The Square Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Dane Christian (Klas Bang) works as art director of the Stockholm Museum of Contemporary Art X-Royal, located in the Royal Palace. He is divorced from his wife, has a luxurious apartment and drives a Tesla. Rich, beautifully dressed, and in general – a favorite of the public interested in contemporary art.

A wealthy, elderly couple, trustees of the museum, donated a large sum of several million euros to X-Royal, and Christian, who is in charge of art objects and art installations, immediately spent a couple of millions by purchasing an art object from a well-known Argentine artist “ Square”. The idea of ​​this object is elegant and sublime. Despite the fact that the “Square” itself is created by two workers within a couple of hours, laying it out of the paving stones in front of the royal palace, after creation, the object turns into an important symbol: anyone who needs help can stand in the center of the square and ask for this help. And passers-by, as Christian broadcasts to the assembled art lovers, will have to help him. Sharman-sharman, art lovers shout and a friendly herd run to sweep away everything at the buffet table.

The next day, Christian goes somewhere on his own business and on the street witnesses a scene when a girl, hysterical with fright, asks a passerby for help. Christian at first is not going to somehow get involved in this, but a passerby, in turn, asks for help from Christian, and the two of them confront a muscular dork, from whom the girl is trying to hide. Thank God, the dork does not use his fists and eventually dumps. The rest of the participants of the performance also disperse, and Christian suddenly discovers that he was trivially robbed: they stole both the phone and the wallet with all the contents.

Christian’s employee Mikael (Christopher Lesso) finds out that the iPhone is not turned off and the SIM card is not pulled out so they can track the location of the phone. GPS shows that the iPhone is in an apartment building in a notorious area.

However, Christian is seized by the excitement of the pursuit, he writes a note: “I know that you stole my wallet and wallet, I know where you live. Immediately return it to such and such an address or you will regret it” and propagates it according to the number of apartments in the house. What a genius move!

Further, Christian and Mikael come to this house, and Christian himself delivers letters to the boxes. He generally assumes that Mikael will do this, but Mikael got stuck, so he was left to guard the Tesla.

Well, as a result, after these letters, Christian’s life will change radically.


Swiss director Ruben Östlund, creator of a couple of sensational arthouse films – “The Game” and “Force Majeure”.

His new film “The Square” won the Golden Bough at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, he also has six wins in six nominations of the European Film Academy 2017, a victory at the Goya Film Festival in 2018, and nominations for Cesar, Golden Globe” and “Oscar”.

Criticism caressed the picture with terrible force, quotes: “brilliant satire”; “an uncompromising statement that puts Östlund in the first row of filmmakers”; “this is a really good, God forgive me, topical and easy-to-watch movie”; Östlund’s The Square is a satire on the creative world, a mix of biting humor and caustic absurdity. A compelling, moving work that explores the boundaries of freedom of speech, political correctness and artistic liberties in the most provocative form, dooming the Swedish director’s picture to international resonance.

Well, I thought, I should have a look. I’m not a big fan of arthouse, but, you know, arthouse is a large layer of a wide variety of works, among which there are both genuine masterpieces and frank empty shells that the public and critics like to buy into, who want to seem smarter than they really are deed.

Plus, I love Scandinavian cinema, I love a lot of Scandinavian films, which I appreciate for their completely original style, so different from the Hollywood mainstream.

Started watching. I got the Voyover version. In general, I don’t watch almost anything with voiceover, but since in this case they spoke English here for literally five minutes, and the rest of the time they talked in Swedish and sometimes in Danish, I thought that voiceover would do.

After an hour and a half of the film, Holmes noticed that there was no fourth wall, I realized that I did not want to continue watching this green melancholy. Especially since there was still an hour of viewing left.

I gave up this case, went to read criticism (I don’t read it before watching it). Brilliant satire, uncompromising statement – all critics wrote with delight. Well, on the one hand, the deurination of critics is their own business, but on the other hand, maybe I didn’t understand something in this film, I thought. Let’s be honest, I’m not seven spans in the forehead either, and I don’t consider myself smarter than these critics, among whom there are people I respect very much. Not all, but some.

