The square, movie extraordinaire

https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/groove/2017/12/310521/be-there-or-be-square-review

THE movie’s title, The Square, refers on a microlevel to a new public installation at a contemporary art museum, presumably in Denmark which curator, Christian (the handsome, 6′ 4″-tall Claes Bang) has just acquired.

The square, to cut through the jargonistic description on the musuem’s brochure, is basically to remind people of their humanity and all the good things associated with it, like trust, and altruisim.

Hmmm, it’s an interesting concept, and a ticklish one too. It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at nouveau art itself, but on the macrolevel, the movie offers a peek at the things we modern people do to get publicity; how we look at issues today and handle them; and, our clouded perceptions to class and title.

These are some of the threads of consciousness that run through this satirical movie.

To sell the idea of The Square to the poor public, the museum has a team of typical marketers and creative directors, who want to make their marketing tool viral, like the Ice Bucket challenge, forgetting that the latter did raise tons of money for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

But Christian can’t give the marketing campaign his full attention because he was a victim of a street theft, losing his wallet and phone. That scene was so staged that it felt like art!

So, Christian is busy trying to get back his stuff, with he held of his museum minion. And, being divorced, he has to take care of his two pre-teen daughters.

But as an elite member of society, the electric car-driving Christian is soon faced with his own cultural and sexist judgments.

For one, he finds the tracker of his stolen phone stays in one particular building, known for housing a poorer segment of society. So, he and his minion come up with the idea of putting a note — demanding back his stolen belongings — into each and every door in that building.

His Loki act does see the return of his stolen stuff, but also “chaos” as promised by a boy whose parents now think he is a thief.

Finally, Christian has to pay the price for his narcissistic and thoughtless actions.

With his performance in this Cannes 2017 Palme d’Or winning movie, the buff-looking Bang is set to join the company of Mads Mikkelsen (Danish actor known best for the television series Hunger) and Christoph Waltz  (German actor known after Inglorious Basterds) in Hollywood.

Bang gives a believable, credible portrayal of a well-to-do guy, enconsced in a world of political correctness and where the elite rules, sinking to incredibly stupid levels.  A lovable, fallible, and yes sexy, character.

There are indelible scenes in this movie, starting with the museum’s black-tie fundraiser. Where others have celebrities and artistes, this movie offers the ultimate – a performance artist with a current exhibition at the museum – putting on quite the showstopper! Kudos to Terry Notary, a stuntman and choreographer who plays simians in the Planet of the Apes franchise.

Another scene is when the suave Christian spends the night with a vacuous American reporter (Elisabeth Moss), and is nonplussed to see a chimpanzee in the room that night. As are we!

Director Ruben Östlund, who gave cinema Force Majeure in 2014, has an inbuilt wicked sense of humour to be able to sustain more than two hours of comedic dialogue. And, be warned, it’s all in the lines, subtitles included.

The Square is definitely an art house cinematic offering, with the pun on art, and on society today.

One question you may ask as you leave the cinema hall is, are we in ‘The Square’ of our own?

I find it a thoroughly enjoyable movie, but its appeal may well be terribly limited for local cinema tastes.

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Filed under Arts, Cinema
Subhadra Devan

A journalist who has been writing about culture, arts and heritage since the 1980s. She is herself gobsmacked to have started the Sunday arts pages for English newspapers in Malaysia, in the new millennium. The passion for these genres rages on.

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