Quick-Thoughts: Ruben Östlund’s The Square (2017)

Ruben Östlund Marathon Part V of V

“I’m really proud that I conquered you.”

After Force Majeure and now The Square, it’s become quite apparent to me that after the clear protruding Andersson and Haneke phases in his earlier work, Ruben Östlund has subsequently transmuted into making rather some of the most original work of this century so far whether you jive with its peculiarities or not. This is a fair, though seemingly bit insecure in if it’s saying enough to the point where sometimes it’ll just say it, examination of social class polarity and congruence that’s not quite at the level of something like his previous feature Play (2011), but one that’s outrageously amplified by how absorbing the otherwise diversely creative and atmospheric scenarios the commentary can find itself in, even when push comes to shove. I can picture all the madness here being more accordingly divided and subsequently comprehensive in the form of a mini-series, cause the catchiness to the film is almost fittingly like an open-ended gallery walk itself — episodic in that regard — taken on by mainly one lead figure who runs back and forth between its different attractions and arguably treats them as so, which makes for an egocentric *yet very human* leading set of eyes to see through. 

As a dark comedy, I think this nails its intentions the most. Watching people in power candidly attempt art on classism as an act of creating change (monetarily and self-righteously) is always going to trigger but also be a reference point to laugh it down by the majority audience, and while its hitting common knowledge clichés that you’d presume come with modern technological liberal media-based business scheming and the behavior of its chairmen, it admittedly runs with them well as if they were gags in a sitcom, and Östlund’s usual erratic character retorting helps fortify them with unsheathing enigma as well. Obviously, you’d hope that the film is self-aware enough nonetheless to notice how this subjugation of supposed depth is mirroring the film’s very existence in a way; it seems partially intentional but, at the same time, Östlund goes to prove there’s a never-ending existential inclination for this realization of the soundless bourgeoise to come full circle in a meaningful way that can make sense of their nature towards the encompassing social pawns which is demonstrated pretty thoroughly in the movie; an ending that doesn’t do this in the most LITERAL way possible by basically giving up for example. This would indicate that even the world-builder doesn’t know what to make of the many pieces he’s assembled here, perhaps an assembly of his own self-image as a matter of fact, which will probably make its cryptic precariousness rightfully come off as pretentious to a plethora of viewers, but I can relate to *and therefore forgive* the dilemma honestly. Art often reveals the mess of us as contradictory and hypocritical as it can get most of the time, and I’ll cheers to hollering at that whether I feel self-deprecative enough to see it or blissfully unaware enough to pretend like I do at the moment.

The Square is also shot to f**king death as goes with an Östlund 2010s picture at this point. Its sound design is everything to boot, and that performance party scene in particular — like a build-off of Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel (1962) — is one of the greatest things I’ve witnessed on screen in a while. Actually, I’ll credit the condom scene to that as well. Of course, Elisabeth Moss of any actor also happens to be in it, and not to mention a chimpanzee in the background just cause.

Verdict: B

Ruben Östlund Ranked

“The Square” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

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