Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Triangle of Sadness (2022)


Model-influencer couple Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean) quarrel over petty issues all the time but this doesn’t mean that they are giving up on capitalizing on their Insta-perfect relationship. Invited to a cruise on a luxury yacht, the two end up rubbing elbows with colorful personalities from the upper echelons of society. The ship’s Captain (Woody Harrelson) is perpetually drunk, with overall management of the yacht’s day-to-day activities falling on head-of-staff Paula’s (Vicki Berlin) shoulders, who does her best to keep the high profile guests satisfied with the help of her army of dedicated personnel, which includes toilet cleaner Abigail (Dolly de Leon). An unexpected disaster shakes up the dynamics of power among the passengers of the ship and immediately becomes a game of survival of the fittest. Will money and status play a vital role when the main predicament of day-to-day life becomes a question of back to basics?

To be fair, there were a lot of scenes where I just found myself laughing my head off because of the absurdity of the situation. Perhaps this is the best way to mock the world order as we know it, given how we are not the ones in control but rather the hoi polloi being looked down upon by those in the orchestra. Ostlund couldn’t have written a screenplay that is more on point. The resulting schadenfreude, although purely hypothetical and fictional, is simply hard to shake off.

Despite all the absurdities, the storyline is a brilliant case study on a plethora of socially relevant issues. It is an intimate look at human nature and how we live our daily lives following rules established by society, regulations that are both codified and non-written, as a normative criteria as to what acceptable behavior should be. What the film tackles is the scenario of all those rules suddenly becoming irrelevant. What happens, then? Triangle of Sadness gives you a peek, and then leaves you with a cliffhanger so you can supply your own ending based on your very own moral compass.

Yes, a lot of people seemingly got pissed off because the ending is inconclusive. Did Abigail? Or did she not? In all fairness to Ostlund, this is probably the best way to end the story. Not only is it convenient for him as a writer, it also allows him to mess with you as his viewer. Even though her backstory is not clear, Abigail is the epitome of the hardworking proletariat abused over and over again by those higher up in the social hierarchy. Once she gets hold of power she never wielded before, what would she do with it? That is the question here, and as the viewer, you are given the opportunity to fill in the blanks.

In the end, it is akin to one of those moral dilemma puzzles where you are given a moral problem and the choice you select eventually paints a picture of your moral compass. Since Abigail is basically absent for more than half of the film and just pops up towards the end to grab the spotlight, you are really working on a blank canvass, and Abigail can be anyone you want her to be, because what you see from her behavior is just the tip of the iceberg, and you are free to imagine how she truly is.

As anchors of the story, Carl and Yaya are the perfect representation of the current generation obsessed with image as status, as proven by their investment in their social media presence. In a way, the contrast of the characters on that ship is actually quite clever because you have people who wield power and influence through different means, from the elderly couple who gained their wealth through the production of war weapons all the way to this Insta couple who mainly bank on their looks to get ahead in life.

All in all, not everyone will love Triangle of Sadness. All you have to do to appreciate it, however, is to watch it with just the right amount of curiosity and an open mind to hypothetical scenarios that bring the best, or worst, out of people. Enjoyed from such a standpoint, you might actually derive some entertainment value and social relevance from all of this, no matter how absurd the storyline appears to be.

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