You get a lot of movie for the ticket price when you go see Triangle of Sadness. It’s 2.5 hours of dark satire, graphic imagery, emotional drama, adventure, and socio-political agitprop. Picture Buñuel and Monty Python collaborating on a mash-up of Titanic and Lord of the Flies.
Halfway through, I felt completely stuffed with images and ideas. There were so many layered references to class, race, and gender mixed in with the caviar and vomit, it was hard to take it all in, but the movie just kept going.
It’s very skillfully made, with striking, angular cinematography and clever timing. It was written and directed by Ruben Östlund. It’s a pitch-black comedy, a specialty of the Swedes. You’d be surprised at what Östlund can get you to laugh at.
The social and political messages tumble through the movie, sometimes as serious indictments, but more often as satires within satires. Östlund manages to use post-modern quotation marks around everything, without undercutting the ideological seriousness of what is being presented. A Russian capitalist oligarch argues with a Marxist, alcoholic, luxury-yacht captain of a luxury yacht that while the ship they are on is sinking in a storm. It’s comic, pedantic, serious, satiric, absurd, and above all, completely compelling.
The film is divided into three chapters. The last one comes after so much tumult and content that it gets a bit exhausting trying to make it through. The last chapter has its own ideas to add, but could have been a film in itself. It certainly would have been possible to end the film earlier, but the last section contains some final twists concerning the corrupting nature of power that would be missed.
Triangle of Sadness is a powerful storm of a film, and will leave you a bit worse for wear when it’s done. It’s Östlund’s first full-out comedy, and it is far messier than his earlier films. Force Majeure, Play, and The Square are pointed and cut deeper, but even with its sweeping insanity, you can see that Triangle of Sadness comes to form the same hand.
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