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Art House Asshole : The Square

| October 7, 2017

Do you ever want to feel artistically superior to all of your friends? Maybe you are tired of your friends talking about how great the latest action film is and want to sound better.Maybe you want to impress your date with obscure film trivia. Maybe you think that knowing a lot about film history and art will somehow validate your meaningless existence and will replace that ever-growing pit in your heart that tells you that you don’t matter and no one cares about you/ Well don’t worry! Because I watch a bunch of art house films and can give you recommendations on what to watch and what to feel superior about! So without any delay, let’s get pretentious!

 

 

It’s rare that I see a film that understands it’s audience so well, while also completely mocking it’s audience flatly. For context, I saw this film at the New York Film Festival, and this film knows the kind of people who go to film festivals are the only people who are going to have interest in this film. If you read about this film in regards to its plot, you won’t find much. If you go to the IMDB for this film you will find this regarding plot – “The Square is a poignant, satirical drama reflecting our times – about the sense of community, moral courage and the affluent person’s need for egocentricity in an increasingly uncertain world.” I’m not sure you can be more generic while also saying absolutely nothing about the film. There isn’t a trailer for the film that isn’t just a scene from the film. And all of this is done on purpose. Because the film isn’t about anything. But it does say something.

 

The Square is a film directed by Swedish Director, Ruben Ostlund. Ostlund has also directed 2014’s Force Majeure which was one of my favorite films of that year. The Square is marketed as starring Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West. When in reality Elisabeth Moss is in three scenes and Dominic West in two scenes. The main character of the film is played by Claes Bang, a Danish actor who has a fair amount of credits but this is by far his largest role. The film follows Claes Bang as the curator of a modern art museum. And then the film just follows his life as he messes up some things and then because he is a flawed and kind of bad person, just ends up making it worse. And then around halfway through I realized that on a plot level, The Square is just a two and a half hour long version of Swedish Curb Your Enthusiasm. It is just a comedy about a stubborn man who gets into a situation and then tries to get out of said situation but only ends up making it worse. That’s the film at its core. That is what this film is about. And the film is genuinely funny. And I like this film. But not because of what the film is about.

 

At the beginning of the film, Claes Bang is being interviewed by Elisabeth Moss about the museum and specifically about a new installation. And I can’t remember what Moss asks him, but I remember his response. This exchange is in the beginning, and I mean this is the first scene of the film. Claes Bang responds to the question saying that something that he struggles with is the definition of art. Expanding on this he says, putting a piece on display and giving something awards doesn’t make it good art. For more context, this film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year. This is the highest award at what is thought to be one of the, if not the, most prestigious film festival in the world. I will also remind you that I saw this film at the New York Film Festival, arguably one of the most snobbish film festivals that I go to. And I think the film knows that anyone who has interest in this film, are the people that are going to think this film is more than it is.

 

When I left the theater, I was riding the Subway train back to my apartment. While in the train I could hear a conversation happening next to me between three different guys who had also seen the film. The discussion was them talking about all of the symbolism and deeper meaning to all of the characters in the film. The next day I was talking to someone who said the film is a big statement on power structure and the homeless. And the film talks about the poor and power structure, but that isn’t what it is about. Ostlund knows that the only people that will have interest in this film are the people who are going to want to dissect it and proclaim it to be art. When really, at the end of the day it’s just a comedy about some guy who works at a museum and is finding meaningless interpretations to art pieces that have no meaning. And this might be a bolder statement. But I don’t think the film is art. I think it’s just an entertaining comedy that doesn’t say much. And that isn’t a bad thing. You’re allowed to like and make things that don’t have a bold thought-provoking message. Everyone knows that Cannes tends to be more political regarding what they award. And maybe that’s why this film won the Palme d’Or. Maybe the politics that the world is facing is so tiring that perhaps it’s time that film enthusiasts just step back and laugh at a bunch of stacks of dirt.

 

The real question that I still have in the film is whether or not the film warrants to be art or not. Because maybe by stating the fact that it isn’t art, that in itself makes it art. By not saying anything it is saying everything. The film is saying that it isn’t saying anything, thus saying something. I don’t know. Art is pretentious and hurts my head sometimes. Art sucks. Movies suck. Fuck you.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.
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