In 2022, the film Triangle of Sorrow was released in wide release, directed by Swedish director Robert Östlund, who has won two awards for his previous projects. The third award – the Palme d’Or went to the Triangle of Sorrow. A very mysterious and intriguing film in the genres of comedy and drama.
The title of the film is a great metaphor. The triangle of sadness, as plastic surgeons call it, is the wrinkles from furrowed brows. But it’s not about the eyebrows. The Triangle of Sorrow depicts the bacchanalia and anarchy aboard a luxurious ship, scathingly criticizing the beautiful and obscenely wealthy bourgeois for whom talking about money is “not sexy”. Swede Ruben Östlund’s slightly drawn-out and too obvious film is about this.
A movie lover will immediately catch the eye of the amazing cast of the picture, setting the vector of perception of grotesque characters with their game. Bright and charismatic Woody Harrelson as the captain of the yacht, talented young British actor Harris Dickinson, beauty Sharlbi Dean, the debutant of the big movie, and gorgeous Croatian Zlatko Buric. Such an impressive cast undoubtedly attracts the attention of the audience.
Given that the film was initially positioned as a festival-scale author’s work, the release of the film can be called quite good. The movie grossed over $16 million worldwide. Critics at the Cannes Film Festival were delighted with the film, declaring a worthy satirical component that hits the most painful areas of modern society.
So what is it that happens in the film itself that causes very heated discussions?
According to the plot, a couple of models Karl and Yaya go on a luxurious yacht cruise in the company of rich passengers, where you can meet a Russian businessman, British arms manufacturers, and an IT genius. The captain of the ship is a Marxist who is on a permanent drinking binge. So far, everything goes on as usual: the guests are resting, the staff is working, the wife of a Russian businessman is acting weird. However, the feast and idleness are replaced by an unexpected event that makes the heroes rethink their significance and place in life.
Understanding the meaning of the movie with spoilers
It is obvious that high-quality modern drama, comedy, satire cannot do without raising many pressing problems of society. Problems of a global scale are revealed through dramatic conflicts of characters, and the conditions under which they occur emphasize the variety of forms of abomination and depravity inherent in all sectors of society.
In the “Triangle of Sorrow” several leit motifs are taken as the basis, along the way diluted with this minute humor, which is not devoid of meaning. Let’s see what is the meaning of the actions of the characters and the whole picture as a whole.
To begin with, let’s pay attention to the obvious ridicule of transnational corporations. A fashion magazine reporter is interviewing young male models who are trying out for a new agency and jokingly imagine what photoshoots for different clothing brands would look like. The same models make different grimaces, sometimes serious, sometimes funny. The meaning of this can be described as “to each his own.” The buyer likes the serious Ballenciaga, we will make a status look, but immediately, if necessary, we will exchange for the family cheerfulness of HandM. The obvious highlighting of the hypocrisy of companies for their own benefit.
Further, the director already in the first part of the film confronts the two main characters, a couple working in the modeling business. Progressive Carl, who earns less than his girlfriend Yaya, when the turn comes to pay the bill in a restaurant, notices that Yaya dumps the entire burden of payment on him and resents inequality, but what about feminism ?! – as if mentally he asks. However, in reality, the solution becomes simpler than ever, Yaya simply does not attach much importance to stereotypes, and Carl makes a big deal out of molehills. The semantic content of these scenes clearly makes us understand one of the main cores of the film – the ridicule of modern gender stereotypes.
The luxurious yacht in the second part, as expected, arouses admiration and invites the viewer to proceed further into the wonderful world of pleasures available to the elite of society. Perhaps the strongest part of the picture. Entourage of wealth, carelessness. Hierarchy of personnel by race and nationality. Grotesque age characters look most advantageous at this stage of the journey. An incredible ensemble of a Russian oligarch with his wives, elderly European couples, fussy staff – the epitome of the modern working class, employed in the service sector and, of course, the captain of an elite ship – a hopelessly drunk Marxist played by Woody Harrelson.
The thirst for emotions, entertainment, new sensations, pursuing the main characters – that’s what prompts them to take such reckless, but, admit it, funny actions on board. The communist captain embodies unfulfilled promises. He cannot steer the ship and can barely stand on his feet during the captain’s dinner. An allusion to the impossibility of communism as such.
The ship’s personnel are helpful, cunning, but hard-working people.
The Russian oligarch from the nineties is the embodiment of permissiveness, wealth and power. At one point, he even expresses a desire to buy a yacht and he has money for it. Of course, at this stage of the film, the director clearly indicates a really urgent problem of European society – an incredible excess of wealth accumulated over the centuries weighs heavily and does not contribute to further development at all, on the contrary, leading to slow stagnation. Whereas the working class, for example, people of Asian origin, are a generation rushing forward, for knowledge, prosperity, for a place at the top of the food chain.
The meaning is clear – Europe is losing its former power, a lazy society is not able to withstand new dangers. Everything is like in the real world. Only it is impossible to escape from reality, as the third and final part of the story of the heroes begins, which changes the ideas of their place in life.
AAlternative meaning of the film
A glamorous couple of models embark on a luxury yacht trip. Young people get there thanks to advertising: photos where they pose with food they don’t eat are only for, God forgive me, content. Suddenly, these dudes’ luxurious vacation is interrupted by mass nausea, and then the ship is blown up by pirates, and wealthy passengers find themselves on the island. There, left without a penny and designer clothes, it turns out that the rich are idlers. The bourgeoisie is a vile parasitic stratum of society, cut off from the people. However, in Estlund, power corrupts everyone, regardless of class, and whether lovers survive will become clear in the end.
The Swedish director again mocks the bourgeoisie. “Force Majeure” ridiculed the ideal family, “Square” – contemporary art , and “Triangle of Sorrow”, consisting of just three chapters, makes fun of everything at once: from modeling and self-obsession to the role of money in society, comfort and equality . An exuberant caricature film about an elite cruise, reminiscent of Buñuel and Godard, was made to express philosophical ideas, they say, today appearance is more important than content, freedom, equality and fraternity are impossible, because everything is for sale, and glamor decides everything.
First, we see a person at a fashion show being asked to move to make way for more respectable people, while the slogans “All Equal” and “Cynicism under the guise of optimism” are full of slogans on the catwalk . After displaying “angry” brands, we are witnessing an argument over who should pay in a restaurant: a woman or a man. What follows is a story on an expensive cruise ship where a crap-selling Russian oligarch (Zlatko Burić from the Dealer trilogy) and a hard-drinking Marxist captain (Woody Harrelson’s small but remote role) rant about socialism and capitalism while the passengers in evening dress drink champagne caviar and oysters, gushing with all possible liquids.
The Triangle of Sorrow is a deliberately vulgar and absurd satire. Ruben Östlund exposes the fashionable and rich as greedy and hypocritical idiots with fake smiles. The director puts the heroes in a completely stupid position and mercilessly mocks them, demonstrating a class conflict, when the cleaning lady becomes the main one on the island, because only she knows how to fish and light a fire. On the yacht she is a servant, and on the island she is the captain. And it doesn’t matter how many Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta and Instagram followers you have. Their idle world is an empty, banal and nauseating fake, which is the main show-stopper of the film.
True, for the populist Ruben Ostlund, who criticizes the modern world order, any power is vicious. A man of labor who has seized power is no different from the overthrown masters. Yes, any bourgeois grovels, but even a simple cleaner does not turn into a good Samaritan. All these characters are literally full of shit, in which they themselves drown together. And yet there is something ironic in the fact that Östlund took the main prize of one of the largest bourgeois festivals.