High society is taken apart with a ruthless hand in Ostlund’s new Cannes Palme d’Or-winning dark comedy that doesn’t always hit the mark but is nevertheless effective in fulfilling its social commentary aims.
Dir. Ruben Ostlund
2022 | Sweden | Comedy/Drama | 149 min | 2.35:1 | English & various other languages
NC16 (passed clean) for language and some sexual content.
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Woody Harrelson, Zlatko Buric, Dolly De Leon
Plot: Carl and Yaya are influencer fashion models whose relationship is increasingly soured by money. Offered free places on a luxury cruise, they find themselves sharing a superyacht with arms dealers and an oligarch, while a cynical Marxist alcoholic captains the ship as things quickly turn upside-down.
Awards: Won Palme d’Or (Cannes)
International Sales: Coproduction Office (SG: Anticipate Picture)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Satirical takedown on class, wealth, gender & influence
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: The Projector
Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund has done a Michael Haneke, winning two consecutive Palme d’Ors at Cannes for The Square (2017), and his latest, Triangle of Sadness. Whether both films are deserving of the top prize remains debatable, but I enjoyed his new film a tad more than The Square, though neither comes close to the power of his earlier Force Majeure (2014).
Ostlund continues his blunt takedown of high society as his pitiful characters are smacked out of their comfort zone with a ruthless hand. Told in three chapters, the first focusing on a social media celebrity couple embroiled in a toxic argument, who later joins a cruise for the ultra-rich.
This cruise experience anchors the much longer second chapter, which is also the most wicked section of the film, answering with outrageous aplomb the question: what happens when severe seasickness meets an extravagant dinner?
“I sell shit.”
The more languorous third chapter sees some of the characters abandon ship and find themselves marooned on an island without any survival skills. The film is sometimes unevenly paced and not all scenes hit the mark even if we are cognizant of their intent.
Yet, Triangle of Sadness is never uncompelling as Ostlund sets up one dire or absurd scenario after another. If you are tuned to its intellectual wavelength, the film could be more rewarding than just simply experiencing it.
When elite society and superficial existences are turned upside-down, power structures of class, wealth, influence, and even gender, collapse spectacularly. In this regard, Ostlund’s film is effective in fulfilling its social commentary aims, laying bare Man’s primordial needs right up till its ambiguous denouement.
If anything, Triangle of Sadness is about the struggle for control, from the dialogical (language and meaning) to the biological (bodily excretions), and finally, the psychological (mind games).