By Gianmarco Ponente
This was a hard movie to frame for me, which seems absurd since both the message and the staging are very simple, sometimes straight away blatant. This dichotomy intrigued me to the point of forcing me to write this review, which is saying something.
Triangle of Sadness gives us a taste of what we’ll find throughout the entirety of the movie right from the first scene: outstanding and sometimes clever shots, a surgical attention to dialogues and Ruben Östlund. The director is never quite, he talks to us through camera movements and editing, he’s a judge (and at times executioner) looming over the lives of his characters. I’m not using these terms lightly, the story doesn’t have a main character and we see the events unfolding through the eyes of the director which has a very specific opinion on what’s going on and never fails to let us know exactly what that is: capitalism is bad.
This introduces us to the script which can only be described as satiric. Every time a character opens his mouth what comes out is satire, which might seem elegant at first as we see two lovers arguing over who should pay for dinner but as the sequence goes on it becomes clear that what looked like a reflection on patriarchy was actually a first world problems scenario. And that’s nothing but the most subtle satiric exchange between the characters in the entire movie since they will become more blatant and absurd as their impending doom approaches. Even though the characters don’t have much depth, actors did a great job in their delivery. The challenge represented by portraying two-dimensional rich capitalists that make fools of themselves every time they speak, but still managing to keep some sort of dignity and credibility, must’ve been hard, but they made it work just fine.
The cinematography is flawless, but I didn’t like the use of the locations, especially when it comes to the island. While each location works well with the specific scene they’re used in, I don’t feel they work well as a whole. While the ship was a big setting, with a more complex structure and many more characters then the island, it somehow felt easier to follow what was going on there, we always had a good idea of where the characters were and what they were doing. Östlund didn’t have to show us a map of the ship for us to understand what was where since he had it perfectly clear in his mind, all he had to do was navigate us through it scene by scene. Also, I can’t stress enough how beautiful the sequence of the ship in the storm is. I can’t begin to imagine the sheer difficulty of maintaining such a quality in cinematography with the setting swaying from side to side.
On the island things were totally different. While I appreciated the change in atmosphere as we see the characters going from the comforts of wealth to the fear of the unknown, I didn’t like the abrupt loss of clarity. Sometimes the characters are together, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they seem to fear the forest, sometimes they’re in it. Sometimes they seem to be very few, sometimes someone pops up out of nowhere. What frustrates me most is the fact that this setting is just a beach, it amazes me how unclear and complex everything feels even though it shouldn’t.
While Triangle of Sadness is a beautiful piece of art with amazing shots, fresh and sadistic satire, and a strong purpose in its message, I feel what it lacks is true depth. Ruben Östlund shoves right in our faces everything he has to say, but where does the satire leave space to critical thinking? Is the ending to be taken seriously as a possible solution to capitalism, or at the very least, as a representation of how capitalists took out the worse not only in themselves but also in the people they oppressed… Or is it just another sadistic joke at expense of the rich and powerful?