CINEMA REVIEW: TRIANGLE OF SADNESS (2022)
Directed by Ruben Östlund
Written by: Ruben Östlund
Produced by: Erik Hemmendorff, Philippe Bober
Main cast: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly de Leon, Zlatko Burić, Henrik Dorsin, Vicki Berlin, Woody Harrelson etc.
Cinematography: Fredrik Wenzel
Edited by: Ruben Östlund, Mikel Cee Karlsson
Music by: Mikkel Maltha, Leslie Ming
*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
Ruben Ostlund is fast becoming one of those go to directors who can be relied upon to deliver cinema of the highest quality. His latest film, Triangle of Sadness (2022) is his finest to date. Having said that, his Force Majeure (2014) was one of those excellent films I hated. Technically, it was beautifully shot, performed, and directed, however, I just found the characters too irritating. Personally despising ski holidays probably didn’t help either. I actually wished the characters had been killed in the avalanche to save on all the middle-class matrimonial moaning.
Ostlund’s next film The Square (2017) was bravura arthouse storytelling containing wonderful digs at the nature of modern art and how rich people will buy any old crap if it is put in a gallery. While a tad overlong, it was wonderfully funny with hilarious mocking of the bourgeoisie, art and the rise of social media. With Triangle of Sadness (2022), Ostlund has moved up the social strata and focussed his satirical eye on the uber-wealthy, combining socialist dialectic with gross-out comedy, as Das Kapital meets Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983).
The film opens with Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), a model and Social Media influencer, as a couple whose relationship is fraught with problems. Through Yaya’s connections she secures them free passage on one of the most luxurious yachting holidays on the ocean. While they aren’t short of money, they have nothing compared to the wealthy millionaires and business types on the boat. As Carl and Yaya act as our conduits in the story, Ostlund uses them to explore the petty first world problems which impact many romances. The staff are also introduced as key players in the “Upstairs, Downstairs” character dynamic, notably Woody Harrelson’s drunken socialist Captain Thomas Smith, and Vicki Berlin’s staff supervisor, Paula. Lastly, the money is represented essentially by lonely tech millionaire, Jarmo (Henrik Dorsin), obnoxious Russian, Dimitry (Zlatko Burić) and stroke victim, Therese (Iris Berben) and her husband.
Throwing these disparate, and latterly desperate personalities, into the trapped spaces of a superyacht is great writing by Ostlund. What unfolds in the second act of the film is an extended set-piece of riotous fun. As the yacht becomes battered by the stormy sea and weather, the guests all become violently ill to devasting impact. While it may not be to everyone’s taste, I was laughing for twenty odd minutes straight at this sickening skewering of these privileged people. At the same time the drunken Dimitry and Captain Smith argue relentlessly about the differences and merits of capitalist and Marxist ideologies. It’s easily one of the funniest and impressively directed sequences of this cinematic year.
But Ostlund isn’t finished yet. These characters have not suffered enough for him, and the final section of Triangle of Sadness (2022) drenches the story in another hilarious and satirical direction. I won’t spoil the events which unfold, but Carl and Yaya’s relationship issues come to the fore as a darkly comedic peril strikes the yacht and passengers. Here Ostlund strikes a further blow against capitalism, exploring the nature of survival of the fittest and true values of human currency in a savage indictment against the obscenely rich. Overall, while the characters may not be the most likeable, that is never Ostlund’s aim. Ostlund’s desire is to critique capitalist hegemony through both high and low brow humour. He succeeds, making Triangle of Sadness (2022) one of the most thought-provoking and exhilarating cinema experiences of the year.