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The Square  : Unconventional Geometry
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Friday, March 16, 2018
Comedy
Ruben Östlund
Elisabeth Moss, Claes Bang, Terry Notary, Dominic West

A square is usually slang for someone boring and conventional. Writer-director Ruben Ostland’s The Square is however, quite the opposite, unconventional and unusual to the point of connecting mostly with students of cinema.

 

It’s also not boring as it’s intriguingly scripted and shot,and vibrant, like a comic balancing the personal and the professional. Christian, the chief curator of a museum, has a new exhibition coming up centred around a piece called ‘The Square’.

 

It’s a laugh that practically anything can be called art, depending on where it’s placed and how it’s interpreted. “If I were to place your handbag out there,” Christian asks a young lady interviewing him, “would it become art?”

 

The Square certainly does, especially once the PR spin comes in with the ridiculous lengths it can go to. You can stand within a square or put anything into a square and make a statement. Anything is the key word, anything that can give you tons of hits and set off a discussion. It culminates in freedom of speech and self-censorship, all a part of today’s reality.

 

It’s humorous too in a weird sort of way, very real actually. Like the tussle over a used condom. Or the chef speaking and then having to shout when people start moving away, probably towards his food.

 

Alongside Christian’s new exhibition that must become a talking piece, there’s his wallet and phone that go missing in a sequence that gives a little jolt. The action he takes to get them back is unique to say the least and brings with it its own unexpected and humane repercussions.

 

Ostland seems to be fond of men who do daddy duty. At a marketing meeting, the pony-tailed male head walks in with a baby and parks it in a corner. Baby noises and baby moments are seamless parts of the scene. And Christian has two little daughters, there’s no sign of a mother around. The director also seems to like dogs as much as he likes quirky humans. There’s a dog sitting on a sofa at meetings or walking around the office quite nonchalantly like it’s used to being there and everybody else is also used to it. Another dog watches Christian when he’s in the garage.Dogs and babies in the background are certainly very contemporary. Like the understanding reaction of a host and audience to someone who’s suffering from Tourette Syndrome.

 

There’s a scene where the marketing team talks of people’s short attention spans. But the writer-director is oblivious to it, every sequence unhurried. It’s novel, fine cinema with top shots of a rummage through the garbage in the rain and shots of winding stairwells that have a pattern.

 

Elisabeth Moss has her moments as Anna, the girl in the condom scene but this is Christian’s story till the last frame. And Claes Bang is bang on as the curator who does have a conscience.

 

For a cinematic experience that’s satisfying but remembering thatgeometry has limited takers,The Square gets a 3* rating.     

 

Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author

 

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