Therefore, I decided to make an effort on myself and watch the picture to the end, in order to evaluate it as a whole, and not in particular. I threw out the voiceover version, found the version with the original track and Russian subtitles, rewatched a few key conversational scenes from the first half and watched the entire second half.

After that, I decided not to write a review right away, but to let my impressions settle down, because the film, with all my initially negative attitude, is very difficult and requires some reflection.

Well, now about what I saw in this film. Structurally and stylistically, it is extremely uneven and somehow, I would say, lax. At the same time, the director’s intention is readable and quite understandable, but the implementation of what he wanted to talk about is at least strange. Either he tried to cram as many specific meanings into this film as possible and did not fit into the format, or his secondary began to obscure the main thing – in general, my complaints have not gone away with the production: it is very long and often very, very indistinct.

I understand that in the arthouse they work more with meanings than with logic, but taking as a starting point for what happened to this Christian, the idea of ​​​​writing one and a half hundred letters “You are a thief” and scattering them throughout all the apartments of an apartment building – it looks slightly insane. And Christian, for all his manners and despite what a fierce madhouse he does in his life, is still not a complete nerd. Moreover, this madhouse brings him very good money.

The story with this boy of a clearly migrant look, whose parents, after receiving a letter, deprived him of all gadgets, as they decided that this was their son a thief – it would be logical and understandable in terms of the continuation of events, but again it is completely incomprehensible why Christian refuses to apologize to the guy and his parents – and exhaust the problem. Does he not understand that he is guilty? Does he disdain to apologize to a migrant, although he himself is so tolerant and a supporter of multiculturalism?

The director very well shows the whole idiotic essence of one of the areas of “modern art”. Hall with rubble cones. Hall with a demonstration of a video of a man-ape. A hall with chairs piled on top of each other, making creepy sounds. And it’s still forbidden to photograph because of “art”, “copyright” and all that. And how funny it looks when Christian is informed that the cleaning lady threw the cones of rubble into the garbage can, and he begins to think how to restore this masterpiece from the garbage can.

And the phrase in Christian’s interview with the American journalist Anna (Elizabeth Moss), when she asked the master to comment on some of his next absurdity, about which he forgot to even think. He said, “If we take your bag and put it here in our museum, will it become a work of art?” He should have just blurted out, but he gave away the biggest secret of this museum: you can bring any crap to the museum and put it there – there will definitely be a bunch of “art connoisseurs” who will admire this crap and admire how accurately this crap “expresses a whole range of feelings and emotions.”

The second episode with this journalist and the subsequent conversation against the background of howling exhibits are also well done. Christian does not consider sex a reason to get acquainted, and the journalist slightly disagrees with this. At the same time, the journalist lives with a male chimpanzee. Who is also an artist. Well, modern art and all.

That was beautiful, that’s the kind of arthouse I like. However, the woman living with the monkey, it also seems to have been somewhere.

Östlund is a master at putting his characters in awkward situations and seeing how they deal with it. And in this picture, these awkward situations are more than enough. Christian and a migrant beggar in a cafe. He does not give her money, but offers to buy something to eat. The migrant woman chooses a dish and begins to demand from Christian that everything be prepared the way she likes it – as if he were a waiter. Very life story, you know.

Nicely done episodes with an advertising agency that Christian called in to do an advertising campaign for The Square. An agency executive who showed up for a meeting with an incessantly screaming baby in a bassinet. The baby is terribly disturbing to everyone, but they try not to pay attention to him – this is intolerant, the baby is the same.

Two stupid creatives from this agency who are “groping for an idea” and don’t think of anything smarter than working on an outright hype that will cost Christian his job.

