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Review: Triangle of Sadness. Two strikes and one home run

  • Release year: 2022
  • Director: Ruben Östlund.
  • Producers: Philippe Bober and Erik Hemmendorff.
  • Screenplay by: Ruben Östlund.
  • Cinematographer: Fredrik Wenzel.
  • Music by: Mikkel Maltha and Leslie Ming.

Synopsis: influencer Yaya (Charlbi Dean) and model Carl (Harris Dickinson) have a rocky relationship. They embark on a luxury cruise that gets attacked and sunk, leaving them and a few other passengers stranded on an island.

Shotgun commentary: Three films in one, all of them with so many takes on so many social themes that it feels a bit overwhelming to try and follow all the messages. If you don’t overthink the social critique, it’s a very light and enjoyable experience.

Fig. 1. The classic “directed by” credit splashed by red paint, a great depiction of how your brain will feel right after watching this movie. Source: Triangle of Sadness
(Ruben Östlund, 2022).

Review:

I don’t know what I expected from this movie but it is definitely not what I got. Yes, this is a compliment. As someone who stalled watching Braveheart for 15 years just to avoid the inevitable crying, the title didn’t really attract me at all. Not knowing what a “triangle of sadness” was, I expected a heartbreaking drama. Instead, I got… I’m still not sure what I got, but I think that I liked it.

Social critique and the exposure of how disgusting humanity is capable of being is always a good time if you take it with humor. Nevertheless, the film is much more than a satire, it is a combination of situations that will make you experience a wide range of emotions that will end in pure confusion.

Triangle of Sadness frame
Fig. 2. A very confused Captain trying to decifer how to answer to an absurd request. The first officer, Darius (Arvin Kananian), looks at him, not knowing how to react. Also, a great impersonation of your face after watching this movie.
Source: Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund, 2022).

1 strong start, 3 short films

The film has a very powerful beginning. It is playful and dynamic enough to command your attention from the first shot and keep you interested despite the rhythm deceleration that comes afterwards. Overall, it is a very eye-catching motion picture, especially because of its three acts, all of them with different locations but two characters and the social critique as links between them.

Fig. 3. The first scene, a reporter (couldn’t find his name anywhere) about to interview some male models. Source: Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund, 2022).

At first, two themes stand out: the fashion sphere and the lifestyle of influencers, and the chaotic ideas around gender roles that a lot of young people have nowadays. They are so confused by what is socially accepted versus what has been culturally learned that they don’t know what to think anymore or when they are contradicting themselves. This is shown during the first act.

The second chapter is a satire about society and how the different social strata interact using a luxury cruise as a case study. Lastly, the third and last part is a castaway film about survival and the change of criteria to determine social roles, it is no longer about sex and money but about the ability to provide for the community. That is, there are three shorts within one feature film.

Triangle of Sadness compilation of frames
Fig. 4. The three acts of Triangle of Sadness: the arguing couple on the left, the class contrast on the boat in the middle, and the matriarchy community on the left.
Source: Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund, 2022).

Thematic overload

This compilation of stories in one movie also means that there is an insurmountable amount of topics that could be analysed and your brain may register them, but won’t be able to retain them for long unless you’re writing them all down. Instead, you will leave with a general idea of how awful society is and how dumb and corrupt the human race can be, since both messages are thoroughly repeated throughout the picture.

Triangle of Sadness frame
Fig. 5. Crazy rich russian Dimitry (Zlatko Buric) taking the jewels off of his wife Vera’s corpse (Sunnyi Melles). Source: Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund, 2022).

Society is portrayed focusing on the relationships between individuals of different classes and ideologies. These are shaped by the value people give to one another, which is a direct consequence of the influence and power of the economic systems over who belongs in which strata and what their worth is. The feature shows how the social machinery operates commanded by obnoxious rich people who make decisions without thinking or caring about the consequences; and the working class, who is always stuck paying for their mistakes and cleaning their shit up, in this case, quite literally.

Fig. 6. The very realistic cleaning crew (notice how none of them are men or white) cleaning up the dining area after the Captain’s dinner.
Source: Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund, 2022).

Regardless, the film doesn’t only show the functioning of society under the usual sexist economic systems, the third part focuses on how a community might work when freed from those constraints. That is when humans’ innate ability for corruption and stupidity rears its ugly head, kinda like taking off a horrible mask just to find out that the face under it isn’t any nicer.

Power and corruption, two sides of the same coin

The taste of power corrupts people, regardless of their background. This is due to the everlasting lack of satisfaction within human nature, an inescapable feeling of emptiness that keeps people in a state of permanent complaint. There is always something to whine about, whether it makes sense or not, like telling the captain of a motorised boat that the sails are dirty, or ordering someone who just saved your life and fed you to be more generous. People will always want more, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can lead to horrible behaviour.

Triangle of Sadness frame
Fig. 7. Paula (Vicki Berlin) trying to convince Abigail (Dolly De Leon), in the most condescending way possible, to give them more food when it is clear that they didn’t do anything to deserve it. Source: Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund, 2022).

At this point, it only makes sense to talk about the only thing that bugged me from this movie: the donkey scene.

The donkey in the room

No, my problem is not the gruesome murder that is uncomfortable to watch even though you can’t really see anything. That is realistic in a very disturbing way so I’ve got no complaints about it. The problem lies in the fact that there is a random donkey there and nobody thinks, even for a second, that there might be people living on the island?!

This part of the film gives Love Wrecked (2005) flashbacks, which is something no one wants to experience, not even the people who worked on Love Wrecked. It is so annoying and silly that they have been there for days and no one has thought of walking around the island or exploring, it just makes no sense whatsoever. Then again, it feels like something that happens all the time? People are daft by nature, so I’m sure there’s been cases. I wouldn’t put it past anyone, including myself, to be that dense.

Triangle of Sadness frame
Fig. 8. Jarmo (Henrik Dorsin) about to kill a docile donkey.
Source: Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund, 2022).

The light in the dark

It is nicer to end on a good note, so the best has been left for last: The Captain, played by Woody Harrelson. Honestly, this character is extremely relatable. Anyone with a head screwed on mildly right would have a drinking problem if they had his job, or maybe they would’ve just thrown themselves overboard to get it over with.

This might not be the biggest role, but Harrelson’s performance is stunning. He undeniably makes the experience of watching the film a million times better by giving life to this very flawed but understandable man who has to face a gigantic amount of bullsh*t but stays as classy as possible about it. Also, the whole interaction between this character and the filthy-rich capitalist russian is hands-down the best part of the feature.

Triangle of Sadness frame
Fig. 9. The Captain and Dimitry talking about politics and joking into the ship’s PA. Source: Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund, 2022).

Advice to take from this movie:

  • In case of shipwreck, ALWAYS explore the island you get stuck in.
  • When offered mysterious fancy food or a burger, if the kitchen has been unsupervised for a while, take the burger.
Triangle of Sadness frame
Fig. 10. The Captain sitting next to Jarmo looking all happy about his burger. Source: Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund, 2022).

What’s your take on The Triangle of Sadness?

Were you more repulsed by the character’s behaviour or by their bowel movements? Did you enjoy the separation in acts? Were you also overwhelmed trying to analyse the movie? Don’t hesitate to let me know what you thought in the comments below or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema related articles check out the rest of my blog!

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