If someone tells you to watch a movie called Triangle of sadness because he got some fancy film festival award for his swedish director, you might get a different impression of what it is.
The title doesn’t show how chaotically funny and gutting Ruben Östlund’s social satire is, so if you’re in doubt because it sounds like it could be something dark, depressing, rest assured it isn’t.
Although the yawning chasm of wealth inequality is still deeply depressing.
But if we can’t solve it, we can at least laugh at it – you can’t fix what you can’t see. And if you don’t see the absolute arbitrary absurdity of the super-rich and super-privileged, then you’re missing the point – and Östlund doesn’t strive for subtlety.
Triangle of sadness at times similar to succession in an acid trip. It goes one step further than the TV series, which is already greedily devouring the rich, spouting all their nonsense.
Triangle of sadness there’s one of the wildest scenes you’ll see on screen this year – a long, committed scene of pandemonium and vomit. And it is both outrageous and triumphant. You will sob with laughter and then choke in disgust—perhaps at the same time. This is an achievement.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Triangle of sadness consists of three separate acts, and Ostlund skillfully builds tension with each part, moving between spaces, but he mainly follows Yaya (the late Charlby Dean) and Carl (Harris Dickinson).
Yaya and Carl are models and influencers in a mutually beneficial relationship in which their own narcissism goes unnoticed by their counterpart. The early restaurant scene where they argue about money and the bill is embarrassing in the extreme, but it’s just an appetizer for what’s to come.
The couple are invited on an exclusive cruise on a luxury yacht, where they are surrounded by characters such as a Russian oligarch, an arms manufacturer and socially awkward tech millionaires.
Each of their ridiculous demands is met by a team of employees in white uniforms who are stuck between their jobs and clients, such as a guest who instructs each member of the team to go swimming.
The captain of the yacht is Thomas (Woody Harrelson), an American socialist whose rapid intoxication only adds to the manic atmosphere, especially when a ferocious storm causes anarchy at the captain’s dinner.
This is where the aforementioned vomiting scene takes place, and it’s gorgeous, a masterful piece of art that could be displayed in a museum of modern art as an installation. Because when it comes to eating the rich, there’s nothing better than seeing them comprehensively sprinkled with all sorts of treats – lobsters, caviar and the rest – they eat.
The final act – which doesn’t tolerate spoilers – does reinforce Östlund’s point about the artificial nature of our social strata and how power dynamics depend on obsequious cringing as much as on the menacing dominance of wealth and control.
Östlund is known for his poignant satire, having vindicated his authority with earlier work. Force Majeure and Square, both of which explored privilege under different conditions. They were both artfully crafted and unsettling.
Usually the Swede commands the audience with a raised eyebrow, but with Triangle of sadness, it looks more like a neon sign. So it might be a more extreme approach, but it’s a very interesting and powerful film.
Triangle of Sadness in theaters since Boxing Day
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