The Square (2017)

Out Now On-Demand

Palme d'Or-winning satirical drama from Swedish helmer Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure). Stars Claes Bang and Elisabeth Moss.

"Christian is the respected curator of a contemporary art museum, a divorced but devoted father of two who drives an electric car and supports good causes. His next show is "The Square", an installation which invites passersby to altruism, reminding them of their role as responsible fellow human beings. But sometimes, it is difficult to live up to your own ideals: Christian's foolish response to the theft of his phone drags him into shameful situations. Meanwhile, the museum's PR agency has created an unexpected campaign for "The Square". The response is overblown and sends Christian, as well as the museum, into an existential crisis." (Cannes Film Festival)



Winner of the Palme d'Or, 2017 Cannes Film Festival

Directed by

Written by

Comedy, Drama, World Cinema


Rating: MA15+ Strong coarse language

English and Swedish with English subtitles

Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark

Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure took aim at a specific type of wounded masculinity, in ways that veered between comedy and tragedy. In his new film The Square, a similar satirical lens is applied to the art world. It might seem like low-hanging fruit, and Östlund definitely takes a few pot shots at pretension, but he lets his comically-barbed scenarios meander into other unexpected territories.

Like Force Majeure, the film is peppered with moments of absurd machismo. Christian, a wealthy gallery curator, uses the music of Justice to psych himself up before an altercation. Later he clumsily flirts with various female staff members at a work party.

A large cast of characters orbit Christian, and they’re all great (particularly a hilariously insufferable duo of PR bros), but the film does feel overstuffed. The more things Östlund throws in, the less apparent it becomes as to what exactly is being satirised.

The director seems fascinated with moments that puncture our everyday social contracts, like a man with Tourettes syndrome yelling obscenities at an art critic, or a belligerent chef berating his guests. Calling it cringe comedy is close but not adequate.

It all culminates in a bit of performance art with a man behaving like an ape that is truly agonising, tipping over into outright horror to make a point about herd mentality.

The Square isn’t subtle. It keeps cutting to Stockholm’s homeless community, shown as a contrast to the wealth on display in the art scenes. But by the end there are more interesting ideas about class to chew over.

In the film, ‘The Square’ is a pseudo-philosophical artwork on display at Christian’s gallery. But it also exists in real life - based on Östlund's idea, there are four of them on display around Sweden. So, who is he taking the piss out of?

Hollywood Reporter


...a potent, disturbing work that explores the boundaries of political correctness, artistic liberty and free speech in provocative ways...

The Guardian (UK)


It doesn’t have the pure weapon-like clarity of Östlund’s previous film Force Majeure. But it sets out to make your jaw drop. And it succeeds.

The Telegraph (UK)


Slow burn – and at almost two and a half hours, the burn here is positively languid – has a culminative force that can’t be resisted.

Variety (USA)


It’s two hours and 22 minutes long, and though it has a strong first half, the more it goes on the less it hangs together.



Most of the film’s best scenes could function as their own short film; string enough of them together and they all shed different light on a central theme, though never quite fully articulating it.

New York Times


"The Square" is ultimately a long version of Christian's rambling apology, ostentatiously smart, maybe too much so for its own good, but ultimately complacent, craven and clueless.

Los Angeles Times


It affirms that art, this movie very much included, can tell us things about ourselves that we'd prefer not to know.

TimeOut (London)


If the film has any flaw, it could be that it juggles too many good ideas. But why complain about that?

FilmInk (Australia)



Gorilla Film-making

The 2017 Cannes Palme d’Or winner, directed by Ruben Ostlund, is best described as a Swedish take on Luis Buñuel’s darkly funny social satire, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, only set in a museum and with a human gorilla impersonator.

By turns wildly funny, provocative and chilling, this is modern metaphorical surrealism that fans of Ostlund’s Force Majeure will love – lengthy runtime, sprawling concepts, intellectual conceits and all.