Watching The Square is like watching a complicated puzzle being assembled. Each piece placed is dependent on the preceding piece, and all the pieces must be in place if the entire picture is to be seen.
An Australian neo-film-noir, The Square starts off simply. A married man’s mistress (Carla, played by Claire van de Boom), also married, finds a load of loot in her attic (which her husband had squirreled away), and wants him to rob her house, take the loot, and the two of them can run away together. They decide to have her house burned down to hide the fact that the stash was stolen.
Too many people become involved in the plot, a missed connection results in the death of an innocent woman, and suddenly the perfect caper becomes the worst nightmare. One death leads to another as Ray (David Roberts) tries to cover his tracks, which have been cleverly uncovered by a blackmailer who is demanding a large sum of cash. When Ray doesn’t deliver, the demand gets higher.
In true film noir style, there is an odd bit of business with a dog that swims across a canal (or bay) from Carla’s house to Ray’s, apparently infatuated with Ray’s dog (the feeling seems mutual). It’s like the scene in Body Heat in which a clown in full make-up and costume drives down the street. I’ve always wondered, what’s that about? In The Square, the dog lovers portend the fate of the human lovers.
Because Ray’s actions put in motion events that lead to the old woman’s death, he feels he must pay the blackmailer. One “accidental” death leads to another, and then another. At one point I was provoked to laughter because it didn’t seem possible that so many awful things could happen to one man. The Square’s tone got me past the giggles right quick.
This is a wonderful example of how everything must happen in a certain sequence to obtain the end result. If Ray and Carla were faithful to their spouses, at least three people would not be dead. Each time an action is taken, there seems to be an equal (and certainly opposite of the desired) reaction.
The plot turns on a misapprehension, and when the audience realizes it, it appreciates the complexity of the story. As each new obstacle is thrown before the lovers, the viewer has the delicious sensation, “Oh, this is getting even better.”
The unexpected climax does not disappoint. It may not be the way we wish things would’ve worked out, but it seems to be the only way they could have.
Extra features included with The Square are a music video, deleted scenes, “Inside The Square” (somewhat tiresome making-of), “Pre-Visualization,” and a deconstruction of special effects. The gem that makes getting the DVD really worthwhile, though, is the short film Spider.
Like The Square, Spider presents a story in which each moment builds on the last, and in less than ten minutes comes to its shocking (yet sick laugh-provoking) conclusion. Directed by The Square’s Nash Edgerton, Spider was dubbed “a sharp, sick tour de force” by The New York Time’s A.O. Scott. Scott also noted that Spider “stands on its own and serves as a jolting introduction to this director’s skill, sensibility and sense of humor.” It is definitely the kind of thing that develops a following.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream The Square? Yes, it’s a well-crafted film. I would buy it just to have The Spider, which reflects on my sensibility (or lack of same) and sense of humor. Release date: August 24, 2010.