This is not an attack on contemporary art. The Square – The Art of Discord, by Ruben Östlund, winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes and Sweden's representative for an Oscar, is in fact a scathing criticism of the society of the spectacle and all the perversity that emanates from it.
The main environment is in fact a museum, ironically called X-Royal, as an indication of the grandiloquence that these institutions have been trying to assume in the field of art, using the architecture of effects as a foundation. It all started at the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
For the X-Royal is preparing an exhibition by an Argentine conceptual artist and sociologist, who uses Nicolas Bourriaud's theory of Relational Aesthetics to prepare her solo show. So far, the script is well informed about the contemporary art scene. Among the works, a square of light on the floor in front of the museum, The Square, creates a space for conviviality among passersby. At the Bienal de São Paulo, in 2008, Maurício Ianês had a somewhat similar work, incidentally, around geometric figures drawn on the floor, including a square.
The central question of the film is not the work itself, but how to draw the public's attention to the exhibition of the Argentine artist from it. That's when a pair of young advertising specialists in social networks enter the field. They want to create something that goes viral on the internet without any kind of embarrassment, as is typical in marketing. That's where the bug catches.
However, The Square has several sub-themes, which revolve around the museum's director, Christian (Claes Bang): he finds himself involved in several confusions, either because of the sex he had with a journalist who had interviewed him (Elisabeth Moss, from Mad Men), or because of a stolen cell phone, or even because of his inattention to the daily life of the museum, which is actually partly right because of the sex and the cell phone.
But it is in the X-Royal that the most striking scene takes place, a gala dinner so similar to those sophisticated black-tie events, which counselors of these institutions so appreciate, and which is suddenly put in check by an aggressive and surreal performance, dream of any reasonable human being in the face of these maddeningly boring conventionalities. Remember the embarrassment of dinner in Family party, by Thomas Vinterberg.
In fact, it is this kind of perversity that permeates The Square and that is so present in Scandinavian cinema: revealing each one's obsessions, in the most exaggerated way possible, because through caricatures one can see how small gestures sometimes lead to great tragedies.
Watch the official trailer below The Square – The Art of Discord