Review: Triangle of Sadness
by Jan Lumholdt
- CANNES 2022: Östlund helms a diabolically mischievous “Rubensonade” among the rich and the filthy
As social experiments go, the storytelling genre of the “Robinsonade” provides a handy disrupter of hierarchies. Put some people of varied social standings at sea, add a storm, a shipwreck and a desert island, hold off on the rescue for a while, and watch what happens. In Ludwig Fulda’s 1896 play Robinsons Eiland, a party of wealthy bigwigs share this fate with a lowly clerk who gets the upper hand; as does the title character in JM Barrie’s much-adapted The Admirable Crichton, the butler of an earl and his family in the early 20th century. In 1974, Lina Wertmüller conjoined a shrill rich bitch and a scruffy, communist deckhand in Swept Away, a memorable piece of mischievous satire (unlike the best-left-forgotten 2002 Madonna remake). That the art of survival is rarely a noble one, especially among “nobility”, and that once achieved, the upper hand might only reluctantly be given up, is thoroughly apparent, not least in this contemporary take, playing in the 75th Cannes Film Festival’s competition section. While sharing some of its DNA with its predecessors, Triangle of Sadness [+see also:
interview: Ruben Östlund
interview: Ruben Östlund
film profile] has Ruben Östlund’s name written all over it.
Östlund’s “Rubensonade” (if we may) provides maximal mischief and minimal nobility in any sense – the filthy-rich clientele on the flashy yacht bound for wreckage are at least as filthy as they are rich. A kindly British couple deal in landmines, and a Russian fertiliser merchant with both wife and mistress in tow “sell shit!”, by his own cheerful admission. The main protagonists, model couple Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean) – introduced through a bizarre fashion-world prologue, almost a film of its own – are tagging along for free in exchange for influencer updates. Sensing an expiration date for their chosen trade (the film’s title refers to the emerging wrinkle between Carl’s eyebrows), they hope for some much-needed invigoration. On hand for any ludicrous whim are a posse of peppy attendants, working 24/7 towards a big tip.
Less conspicuous are the kitchen and cleaning staff below deck, including a Filipino maid, soon to become the main protagonist. Largely unseen is also the captain, retired to his cabin, habitually intoxicated and a devoted Marxist, to boot. Our diabolical director has had considerable fun curating his gallery of rogue catalysts – as have the international portrayers, with especially scene-stealing turns from Zlatko Burić, Woody Harrelson, Henrik Dorsin and Iris Berben – the latter as a stroke-stricken passenger, repeating the phrase “In den Wolken” (“In the clouds”) over and over again. Not even Wertmüller came up with that one.
As a storm brews and the very merchandise sold by our Russian peddler hits the proverbial fan (plenty of bodily waste flies around here, unproverbially so), we’re in for some desert-island hardships, better left untold here. The morals of the story should include the advantages of knowing the basics of 1) fishing and 2) making a fire. Plus, the aforementioned big tip: avoid cruises.
Triangle of Sadness was produced by Plattform (Sweden), with co-production by Essential Films (Germany), Coproduction Office (France – also in charge of its sales), SVT (Sweden), ZDF/ARTE (Germany), ARTE France and TRT (Turkey).
Photogallery 25/05/2022: Cannes 2022 - Triangle of Sadness
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