Probably the most successful Swedish filmmaker since Ingmar Bergman and favorite of European critics, Ruben Östlund won the second Palme d’Or in Cannes after “Square”. He thus entered the narrow circle of authors who succeeded in this, and I think that Östlund is specific because he won the main prize at the most prestigious film festival with two consecutive films. And he recorded a brutal satire again, and after the world of modern art in “Square”, now he attacked the world of the rich and famous in “Triangle of Sadness”. For me, Östlund is almost a film version of the genius French writer Michel Houllebecq, a controversial and provocative author who so brilliantly exposes the hypocrisy and obnoxiousness of today’s Western society.
The people we see in Houllebecq’s novels are almost identical to the characters in Östlund’s films, and this time the Swede took off his gloves and portrayed the world of the rich and famous in the most brutal and explicit way to date. He intentionally reduced the characters here almost to the level of caricatures, and divided the film into three acts. In the first part, we follow the relationship between the famous model Yaya (South African model Charlbi Dean, who died at the age of 32 shortly after the premiere of the film) and the new model Carla (Harris Dickinson). And that opening part is completely genius because it’s brilliantly where Östlund makes fun of gender roles in society after Carl rebels because he has to pay the bill in the restaurant again even though his partner is the one who earns much better.
Yaya acts completely disinterested and as if deliberately provoking the insecure Carl, and then the two go on a luxury cruise. The well-known model and influencer received this cruise as a gift from the sponsor, and among the passengers there are characters who interestingly depict the entire society of today’s rich and successful. There is also the Russian oligarch Dimitrij (Zlatko Burić), who makes no secret of the fact that he suspiciously got rich during the transition, and he is the stereotypical, ostentatious, loud and completely raw billionaire who is accompanied by his trophy wife Ljudmila. There is also an old British couple on board who got rich by making bombs, and all these people behave exactly as we imagine such rich and arrogant people to behave.
The crew is there to fulfill all their wishes, so if one passenger wants all the crew to leave their seats and go swimming, they have to do it. It’s a small world in which those who don’t have have to please those who have, and with a smile, even though it’s clear that they would prefer to beat up those slobs themselves. But that egoistic, arrogant, self-absorbed, selfish and spoiled society will find itself in trouble in the third and somehow the weakest act of the film after the shipwreck when it turns out that they are completely incapable of survival. Even before that, this luxury cruise will turn into complete chaos on many levels, and everything will be helped by the complete disinterest of the drunken captain (Woody Harrelson), who does not hide that he despises and cannot stand the people he drives on these warm seas.
It also seemed to me that the “Triangle of Sadness” is a kind of Östlund’s “Meaning of Life” because practically all of these passengers are almost at the level of Mr. Creoseot from Monty Python. And not only symbolically, but everyone will almost find themselves in his shoes and will continue to binge eat even in moments when no normal person would feel like eating. Although the characters here are interesting and intentionally grotesque, I have the impression that the characters themselves are less important to Östlund than the situations in which he puts them, and they only serve to highlight the theme of making fun of such people as explicitly as possible.
Again, Östlund had huge ambitions and wanted to cover almost all problem areas of today’s society with his film. From the relationship between the sexes and their roles in today’s society, from the fact that even human rights have been reduced to the pursuits of marketing, to the fact that we live in a world that has completely reconciled itself to the fact that the worst are at the top of the social hierarchy. And he offers a rather cynical view because when those from the bottom of society unexpectedly gain power and it turns out that their skills are much more needed in certain situations, it will only be short-lived. Because they are also aware that this is a short-term anomaly that offers them the opportunity to try to extract some benefit for themselves when the situation returns to normal.
He makes fun of Östlund and the world of fashion and the fact that physical beauty is today a very valuable currency that can be fertilized and materialized, as we see in the example of Yaya. She is fully aware of this and has decided to make the best use of what she has in the shortest possible time while Carl serves her only as a nice pendant until she grabs some old rich man who will ensure her a peaceful life. Carl is also aware that their relationship is almost exclusively transactional, and his partnership with Yaya offers him business opportunities, but it is completely clear that neither of them is ready for a more serious relationship precisely because they both love themselves too much. The very name of the film comes from the fashion world and the triangle of sadness, we will find out immediately in the introduction, is the term used by plastic surgeons for the area of the head between the eyebrows that can be fixed with Botox in about fifteen minutes.