The trailer made this film fascinating; the two and a half hour cinema experience was a different, restless kettle of fish. The Square is an interesting if overly-long exploration of the managed edginess of a Copenhagen museum exhibition, and how its control – specifically the curator's control – pales to the weird fucked-upness of day to day life.
Interesting ideas emerge fragmented throughout this movie. At the outset, the handsome, upper-middle-class curator gets sucked into a street scene of a girl on the run from a psycho – soon after he realizes its set-up nature, his wallet and phone now missing. Already, this glamorous puppet master has been manipulated. Further experiences, some related to the theft, similarly expose the illusion of his cool and yes, sexy, authority until eventually his world of comfort begins to fall apart.
The most disturbing moment of the film – my favourite scene but my friend's least enjoyed part – involves a performance artist, entering a lavish, gilded dinner on the museum's opening night, as a threatening simian. The guests are soon reduced to uncomfortable fear, staring at their plates to avoid his attention. The artist's performance of human gorilla intensifies as he bullies and humiliates a noted artist; his attention then fixes on a fearful female diner. Soon he has her by the hair, dragging her to the floor, and it seems he intends to rape her. One male guest finally intervenes, and then another; the whole dining room erupts as the previously cowed, tuxedoed men perform a lynching. The scene may divide audiences, and one suspects it is meant to. It's the kind of film where the reactions of those around you in the audience become as curious to observe as the action on the screen.
This film could have been tighter, shorter. But this might be missing the point: its aim appears to be the limits of control, and the limits of a refined presentation of edginess. The exhibition at the heart of this film, called The Square to signify a space of shared responsibility and safety, in truth symbolizes the chaos of real life and unintended consequences. How true edginess lies not within the Armani and Gucci filled corridors of modern art and its exclusive clientele, but on its margins, and even here, always capable of intruding the safety of the exclusive square of these exclusive people.
In my introduction of this review, I complain about the length of this film, but I'm also aware of how it deliberately affected me. The cinema audience, watching the discomfort of the great and good, are similarly discomfited by some shocking scenes that threaten to cross the boundaries of taste and acceptability, as well as the time-bound convention of cinema.As such, I recommend this movie for what I think it sets out to achieve, challenging consumers of art whether in the cinema or a gallery exhibition, to highlight the manipulated artificiality of the formalized artistic experience.