Of all the documentaries I watched over the weekend, I certainly did not expect to enjoy The Square the least. Of course I use the word enjoy loosely. How could one enjoy a documentary of an uprising that led to another uprising, that led to another, and ends with . . . well, not nothing, but just doesn't really end at all. There’s no resolution, which of course is not anyone’s fault; things are still going on in Egypt, and it ends with a bit of info at the end telling of what happened to the people we have been following, but still nothing happens.
I think one reason that I did not enjoy The Square as much as say, Strongman, is that Strongman is about a man and his life, his future, his present; while The Square is about an event, an even that may still be going on, sure, but still it’s an event, and if the filmmakers wanted to follow it and show us the event, then why stop when they did? Why not stick with it? I understand that the uprising in Egypt could go on for years now, and the filmmakers couldn't follow all of that, but still in their previous film Control Room, they seemed to cover a war in the span of the documentary. Now obviously they did not, but as I said they seemed to, they gave the viewers that impression that we were there with them through it all.
The Square falls just short of giving us that impression. We were there for the beginning, okay, and then we stuck with it, and stuck with it, and then we left, and stuff is still going on over there. Maybe things calmed down, that’s why the filmmakers chose to end it there and not follow through, I don’t know, but still that’s how it felt to me like we just decided to turn the TV off and move on to something else.
Also, The Square seemed just a bit laid back for the events that it was covering. Control Room seemed more intense than The Square, and I mean that as a whole. The Square has a lot more “action” or intense scenes of violence than Control Room, and when you’re watching those scenes of people being driven over with the trucks, and shot at, you really do get a sense for that moment of the fear and confusion and panic. The people living in Egypt live with that always, not just during those scenes, and I didn't feel that as I did for those we were watching in Control Room.
I think The Square loses something because of the way it is shot. The documentary is beautiful to look at; I mean seriously, it is amazingly filmed. It’s like a Michael Mann movie, the only thing is, it did not sit well with the sort of things we were seeing. Such tragedy and horror and injustice – but boy does it look beautiful!
After all of that I don’t want to give the impression that I didn't like it. I did. For all of its faults none of them could ruin what is a very good documentary about a very important event in Egypt’s history as well as the world’s. The documentary also makes the people involved as important as the events themselves.
How can a guy living in Wichita, Kansas, relate to the turmoil that another man may be going through in Egypt? I can watch Youtube and the news and all sorts of other websites that show the truth of what is going on, but it is still the documentary that really brings the people alive that are there doing the things that I’m seeing on the internet and the news. I know I will never go to Egypt, and I will probably never be involved in any sort of political protest (or any protest for that matter), so documentaries like this bring us one step closer to the people that are involved; I just wish I’d been able to get more attached to the people I was watching.
The documentary ends with two men who had been protesting together, now forced to opposite sides of a protest that had gradually changed. I wanted to feel for both men. I knew that I should feel really affected by them and their situation, but I just didn't, and I think in that moment, when the two spoke and I felt nothing is when I felt The Square really missed something. I was more upset when the young man who was killed, his mother spoke about how she didn't care if her son was a martyr or not, she was just sad that he was gone, and I never saw her until that instant. The two men at the end I’d been with for over an hour or so and still I didn't feel what I wanted to.
The Square is a beautifully shot documentary, and I think in the end, that is its worst enemy.