Submitted by the Williams Lake Film Club
The Williams Lake Film Club is excited to bring the latest film by Swedish auteur Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness, to the big screen on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Paradise Cinemas. Earlier this year, the film took the top prize, the Palme d’Or, at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received an eight-minute standing ovation. Östlund has a well-established reputation as a writer and director of darkly comedic films, including Force Majeure, which follows the unraveling of a couple at a French resort after an avalanche (2014) and The Square (which won him his first Palme d’Or in 2017) which sharply examines the world of modern art. Triangle of Sadness is his first English language film.
Loosely speaking, the film is about the guests and workers aboard a luxury cruise, and uses this premise to create a societal microcosm that allegorically reflects class structures across societies. Critics have been divided over the film. While some object to making the wealthy such blunt and obvious targets, other critics are heralding it as the best film of the year. Exaggeration and hyperbole are key techniques in satire, which Östlund uses to great effect. By setting the action on a cruise ship, it allows Östlund to explore a myriad of issues, including societal responsibility, privilege, economic inequality, gender roles, beauty as a form of currency, and the ways in which we are constantly trying to maneuver our position in a hierarchy.
While all this may sound rather serious, Östlund takes things to an absurdly comic, over the top, and slapstick level. The humour in the film is being compared to that of Monty Python, and the social critique to Luis Bunuel’s masterpiece, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Laughs are delivered throughout. It’s good to remember that “subtlety is not the primary aim in this film’s portrayal of class” (Timeout 2022).
The film has three distinct acts. In the first act, we are introduced to the world of high fashion and given an intimate glimpse at the lives of Carl and Yaya (played to perfection by Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean) – two models who are offered a trip aboard a $250 million dollar yacht.
In the second act we follow Carl and Yaya on board the ship and are introduced to more players in the satire. This includes Woody Harrelson, who plays the unhinged and often inebriated Captain Smith, and a number of memorable guests. The mostly Caucasian crew on the deck are working for tips. They are instructed every request should by met with a “yes,” no matter how ridiculous. People working the worst jobs, on the lower deck, are often people of colour, and seem largely invisible. Art imitating life perhaps?
Things are uncomfortably funny at first, with awkward dinner conversation and preposterous suggestions from the guests that must be entertained. As critic Oscar Goff reports, “the early scenes play almost like the bawdy digressions Shakespeare would use to draw audiences to his plays” (Boston Hassle 2022). Things fall apart in an escalating and absurdly horrifying and hilarious way. Copious consumption in wavy seas results in – well use your imagination —- and lots of it. “In his best scenes, Östlund’s work comes from pressing each point, pushing through and past the realm of the obvious to places where the unexpected can and must occur” (Ann Hornaday Washington Post 2022).
The final act presents a reversal of fortune. A character from the background emerges to takes the spotlight in a role is played brilliantly by Filipino actress Dolly Leon, and some critics are hedging she might get a wild card Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.
This is definitely a film to be experienced at the theatre, and with an audience. As film critic Peter Debruge explains, “[t]he thing about Östlund is that he makes you laugh, but he also makes you think. There’s a meticulous precision to the way he constructs, blocks and executes scenes - a kind of agonizing unease, amplified by awkward silences or an unwelcome fly buzzing between characters struggling to communicate. No matter what sphere he tackles, we’re bound to see the world differently,” said Debruge in Variety.
Triangle of Sadness will be screened at the Paradise Cinemas on Thursday Nov. 17. Rated PG. Tickets are $10. Advance tickets for sale at The Open Book and tickets will be sold in the cinema lobby prior to the screening. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show starts at 7 p.m. To hear about the latest upcoming Williams Lake Film Club screenings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.