very close to home. This is a film that could have easily been set in Melbourne and still had the same emotional power.
Filmed across Gothenburg, Stockholm and Berlin, the sets and art design of the film are beautiful. Often deliberately uncomfortable, surreal and awkward, The Square is a film made for lovers of unusual cinema as well as a timely look at society’s role in helping the disadvantaged and checking your own privilege. We highly recommend seeing the film.
Tomas Zagoda is a filmmaker, writer, coffee addict and tall person who does not play basketball. You can follow him on your social media channel of choice @TomasZagoda.
The Square has a limited run at Melbourne International Film Festival. Buy tickets now.
The venue is accessible.