Director: Ruben ÖstlundStars: Claes Bang, Elizabeth Moss, Dominic West, Terry Notary
Swedish writer-director Östlund’s
follow-up to the splendid Force Majeure is another comedy of social discomfort, this time set in a Stockholm art gallery, the X-Royal art museum, formerly the Royal Palace. The gallery is about to unveil its latest project, the titular exhibit being a small neon-bordered square billed by the artist as ‘a sanctuary of trust and caring, where we all share equal rights and obligations’. Christian (excellent Bangs) is the gallery curator; handsome and elegant but as an interview with American journalist Anne (a game Moss) evidences in an early scene, he’s also a bit gauche and oafish. Desperate to promote the new piece, the museum enlists the help of two self-consciously cutting edge PR men. Their idea for a shock campaign, which consists of a beggar girl being blown up, causes a huge controversy.Östlund has ideas to spare here as he examines the relationship between commerce and art, the limits of tolerance, the state of contemporary sexual relations, and treatment of the less fortunate, with the excellent Bangs and Moss rising to the occasion. The picture features some memorable set pieces, including a comically elaborate revenge plot for a wallet theft which involves mailing an entire tower block in the wrong side of town; a squirm-inducing sequence involving the disposal of a used condom, and a horribly captivating Bunuel-style scene in which a performance artist (Notary), pretending to be an ape, terrorises the well-heeled guests at a swanky museum event. But the excessive running time and the lack of focus grows wearying as the film passes the halfway mark.