Ruben Östlund wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes again, following his first win with 2017’s The Square – and he certainly hasn’t gotten any less vicious ever since. With Triangle of Sadness, Östlund goes without being filtered, his satire feeling like it’s reached a new height, showing the lifestyles of the rich at their most vulnerable. It’s only the least of where all the riotously funny moments from Triangle of Sadness come about, but watching everything come together is where one could only get the feeling that it’s only playing out like a time bomb and as the audience, you’re waiting for everything to explode at some point or another. And the moment the explosion hits, it’s hard to look away from the chaos.
Told in three distinct acts, Triangle of Sadness tells a story centering around rich models Carl and Yaya, portrayed respectively by Harris Dickinson and the late Charlbi Dean. In the film’s first chapter, we’re introduced to the nature of their lives: because they’re uber-rich supermodels, they live their life very comfortably despite the occasional tensions in their relationship. But once the second chapter hits, you’re in for a different movie entirely – now you’re together with Carl and Yaya on a yacht together with a Russian oligarch (Zlatko Buric) and the Marx-quoting captain (Woody Harrelson). Things can only get more insane from there onward, as one could imagine with the way that all these people are brought together within the same scenario, with the life of luxury showing itself to be a short-lived one.
At its best, Triangle of Sadness is an incredibly funny film all about the ways that people connect with one another as a part of the upper class. When the film starts off, you’re introduced to the nature of Carl’s profession as a supermodel – first switching between the poses for the “smiley” H&M and the “grumpy” Balenciaga. Everything seems to be going smoothly up until we’re seeing Carl and Yaya together alone, where the supposedly glamourous lifestyle that they lead is nothing more than a mere façade for the fact that their own domestic life is messy. They’re all living a life of artificiality, with false pleasures coming at the expense of those under them, but Östlund’s cleverness stretches further.
Everything about the world of the rich in Triangle of Sadness is perfectly constructed, but the bulk of the film’s most vicious satire can be found within the artifice present within a sequence where the captain and the Russian oligarch are drunkenly quoting left-wing and right-wing philosophers back at one another, only to show the performative nature of what they really believe and ultimately, just being the same as one another. It’s oftentimes very funny, but seeing how Östlund in turn revels in the anger he has towards what power they are capable of excelling at the expense of those underneath – which eventually results in the course of the film for its final act.
Within the third chapter, Triangle of Sadness changes itself into a different movie from its first two chapters almost entirely. Now, it seems so far removed from the pleasures that were present in the first sections of the film, now with everyone who was able to enjoy everything that life has had to offer them, seeing life on the bottom for once in their life. In this section, we see the lowly Abigail (Dolly de Leon, in arguably the film’s very best performance), now rise to the top on the count of her own life experiences now as we see a complete reversal of roles with those who once were on the bottom now on the top. But in this moment, it raises a question of what it means to be at the top, and whether those who are capable really have any interest in creating a world better for those around them, or just trying to exert all their power once they have it in their hands.
Triangle of Sadness is by no means a perfect satire – much of this feels very obvious, and Ruben Östlund’s worldview is spelled out from the start of the film. But that’s not to say it isn’t very funny. When you have moments of pure shock like what happens on the yacht, many more moments of utter chaos and imbalance just make this whole ride very entertaining. Sometimes, that’s probably all that you need to have a good time – just to see the rich feeling miserable, but ultimately, it’s a great feeling to come see this movie and have upon leaving the theater. If you’re able to, bring a bunch of friends to gather around and see this movie, because that will certainly enhance the experience, for the more riotous moments to come forth. In French, the film’s title translates to “no filter,” which may just as well be the best way to approach a film like Triangle of Sadness.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via NEON.
Directed by Ruben Östlund
Screenplay by Ruben Östlund
Produced by Erik Hemmendorff, Philippe Bober
Starring Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly de Leon, Zlatko Burić, Henrik Dorsin, Vicki Berlin, Woody Harrelson
Release Date: October 7, 2022