Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022 and one of the ten nominees for the Oscar for best film, The triangle of sadnessby Swedish director Ruben Östlundhas as protagonists two young models and influencers, Yaya and Carl, played by South African actress Charlbi Dean (who passed away suddenly at the end of August 2022, shortly after the film’s release, at age 32) and Britain’s Harris Dickinson.
In three acts, the film by Östlund (known for Force Majeure) accompanies young people on a journey that begins on a luxurious cruise ship and ends on a rocky and apparently uninhabited island. Black comedy, social satire or perhaps an allegory about the moral collapse that accompanies capitalism, The triangle of sadness pits men and women, workers and millionaires, and even a Russian plutocrat, enemy of Marxism (played by the Danish actor of Croatian origin Zlatko Burić), with a communist American, the cruise ship captain, alcoholic and reader played by Woody Harrelson .
In the first scenes (where the meaning of the film’s title is revealed) the way in which the relationship between Yaya and Carl evolves is shown, crossed by variables such as money (she earns more than him but avoids paying for her part in a dinner ), feelings (Yaya presumes that she will become the “trophy” of a rich husband, while Carl hopes to live a true love story with her), physical beauty as merchandise (both obsessively photograph themselves and retouch the images to share them with their followers on social networks) and the inversion of gender stereotypes, which tends to fall back on other clichés.
The story is impregnated with what a poster warns during a Fashion Week show in which Yaya models and which Carl attends as a spectator: “Cynicism disguised as optimism.” The motto will be put to the test by Östlund. Can you be cynical and a millionaire? Feminist and classist at the same time? Compassionate and informative? Is the capital of an influencer less questionable than that of a weapons manufacturer (a nice old couple traveling on the cruise boasts of having enriched themselves by selling bombs, mines and grenades)? The verbal duel between different pairs of characters is one of the director’s favorite resources; in them the ideology of the passengers is revealed little by little, at cruising speed.
Without big surprises, the yacht reproduces the inequality of the social order. As Thomas, the captain, tells Dimitry, quoting Lenin, “freedom in capitalist society always remains more or less the same as in ancient Greece: freedom for slave owners” (the other replies with phrases from Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher). Paula, the commander of the cruise (played by Vicki Berlin), advises the crew to serve well (ie, obey without question) in the hope of receiving a good tip at the end of the trip. Östlund’s gaze never loses its fascination with the beauty, monstrosity and innocence of his creatures.
The third part of The triangle of sadness takes place in a recurring setting in fiction: an island. Like in Lord of the Flies, the novel by William Golding that was previously adapted to the cinema and with which the film shares more than one element, the characters must adapt to a new system led by Abigail (Filipino actress Dolly de Leon), who was in charge of cleaning , a woman the others (including the onlookers) had barely seen. At times, unnecessarily scatological and cruel; Grotesque, well acted and with critical darts not only aimed at the powerful, Östlund’s film with three Oscar nominations (best picture, best direction and best original screenplay) can be seen in theaters and by streaming.
The triangle of sadness, directed by Ruben Östlund, with Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Zlatko Buric, Dolly De Leon, Woody Harrelson and Vicki Berlin. In theaters and on Prime Video.