Set in the world of high art, The Square hits theaters this week as a political and cultural statement just as much as the works on display in the story. Christian (Claes Bang) is the curator of a respected contemporary art museum known for his provocative choices. He’s on the cusp of a new installation titled, of course, The Square.
A series of personal and professional crises threaten to upend his standing and reputation as an altruistic member of society. Problems mount as the museum seeks to promote The Circle in unusual ways, Christian is in the midst of an interview with journalist Anne (Elisabeth Moss) and more. In the end, we’re asked what art is and how much we know about the people behind it.
The theatrical poster shows Julian in the middle of his ape routine standing shirtless on top of a table in the middle of a fancy dinner reception, Anna and Christian sitting at the same table. Based on the other marketing materials that’s a bit of a staged, artificially-arranged image, but it conveys the movie’s gonzo attitude while also including the major stars. Its Cannes credentials are at the top while a positive critic’s quote is at the bottom.
The first trailer starts out with Anne interviewing Christian about his role in running the museum, him explaining he’s always trying to push boundaries. “The Square” is one of his most recent installations and we also see Julian doing his ape routine in the middle of a fancy dinner. Anne confronts Christian after they sleep together and then it’s back to “The Square” and what it represents.
I have no idea what’s happening here but I get the buzz. It’s a bit disappointing to see another movie that uses “female journalist sleeps with the subject of an interview” as a story point, but there’s not much I can do about that. Looks intriguing and unique, which is still saying a lot.
Online and Social
For a small foreign film like this, there’s a surprisingly robust official website. Full-screen video greets you as the site loads, showing a rotating series of critic’s quotes at the top while offering a link to “Get Tickets” at the bottom, just above links to the movie’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles.
Another link for tickets is the first option at the top, followed by “Videos,’ which is where you’ll find the trailer along with a clip showing Anne and Christian in the aftermath of an ill-advised hookup. “Story” is up next with a synopsis as well as a cast and crew list.
We can skip “Stream More Great Films” since that’s Magnolia hoping to get you download more of its films.
“Social Assets” is pretty cool, offering a handful of GIFs and photos to download, some with captions or pull quotes, and use on social media. Next is the “Press Kit” where you can find more official statements and information if you need it for a story you’re writing.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Some online and social advertising using clips and videos and key art but that’s about it.
Media and Publicity
This year’s Cannes Film Festival provided a venue for the movie’s coming out, with screenings that resulted in massive amounts of positive buzz and word-of-mouth among critics that w as shared online. It went on win the Palme d’Or, adding to its prestige.
Ostlund talked about that win here, commenting on how he worked to make sure the material worked in English (not his native language), edits he made post-Cannes and more. He also shared his inspiration and talked about career in general here.
Considering his primate-inspired routine is a such a big part of the campaign it’s understandable that actor Terry Notary would be part of the publicity as well, with an interview where he talked about getting into the character, how that scene was choreographed and more.
Moss spoke occasionally about the movie as well, usually during a recent round of publicity for her acclaimed Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
This is just my experience, but the campaign at first felt a bit imposing. That poster of Notary going full ape-man, the same image released as a publicity still during Cannes, was slightly off-putting. It makes the uninformed person in the audience wonder what sort of crazy avant-garde movie they’re being sold. There’s no story or explanation offered, just this singular image. It’s striking, to be sure, but it also offers almost no entry point for the audience.
That probably doesn’t matter, though. It’s not as if anyone who hasn’t been following the buzz from Cannes and beyond is going to even be aware of the movie, much less interested in it. The entire campaign has been designed to reinforce that conversation and keep the focus on the provocative nature of the story. The lack of easy jumping on point is a feature, not a bug. Like a high-end art museum, it only wants to allow in the people who already get it.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.