This black comedy mixes elements of Das Boot and Das Kapital

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | Oct. 13, 2022

Triangle of Sadness
Opens Oct. 21
3.5 out of 5

Winner of the 2022 Palm D’Or at Cannes, Triangle of Sadness is anchored by two social media influencers/models: Carl (Harris Dickinson, The King’s Man) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean, who died unexpectedly of a viral illness shortly after Cannes). Young, good looking, and on the way up, Carl and Yaya still feel like outsiders in the social circle of the obscenely rich that they now move in. Turns out, beauty may be a currency. But it only gets you so far.

The film is directed by Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund, and consists of four vignettes. In the prologue and opening chapter, we get a look at Carl and Yaya’s relationship. A male model you can barely notice in a cattle call, Carl makes considerably less money than Yaya. Yet the societal expectation (as well as Yaya’s) is that he should pay for all their outings and meals. This causes Carl’s brain to short circuit, and he has a tantrum at a restaurant.

Later, they receive an invitation to a luxury yacht to party with billionaires. The couple sees the invite as “the way in”. But really, they’re just there to be eye candy. Once on the boat, they fade into background like wallpaper, and the oligarchs come out to play. Their sense of entitlement takes a hit though when the yacht encounters rough waters, resulting in a scatological bacchanal of seasickness and other maladies. Then a group of pirates arrive and finish capsizing the boat.

A few survivors make it to an island where the social pyramid turns upside down. Once a lowly maid, Abigail (Dolly De León), leverages her practical skills into a position of leadership. And if you think she’ll be wielding her newly acquired power in a different way than her patrons and employers, think again. Tellingly, Carl and Yaya find themselves back in the middle, turned into playthings for those at the top.

Director Östlund, who previously lampooned museum culture in The Square, has a knack for mixing high and low brow — his lofty ideas supported by crass behaviour. In Triangle of Sadness, however, he doesn’t have a character complex enough for us to empathize with or even care for. I’m not asking for a hero, just someone to keep me mildly interested. Here, his characters are largely facsimiles: the Russian oligarch, the kooky heiress, the war profiteers, the working stiffs. The filmmaker has no faith in the human condition, so it’s not entirely a surprise he sees these people as cogs without individuality.

Triangle of Sadness amounts to a good time at the movies (never mind the excessive 149-minute length). Just don’t expect a Karl Marx-calibre critique of capitalism. The film just makes fun of its many excesses and absurdities. Oh well, at least it’s punching up. ■