Writer-director Ruben Östlund's Palme d'Or winner The Square is a very particular, and at least mildly irritating, kind of satire. It's a sometimes delicate, and oftentimes savage, attack on the moral inner lives of a certain kind of bourgeois intellectual type (who is probably male, definitely white, socially liberal, and inclined towards post-modernist art), and as a film, its audience is exactly the same type. This does not happen in the spirit of self-reflection and self-criticism, but of indemnity against those things: it's a movie that says "we should all be more aware of our myriad hypocrisies", but acts "please praise me for having lots of thoughts and being Morally Righteous".

Well, it does have lots of thoughts, no question about that. Thoughts that it is very eager to present to you in heavily articulated, thoroughly unambiguous scenes. Thoughts implicit in the very scenario, which is that a contemporary art museum in Stockholm is preparing a new interactive exhibit in its courtyard: a three-meter square marked out in the paving stones, with a plaque declaring that anyone standing inside that square can consider it a safe space to ask for whatever they need from their fellow persons, from emotional support on to whatever pocket change can get them a warm meal. The Square looms over the rest of the movie, even though it never does get built in all the movie's ample running time; the whole film is an exploration of how Christian (Claes Bang), the museum's curator, fails to live up to his lofty ideals of being a good person, in a number of different individual situations.

Sometimes, it's also just a straight-up parody of the art world, taking sarcastic joy in such little details as how the room full of piles of gravel and dust causes problems for the janitorial staff. One extended setpiece that the film is enormously proud of finds a posh fundraising dinner interrupted by a performance artist named Oleg (Terry Notary), portraying a caveman, plodding around the room and making vaguely threatening gestures that grow increasingly invasive; it starts at amusing the patrons, eventually makes them annoyed, and finally fearful and angry.

Those are basically the film's two modes: allow Christian to do something that trades on all his privileges at the cost of some other person worse off than himself, and then solemnly point out that he's a crappy person for it; make fun of the weird shit they get up to in interactive art. When possible, these two things are combined. And to be sure, the film's ideas have a certain robustness to them; as in his last international cause célebre, 2014's Force Majeure, Östlund proves that he has a strong eye and ear for a certain kind of panicked European masculinity in crisis. Also as in Force Majeure, it takes the director a lot less time to establish that than he seems to suppose, which leads to a whole lot of very minor variations on a theme, inside a film that has no earthly reason to be as long as it is. The Square is an endless 152 minutes, and while the final couple of scenes, involving the fallout from a hideously misjudged and thoroughly confusing viral video, bend the film into some new channels, any given 20 minutes of the movie prior to that point comfortably stand in for the film as a whole.

The humor at the expense of wacky art-type people, meanwhile, is pretty much just a bunch of cheap shots at a bunch of people nobody takes seriously anyway, and needs much less than 20 minutes to wear out its welcome.

The film largely functions as a laundry list of scene concepts, and individually, they all seem pretty great and nervy and pointed. In practice, several of them work, though nearly all of them go on for too long (probably as part of a - successful! - bid to make them feel unpleasant and awkward), but the whole thing is less than the sum of these parts. For one thing, there's almost no scene that does work that isn't also done by at least one other scene; for another, the film's obsessive focus on Christian ceases to pay dividends really early on. This is not Force Majeure, in which multiple characters emerge with some real definition; everybody in this film has a personality defined entirely in terms of how inconvenient they make Christian's life, or how inconvenient he makes theirs, or both at the same time.

At least Östlund and cinematography Fredrik Wenzel get some very interesting compositions out of all this, framing Christian in the sparse modernist spaces of the museum; the film feels to have been constructed entirely out of blocks, all of them choking the life out of the people inside of them to some degree or another. It's an inorganic, curt visual style that nicely undercuts all of the human lives inside of it, arguing more elegantly for the essential vacuity of the milieu it presents than anything in the screenplay ever could.

Because whatever else is going on, this isn't graceful filmmaking: it has a thick bluntness in common with other dry Scandinavian comedies of recent vintage, it asks us in dialogue what questions it hopes we'll mull over as we have our dinners after the film, and it relies on some very on-the-nose symbolism (the Square replaces a statue of some or another King of Sweden; and of course, Christian's name is pretty damn hard to miss). The film's caustic, satiric aims help make the obviousness come across as less of a weakness than it might otherwise, though much as with Force Majeure, I really wish there was just less movie: less redundancy, less hand-holding about the themes, less wheel spinning as the running time keeps unspooling. There's an 80- or 90- minute film in here that I love; the 152-minute version is fine, and smart, but it's also pretty damn tedious.