Meditations and Provocations: Ruben Östlund's 'The Square'

"We are animals! At the same time, we strive for equality."
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"Ruben Östlund is a maestro of discomfort,"

A.A. Dowd writes of the director

, "and

The Square

might just be his magnum opus: a two-and-a-half-hour cringe comedy about the foibles of supposed high society, unfolding as a daisy chain of exquisitely awkward episodes.

"This is a movie with a lot on its mind, from art to altruism to the so-called bystander effect, and it could function as a Rorschach test for its audience, reflecting viewers' anxieties and insecurities right back at them," Dowd continues. "It's also just really, really funny, at least for those who can find humor in humiliation." To read the full review,

click here

"When there's a conflict between who we are expected to be and who we want to be, suddenly we're facing a dilemma that makes us behave in a different way," Östlund tells

Andrew Crump

. "I think that's really the core of a human being, that we're dealing with our instincts and our needs, and at the same time we look at ourselves as rational and cultivated, that we're civilized.

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"There's a clash between those things. That's what a human being is. We are animals! At the same time, we strive for equality. We strive for being fair. It's pointing out something about us, always, when you find that breaking point." To read the full interview, click here

"I wanted to make an elegant movie, with visual and rhetorical devices to provoke and entertain viewers," explains Östlund. "Thematically the film moves between topics such as responsibility and trust, rich and poor, power and powerlessness. The growing beliefs in the individual and the declining beliefs in the community. The distrust of the state, in media and in art."



The Square Director Ruben Östlund on Art, Satire, and Provocation 

The Square: In Search of a Safe Space

In the film, Östlund says, "we face the weakness in human nature: when attempting to do the right thing, the hardest part is not to agree on common values, but to actually act according to them. 

"For instance, how should I treat beggars if I want to promote a fair and equal society where the gap between rich and poor has disappeared? Should I maintain the privileged lifestyle that allows me to give them something each day and improve their situation in a rather minor way? Or should I radically change my lifestyle so as to restore the balance between us? The rise of extreme poverty and the increase in the homeless population in first-world cities presents us with such a dilemma every day."

Ruben Östlund Confronts His Audience with The Square

Ruben Östlund on The Square and the Social Contract

The Square is a Scathingly Funny Art-World Satire

The Square is Provocative Art About Provocative Art

Ruben Östlund's The Square is a Virtuoso Satire of the Modern Art World

How to Master the Art of Satire: Ruben Östlund on The Square


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