The art world gets a daffy satirical going-over in “The Square,” written and directed by Ruben Östlund and set in Stockholm. The film is overlong at nearly two and one-half hours, as well as being disjointed, but it does manage to deliver some laughs at various points in spoofing doings at a major museum.
Claes Bang plays Christian, who has a temporary appointment as the museum’s curator, and an unusual exhibit sets the stage for mayhem. A small square is blocked off outside the museum as an area that is meant to be an oasis of trust and caring. What will be the reaction of people who either look at it or step into it? Modern art, you see, with a social function.
But plot contortions lead to a public relations disaster. A campaign to call attention to the project, unthinkingly OK’d by Christian, backfires dramatically. Christian is in a hot spot, as is the museum.
What passes for romantic interest is a quickie sexual escapade between Christian and an American journalist played by Elisabeth Moss. She hops into bed with him and when it is clear that it was a one-nighter, she turns angry in a rather silly reaction, as there was no indication that it would be anything more. Moss is good actor, but the part is a vapid one.
A scene that I enjoyed most was an accident involving a pile of dirt heaped as supposed art. When the dirt is accidently knocked apart in cleaning, it has to be repiled to make it look as if nothing happened. As if it would make a difference. The gag touched a nerve with me, as I have recoiled at such banal exhibitions at museums that are passed off as contemporary art.
Christian gets into another kind of trouble when he has his cell phone stolen and sets out to find out who did it by passing out leaflets in a building. This sets in motion a complication that takes some time to be clarified.
There is plenty going on in the romp with various targets, but despite portions that strike the funny bone, other elements are heavy handed. If the film were far shorter, it would be easier to take. A Magnolia Pictures release. Reviewed October 27, 2017.