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Film / The Square

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The Square is a 2017 film from Sweden by Ruben Östlund.

The film tells a story of Christian (Claes Bang), an art manager at a prestigous art museum in Stockholm, who faces several challenges in his life. His wallet and cell phone are stolen by some scam artists. Christian is able to trace his phone and demand its return, and he gets both phone and wallet, but he also gets into a messy interaction with a young boy who lives in the same apartment building as the thief. Meanwhile, at the museum he is interviewed by Anne, an American reporter (Elisabeth Moss, who delivers her dialogue in English). After the two of them meet again at a party, they have sex, but Christian hesitates when Anne says she wants something more.

Christian's aloofness and preoccupation with his personal life causes problems at the museum, including how to promote the eponymous art piece, "The Square". Busy with his issues, Christian does not check on the advertising video made to promote the piece, and this failure backfires on him badly.

Shouldn't be confused with both the 2008 and 2013 films of the same name.


  • The Atoner: What Christian becomes in the end, apologizing for the ad for "The Square" and for inadvertently causing The Boy to fall down a flight of stairs.
  • Black Comedy: This film is one of the driest forms of cringe comedy out there.
  • Bystander Syndrome: A performance art piece at a fancy dinner has the artist running around with arm extension crutches, screaming and acting like a wild ape. A pre-recorded message before his entrance in the dining hall suggests everyone stay perfectly still and avoid eye contact to not be singled out by the performer's antics; Julian, not taking the experience seriously, is targeted by Oleg as the alpha, mocked by him, and eventually intimidated out of the room. It slowly becomes deconstructed as everyone becomes frightened enough to treat Oleg like an actual wild ape, instead of just a performer, and can't bring themselves to stand up to him. The scene's climax of Oleg attempting to rape a woman finally spurs the other men to action, and they react just as savagely; it's implied Oleg was beaten to death.
  • By the Hair: The already uncomfortable "ape man at the fancy dinner" performance gets even more uncomfortable when Oleg the ape man targets a hot lady in a slinky dress and starts dragging her away by the hair. This finally prompts the men at the dinner to attack him as the scene ends.
  • The Cameo: Dominic West appears in one scene as Julian, an arrogant artist. Like Elisabeth Moss, he delivers his lines in English.
  • Casting Gag: Terry Notary plays Oleg, the actor behaving like an ape. Notary's most prominent role before this was Rocket, one of the chimps from Planet of the Apes, usually hidden behind motion-capture.
  • The Con: The main character is robbed in broad daylight by a woman who is screaming that someone is about to attack her.
  • Cringe Comedy: A lot of this, like in the excruciatingly uncomfortable conversation between Anne and Christian where she grills him over how many women he's had casual sex with, asks him if he knows her name (after a very long time he finally comes up with "Anne"), announces that "you were inside of me", and demands a commitment.
  • Death of a Child: The ad for "The Square" features a homeless child and her kitten being blown up once they step inside it.
  • The Determinator: The Boy. He will stop at nothing to get an apology out of Christian for blaming him for his missing wallet and phone.
  • The Ditz:
    • Christian is so busy dealing with his owner minor problems that he doesn't realize his career is being set up for failure behind his back. He repeatedly shows failure in understanding other people.
    • Anne, especially when she confronts him over the two of them having had sex.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Christian tells his assistant that they're going to re-create the rock gravel pile exhibit. When the assistant casts a look at Anne, standing right behind Christian, he tells her in Swedish, "She doesn't understand a thing, she's American."
  • Hollywood Tourette's: Averted with the Tourette's Man, who has both verbal and motor tics. His Tourette's also becomes more intense as more people turn their attention to it.
  • Mistaken for Exhibit: Discussed Trope. In the opening scene Anne reads back to Christian some art-speak gobbledygook about the difference between an exhibition and a non-exhibition. Christian answers that it's hard to define what is "art", and that he could put her handbag out in the museum and call it art if he wanted.
  • No Name Given: The boy who stalks Christian like an avenging angel, demanding an apology for being called a thief, is never named.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Played for dark comedy when Christian, the pampered rich guy, finds himself distributing fliers in a lower-class apartment building. Nothing happens at all, really. But the emptiness of the hallways, the sounds of the crying baby and the howling dog, and the automatic hallway lights that click on when he approaches and click off when he leaves, all combine to leave him running out the front exit in mortal terror.
  • Overly-Long Gag: Every joke goes on for several minutes of runtime.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: Christian loses his wallet, phone, and cuff links to a pair of pickpockets who distract him by running a scam in which the first thief (the woman) claims that the second (the man) is going to kill her.
  • Political Overcorrectness: Satirized when Julian the artist is giving a public talk. The interview keeps getting interrupted by a man with Tourette's who shouts out obscenities. Instead of escorting the man out, however, the guests tell each other to "show tolerance" because it's "a neurological disorder", so the interview is increasingly derailed.
  • Spiritual Successor: The film is this to the works of Roy Andersson. Several scenes are shot in the manner characteristic for Andersson.
  • Threat Backfire: Christian blankets an apartment building with letters telling the recipient that he will come after them if his phone and wallet are not returned. One boy's parents' take the letter very seriously, and the boy opts to get payback on Christian for it.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-Universe for a joke about art. One of the art works in the museum is nothing more than a bunch of cone-shaped piles of rubble. A custodian cleans the mounds up.
  • The Unreveal: What happened to the boy? When Christian finally goes looking after attempting to ignore the cries of "Help me," the boy is nowhere to be found. His phone call to the boy's number isn't answered, and when he goes to the boy's apartment, the family is gone.
  • Viral Marketing: In-Universe. A disastrous video is created for "The Square".