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Triangle of Sadness review - ship of fools | reviews, news & interviews

Triangle of Sadness review - ship of fools

Triangle of Sadness review - ship of fools

Palme d’Or-winning super-rich satire is spectacular before it subsides

Food for thought: Yaya (Charlbi Dean) and Carl (Harris Dickinson)Fredrik Wenzel (c) Plattform Produktion

Ruben Östlund builds theatres of cruelty for the elite, petri dishes for pretension and hypocrisy. After Force Majeure’s family implosion at a ski resort and The Square’s art crowd Armageddon, Triangle of Sadness casts off with a superyacht which becomes a vomitorium when it hits choppy waters, in his second consecutive Palme d’Or-winner.

The titular triangle is the facial furrow dug by feelings, disfiguring for models such as Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), who are in a relationship of algorithmic convenience. Their most searing scene is drawn directly from Östlund’s life, as the poorer male model questions paying Yaya’s restaurant bill yet again, money poisoning what he’d like to pretend is love in a queasy exposure of transactional lives. Östlund gives the long scene a coolly painterly, portraitist’s frame, before retreat to a hotel room made sea-green by a mobile’s lonely, twilight glow.

Woody Harrelson on Triangle of SadnessThe superyacht ship of fools is a closely observed parable, a confined environment with a uniformed servant class drilled to satisfy their capricious superiors, a drunkenly mad Marxist captain (Woody Harrelson, pictured above) disinclined to steer the vessel, and nemesis brewing in the unforgivingly classless ocean.

Yaya and Carl have cadged their way aboard as influencers, Instagramming their way into the orbit of the really rich and powerful, such as bear-like Russian fertiliser mogul Dimitry (Zlatko Burić, Pusher’s Serbian drug-lord, bringing guttural Balkan wildness), and a genteel, arms-dealing Surrey couple. While Carl’s passive-aggressive insecurity results in a male crew-member walking the plank back to shore, to his sheepish dismay, others evince more practised carelessness. Östlund and his DP Fredrik Wenzel maintain an appropriate glossy sheen, the Med sea and sky impeccably blue, as the models' perfectly tanned skins confirm precariously physical privilege. Though Östlund’s budget is tiny in Hollywood terms, the Swede’s most Anglophone film feels lavishly mounted.

Abigail (Dolly de Leon) in Triangle of SadnessTriangle of Sadness turns on a trademark Östlund set-piece, an epic captain’s dinner where the super-rich gulp oysters as the cabin slants in a savage storm, only to slide on their own projectile-vomit as shit spills from the toilets, excess taking its gut-wrenching toll. As with The Square’s assaultive performance art, Östlund pushes the catharsis to its blackly comic limit, overlaying the captain boozily quoting Marx, Noam Chomsky and Edward Abbey over the tannoy. The scene is in the best sense cartoonish, Hogarthian caricature minus the raging contempt, with space for an explosive sight-gag. When the storm clears, this iniquitous society has become a becalmed sitting duck for its enemies.

In a final section on a desert island, previously voiceless Filipino maid Abigail (Dolly de Leon, pictured above centre) enacts a social coup thanks to her priceless fishing skills. We’re now in the territory of Lord of the Flies and The Beach. But Östlund’s point is already exhausted. He’s offering the same realisation briefly grasped when lockdown society rested on shopworkers and nurses, but in narrative and human terms has nothing further to add. The film’s last third subsides in the Bermuda Triangle between the director’s satire and emotional substance, his sharp intelligence losing its purchase. His care for his actors still endures, not least Charlbi Dean, vivacious with a strain of decadent blankness befitting her station, in her last role before her sudden death.

The super-rich gulp oysters in a savage storm, only to slide on their own projectile-vomit


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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