Ruben Östlund’s award-winning film, Triangle of Sadness, is a poignant commentary on class structures.
It wasn’t long ago that I experienced my first film from Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, Force Majeure. I was left captivated by such a profound film that managed to capture conflict in a way that I have never seen before. Östlund is not the type of filmmaker that comes up out of the blue. His style and precise storytelling abilities are one of a kind, so it was no surprise that I was eagerly awaiting the next film from one of the few directors who has won the Palme d’Or twice in their career. The social satirist has not disappointed yet, and I have experienced my second favorite film of the year. Ruben Östlund has delivered once again thematic messages worth noting as we dissect the parasitic relationship of classism.
Triangle of Sadness is written and directed by Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund (Force Majeure, The Square). The film stars Thobias Thorwid, Harris Dickinson, the late great Charlbi Dean, Jiannis Muostos, Vicki Berlin, Dolly De Leon, Timeleon Gketsos, Alicia Eriksson, Woody Harrelson, and Zlatko Buric. Ostlund pairs up with frequent collaborator cinematographer Fredrik Wenzel who was responsible for directing the photography of his last two films. This is Ruben Ostlund’s English language debut film and marks his return to the silver screen since 2017’s The Square.
The film follows a couple, Carl and Yaya, both supermodels who are having a hard time with the power dynamics of their relationship. The couple is invited on a super-rich private cruise through their influencer lifestyle. The boat is filled with an eager crew destined to make money off their potential tips, a Russian oligarch, tech mogul, arms dealers, and a Marxist drunk captain. Well, things of course do not go well as they rarely do in Östlund’s filmography. The ship goes under with some of the crew and guests arriving on a “deserted island” where the limits of their lavish lifestyles are tested. Lines get drawn and the structures of classism are explored as the characters begin to switch roles with each other.
What Östlund is able to craft is nothing short of perfect as the Swedish auteur finds invigorating ways to dissect his favorite subject, power. Triangle of Sadness’ technicality is superb as its visual language and framing are so exquisitely unique to Wenzel and Östlund. The film is also paired with fluid editing by Östlund and Mikel Cee Karlsson. Where Triangle of Sadness excels the most is in its intelligent screenplay that dissects the parasitic relationship of class and the role that privilege plays in power. Östlund takes his time yet the film feels like it’s rightfully paced to the beats he’s trying to play. One cannot simply leave out the marvelous performances by Harrelson, De Leon, and sadly Dean who passed away earlier in the year. One sits and wonders what greatness such a young and talented actress was destined for. Once again Ruben Östlund’s storytelling abilities shine bright in the most chaotic of ways and the quietest of moments. The film is a monstrous achievement that explodes through its narrative structure to create one of the best films I have seen this year. One thing is for sure when you sit down to watch this where it deserves to be seen, on the big screen, make sure to sit out on buying that large popcorn. Let’s just say that you have been warned.
Watch Triangle of Sadness in theaters on a limited release and when it expands to a wide release soon.