Meeting with a mannered artist (he is so cool that he came in a jacket thrown over pajamas), talking about his work, and in the hall there is a man with Tourette’s syndrome, who involuntarily shouts out all sorts of obscenities. Everyone is terribly uncomfortable and uncomfortable, but you won’t take him out of the hall, this is such a disease.

Well, without fools, it’s an absolutely magnificent scene, when during a very solemn reception of art lovers, a man-monkey, an artist-actionist Oleg Rogozhin, was launched into the hall as an artistic performance. Here, of course, a big hello to this crazy actionist Oleg Kulik, who in the nineties ran around Europe with his bare ass and portrayed a dog. Moreover, the same Kulik admired the fact that when he bit someone on the leg in Canada, the bitten ones would pull their leg back and swear. And when in Europe he bit the ankle of the wife of the German ambassador, this blond beast silently passed by and did not even say: “Schweine”. However, there was some kind of internal logic in this, Kulik is not a pig, he is a dog.

Now, an ape-man enters a huge hall and behaves just like an ape. A wild animal, which is better not to anger, as the voice of the announcer explains. If you sit still, he may not notice you.

The audience at first giggle, but very quickly they are overcome by a feeling of extreme awkwardness: Rogozhin really behaves like a monkey, like a strong wild animal. And everyone sits in a daze, and Rogozhin walks and walks around.

In the end, the monkey literally lays out some well-groomed aunt on the floor, and I waited with great curiosity to see how Estlund would ruin it all. In theory, the monkey man was supposed to fuck her in front of everyone present – such a performance, life – but then a few men could not stand it, rushed to the aunt to help, and I hope that the performance artist was still killed to hell . Although we were not shown this, which is a pity.

In Youtube, this scene is not in its entirety, without an ending.

By the way, the ape-man is played by Terry Notari, a great specialist in imitating the behavior of monkeys. He played in all modern “Planet of the Apes”, he played King in the movie “Kong: Skull Island”.

For other acting jobs. I liked Claes Bang as Christian. I have some complaints about the plot of his character’s action, but the actor himself got into the role very clearly: just such a sensitive and delicate art director, a kind of bon vivant. He understands that he is doing complete garbage, knows how to do complete garbage, loves to do complete garbage. At the same time, he is lost when he encounters something that goes beyond the boundaries of his artsy empty little world. But on the other hand, the suit fits him well, this flirtatious scarf, the hair, diligently tousled for a lot of money by a fashionable hairdresser from Tony & Guy or whatever it is, fashionable glasses, is good at portraying sincerity where she did not spend the night.

The American journalist was played by Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men. Also a good role, especially her explanation with Christian against the backdrop of moaning chairs. Well, the scene with a condom as another demonstration of the level of trust is also very funny.

What is the result? A very uneven, even slightly torn and very drawn-out movie, in which, however, “contemporary art”, all these polished art directors, an imposing audience, performance artists and performances, were really well torn apart. Some episodes are very good, others cause some bewilderment.

It doesn’t suck, it makes you think, but I personally don’t really understand these cries of delight and a pile of awards. However, in my opinion, no one here requires my understanding.

And only one thing disturbs me and does not give me rest. The art project “Square” really exists in nature – it is in the Swedish museum Vandalorum. It was also made as an installation in the central square of the city of Vernamo. Do you know who the authors of this project are? Ruben Etlund, director of this film, and its producer Kalle Boman.

PS Who has watched the film and understands Scandinavian languages: does Christian really speak Danish with the Swedes at times, or did it seem to me?

It is like this in most countries. There is, however, another option.

And here is the grave (there is no other word for it), which ours created.

Covers like this are to die for, that’s what I’ll tell you. Or give to the ape-man to be torn to pieces. The ugliness is incredible.

The Square movie meaning

Producer: Ruben Estlund

Cast: Terry Notary, Dominic West, Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Christopher Lesso, Lisa Stephenson Engstrom, Lilianne Mardon, Marina Shipchenko, Annika Liljeblad, Elijandro Eduard

Tragicomedy, Sweden-Germany-France-Denmark, 152 min.

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