‘Triangle of Sadness’ lacks a clear theme

Kortfilmfestivalen i Grimstad | Wikimedia Commons

Kortfilmfestivalen i Grimstad | Wikimedia Commons

Melani Bonilla, Multimedia Editor

Ruben Östlund’s “Triangle of Sadness” is a film with underlying themes and claims about generational wealth, and its effects are attempted through its characters However, the film feels overall messy and unhinged in a bad way.

Many plot points are introduced, but not further explored. The first act explores supermodels Carl and Yaya’s relationship. While some plot points like gender stereotypes and being an “H&M versus Balenciaga” model are interesting, the act feels confusing and rushed.

We are never clearly introduced to who Carl and Yaya are, or even what they are doing attimes. Viewers just see them fight over the bill, and then fight in an elevator. There is no character development or even introduction.

After the lovers quarrel, they board a luxury cruise. Many of the ship’s guests feel especially entitled to all their wants, serving as a comment on generational wealth.

Some examples are the elderly couple Clementine and Winston, who made their fortune manufacturing grenades, and the Russian oligarch Dimitry and his wife Vera.

Östlund makes a comment with the way he structures the guests on the ship from the very beginning of this act. The rich guests enjoy the sun on the deck, the white staff linger in the middle and the non-white staff can be seen in the hull.

The guests display a clear loss of touch with reality on top of this divide. Carl gets jealous of a worker that catches Yaya’s attention, and later sees the worker get fired. Later a passenger makes the whole crew go for a swim, although the crew insists the food will spoil if they cannot attend to it.

The night gets chaotic as the rich guests get food poisoning. The scene shows the guests’ vomit, bodily fluids and diarrhea, all in the midst of a storm that injures several people.

While the scene is cinematic, there’s not a lot of substance to it. It is overall gross rather than entertaining.  Östlund’s intent to show the pretentiousness of the rich is further explored in the last act, making the second act’s longevity unnecessary.

In the last act, a small group of survivors from the boat’s crash make it to an island. After hearing many different noises, including a wild animal barking, they are prompted to light their last flare.

The next morning, they find Abigail, one of the cleaning ladies, in a cargo box. Stores of water were inside, which Paula, the head of staff, demands Abigail moves out. Paula continues ordering Abigail around, disregarding her presence and servicing the guests.

This all changes when it’s discovered Abigail is the only one who has any survival skills. Abigail quickly takes control of the group, withholding food from them. She’s the only one who can make a fire and catch fish.

As a result, she gets her own private bed inside the lifeboat they arrived in. She engages in a sexual relationship with Carl, giving him food and benefits for it.

It’s interesting to note how Östlund attempts to depict the transformation that power brings. Abigail, a cleaning lady gaining control of the group, changes her morals and her values. Someone who always answered “yes ma’am” to Paula is now forcing her to obey her.

Yaya, determined to find a way out, entertains the idea of a hike to find anything that may be living nearby. Abigail volunteers to go with her where they find a beachside elevator to a luxury resort that has been there all along.

Abigail debates killing Yaya, while Yaya—oblivious to her plot— offers her a better job as her assistant. The scene cuts to Carl running through the jungle to follow Yaya and Abigail.

Overall, the colors and tension in this film were well done. Östlund makes many noticeable statements on gender roles, class distinction and power. The movie would have been better executed had Östlund stuck to one theme, as the different moving parts make it difficult for viewers to follow.