Ruben Östlund’s most recent film follows models Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean) as their relationship wavers. ‘The Bill Scene’, as Östlund names it, depicts Yaya avoiding acknowledgement of the restaurant bill placed on the table for an uncomfortably long period of time. Carl taps it forward towards her, and she in turn thanks him for paying. The detail of the direction that expresses itself in the dialogue and performances here makes the long scene with little plot progression a truly compelling experience. Rife with tummy-tickling awkwardness, Östlund capitalises on the expectations of gender roles within the scene in a high-society environment that leaves little room for conspicuous conflict.
These beautiful people take a trip on a luxury yacht with a Russian faeces-magnate and his wife, a gentile elderly couple that are ex-arms dealers and the crew that is trained to enable the guests’ wishes. When a storm sends the ship swaying, the drunk captain (Woody Harrelson) ignores the warning signs and tucks into his lavish dinner. In a hilarious yet disgusting slapstick sequence, the wealthy are reduced to their ugly selves as seasickness sets in and people slide around the rooms in their own chaotic filth. The Captain and Dimitry lock themselves away and with good spirit argue over the tannoy about Marxism and Capitalism. Their own bad experiences of each inform their desire for the other.
The power dynamic shifts for hardworking cleaner Abigail (Dolly De Leon) once a few survivors have wash ashore and she, being the only resourceful and pragmatic member of the group, takes the helm.
Dolly is the first Filipino actor to be nominated for a BAFTA and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - in her first English Language role. At the SAG awards, James Hong of Everything Everywhere All At Once noted how in his early career ‘producers said the Asians were not good enough, and they are not box office. But look at us now.’ Though these films demonstrate the credible value Asian actors bring to the storytelling community, there is still lots to be done to increase representation on screen.
In his interview with Vanity Fair, Östlund describes how the title refers to an anecdote where his friend had dinner with a cosmetic surgeon who pointed out his ‘deep Triangle of Sadness’ - the wrinkles between his eyes. ‘But no worries - we’ll fix that with botox.’ As those at the bottom are squeezed evermore so, their Triangles of Sadness intensify. But these people are the last that will be able to hide the effects of inequality and it will be imprinted on their futures.