It started with a spheric avalanche rolling into a square, and finally culminating with a triangle.
We’re talking about Ruben Östlund’s geometric trilogy, in which the Swedish director attempts to satirically confront modern taboos and masculinity. The 2017 Palme d’Or winner, whose style is characterised by exploring and mercilessly exploiting the awkward energy of the unconscious behaviours that surround us, has now premiered his first English-speaking work: Triangle of Sadness. A triangle that, with its three chapters, has very sharp corners.
Why is a man expected to pay for dinner in the age of equality? And when do the archetypal gender roles still apply? The first chapter focuses on these questions, interrogating the relationship of a couple of influencers dining at a fancy restaurant. And just like in a horror movie, we can’t help but curiously stare at this unfolding dilemma, cringing in our seats, looking for answers that we don’t dare to find. The couple then treats themselves to a cruise in a luxurious yacht, surrounded by elitist billionaires and trophy wives. Here, the social caste system is most apparent, with the guests being revered as deities (a jar of Nutella can be helicoptered on demand), the white crew of waiters rewarded with generous tips, and the Hispanic attendants and cleaners, invisible to all, at the bottom of the chain. Disruption comes in the shape of Woody Harrelson, who, as the Marxist captain of the ship, struggles to tolerate the wealthy’s attitudes and hypocrisy, and prefers to lock himself in his chamber getting drunk and listening to The Internationale. And with a toast to love and hand grenades, excess begins to take over, and champagne merges with vomit and shit. Sublimely shot, the film finds its beauty and elegance even when showing things which are genuinely repulsive.
Just like the protagonists, the third chapter drifts away. Power corrupts all, and even after a switch of control the abusive dynamics keep repeating themselves. On an deserted island where a Rolex is worthless and pretzel sticks become the currency, those in charge still manage to exploit their dependents. And it is right here that we find the essence of Östlund’s satire. This is a funnier and lighter film than his previous works, less poignant and more detached from reality. But one thing is for sure, with this Titanic-esque film, Östlund proves he is unhinged and ready to show whatever he wants.