Triangle of Sadness – Film Review
by Frank L
Director – Ruben Östlund
Writer – Ruben Östlund
Stars – Thobias Thorwid, Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean
Initially, the film concentrates on the world of male modelling and its opening scenes take a hefty swipe at the superficiality of that world. We meet Carl (Harris Dickinson) and his girlfriend Yaya (Charlbi Dean). They are dining in a swish restaurant and squabble over who is going to pay the bill. Money or the lack of it is a big issue despite the glamorous surroundings. Yaya through her contacts manages to get them on board a luxury cruise yacht. This is the world of the obscenely rich. Amongst the passengers are a refined English couple called Winston (Oliver Ford Davies) and Clementine (Amanda Walker) whose fortune stems from the not-so-genteel world of munitions and another is a Russian gentleman Dimitry (Zlatko Buric) whose wealth derives from “shit” as he proudly proclaims or fertilizer.
The crew consist of a drunken captain (Woody Harrelson) who is holed up in his cabin. When he does emerge, he spouts loudly his strong left-wing views. There is an officious stewardess Paula (Vicki Berlin) who gives pep talks to the staff which requires them to say “Yes” to every selfish demand of the filthy rich passengers no matter how outlandish. Glimpses of life below deck can be seen in the kitchens and boiler rooms – not a white face is to be seen. All goes according to plan until the Captain’s dinner for which the Captain manages to extract himself from his cabin. But everything is upended by a storm, long predicted, which hits the yacht. The result is the destruction of “the sophistication” of the passengers. The Captain’s dinner becomes literally a shit show. The final third of the film deals with the aftermath of the storm where a very different order is in force amongst those who have survived the storm which includes Carl, Yaya and Paula but also one of the workers from below deck namely Abigail (Dolly de Leon). Abigail creates a new order.
Östlund takes aim at the obscene wealth that the world of the luxury super yacht represents and how trivial, nasty and brutish it is. The contrast with the survivor’s existence after the storm is stark as he makes his point about who is useful to society and who is less so.
The acting of Dickinson and Dean is utterly convincing. It is however tragic to discover that following the shooting of the film Dean died of a lung infection. The scenes on the yacht are beautifully shot but the excessive luxury of it all makes it obscene which is no doubt what Östlund intended. The deprivations of the final part of the film are too blatant in the other extreme to give the film credence in its justifiable attempt to display the offensive wealth on the luxury cruise yacht.
The film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. There are therefore many things about the film which are of the first order. However, as a satire on the super-rich, who are rightly fair game to be targeted, it does not manage to hit a bull’s eye. It certainly shows how smug and unpleasant as a group they are. Well worth seeing but do not have unrealistic expectations. It is not going to bring the super-rich to heel.