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Triangle of Sadness

Ruben Östlunds target in THE SQUARE was the upper class art world and their empty rituals, and this time it‘s the super rich and super beautiful, in short, people with capital. The dystopian social satire in three acts won the Palm D‘Or at ...


“Now Balenciaga!“ The line-up of male models make serious, edgy faces. Everyone is there for themselves and is against the world. “Now H&M!“ The young men switch their smiles on and off like a human light chain. One of them is Carl (Harris Dickinson), a male model who is on a downward spiral. His girlfriend, influencer Yaya (Charlbi Dean), is on the rise, yet she still wants him to pay for dinner. The scene in the restaurant, in which Yaya and Carl negotiate money, status, and roles is one of the film‘s best and is reminiscent of Ruben Östlund‘s FORCE MAJEURE (2014) which took apart a relationship against the backdrop of a chic ski resort very precisely, cruelly, and amusingly.

The rest of the dystopian satire in three acts, which won the Palme d‘Or in Cannes this year, is more aligned with Östlund‘s THE SQUARE (2017), which also won the Palme d‘Or. The targets there were the upper class art world and their empty rituals, now it is the super rich and super beautiful, in short, people with capital. Yaya takes Carl as her plus one on a luxury cruise that she is meant to promote. While there, they meet a jovial Russian fertilizer entrepreneur (Zlatko Buric) with his wife and mistress and a distinguished seeming British arms dealing couple. The fellow travelers are like the characters from THE DISCRETE CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE or LA GRANDE BOUFFE, either boring, vulgar, egotistical, or self-righteous, with no secrets. But Östlund also looks at the employees – the drunk captain (Woody Harrelson), the brisk head stewardess Paula (Vicky Berlin), the staff, those below deck – and the relationships between those who have capital and those who don‘t.

Like THE SQUARE, Östlund stages the hearty satire with psychological touches and surreal, almost theater-like moments, the third act even has similarities with “Waiting for Godot.“ A smorgasbord of guests and crew – among them Carl and Yaya, the Russian entrepreneur, and Filipino cleaning woman Abigail (Dolly De Leon) – save themselves on a lonely island after a disaster and are hoping to be rescued there. A pebbly beach, a rescue boat, a donkey and pretzel sticks play important roles. Just a few hours later a new hierarchy has been established, with Abigail, who is the only one who knows how to find food in the wilderness, on top.

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS has brilliant moments, especially the fast-paced introduction and vicious ending, but it is drawn-out at times in the middle. The social panorama that Östlund depicts sometimes seems too simply constructed, but then there are also apt moments like when the rich insist on the staff having “fun“ so that they don‘t have to notice the class differences themselves. The film captures the same contradictions that THE SQUARE so: Östlund denounces the beneficiaries of a system that are solely aimed at usabililty, but he doesn‘t seem capable of imagining a different system. Like William Golding‘s novel “Lord of the Flies,“ there‘s an underlying, deeply pessimist understanding of humans in TRIANGLE OF SADNESS. A new class society emerges as soon as the former constraints are taken away. Only captain Woody Harrelson goes up against these relations when he quotes Marx at a captain‘s dinner while drunk – it doesn‘t change anything, but he does so with feeling.

Hendrike Bake

Translation: Elinor Lewy


Original title: Triangle of Sadness
Schweden 2022, 147 min
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Director: Ruben Östlund
Author: Ruben Östlund
DOP: Fredrik Wenzel
Montage: Mikel Cee Karlsson, Ruben Östlund
Distributor: Alamode Filmverleih
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean Kriek, Woody Harrelson, Vicky Berlin, Zlatko Buric, Iris Berben, Amanda Walker, Oliver Ford Davies, Sunnyi Melles, Dolly De Leon
FSK: 12
Release: 13.10.2022



  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
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