Ruben Östlund’s Cannes winning film “Triangle of Sadness” is coming to the cinema – this cinema year could hardly be funnier.
At least since the cinema came into being, art and entertainment shouldn’t really be seen as opposites. Even so, comedies are rare in festival competitions and even rarer than they win prizes. The Swede Ruben Östlund, who dresses a razor-sharp social criticism in voluptuous images, has nevertheless made it again after “The Square”. “Triangle of Sadness” earned him his second Palme d’Or last May.
In our Cannes review, we raved about “a hundred well-placed punchlines”, a film distributor likes to hear something like that and quotes the Frankfurter Rundschau prominently in its advertising. When we meet again this week at a public premiere, I don’t want to let that stand. People don’t stop laughing, there must be a thousand punchlines. The expectations in the sold-out hall were not exactly low. Shortly before the start, a neighbor warns his companion about the disgusting eating orgy in the middle. He heard that half the people went out in Cannes. I can not confirm.
In any case, “Triangle Of Sadness” is far funnier than the bitter title promises. The expression is introduced in the opening scene, a casting for male models, as a dictum in the fashion industry. Originally, Botox doctors shaped it for a crease between the eyes. Something like that can be repaired in 15 minutes. The dazzling looking Carl (Harris Dickinson) – do you still say “dressman”? – this is recommended immediately.
The first chapter of this comedy about capitalist etiquette follows how he and his influencer girlfriend Yaya learn to use their physical attractiveness as an asset. He in a job where women are usually better paid. And she as an influencer.
In a curious backstage choreography, only two alternating facial expressions are expected of her: arrogant bad temper for the luxury brands and dull cheerfulness for the cheap H&M. An almost touching debate follows on the question of whether traditional gender roles can claim feminist correctness when paying the restaurant bill. As Yaya, the surprisingly deceased, extremely talented South African Charlbi Dean Kriek plays her last role.
The film’s middle section takes them both on a luxury cruise, paying the young woman her kind attention on social media – and straight to the heart of the class struggle.
Originally planned as a Hollywood production, then realized as a multinational European co-production, only Woody Harrelson remained of the original cast of “Triangle Of Sadness”. He plays the captain as a Marxist-minded drunkard, from whose cabin the “Internationale” sounds loud. The staff, enslaved by the arbitrariness of the passengers, can expect little support from him. For example, when a rich Russian woman patronizingly orders all employees to take a break on the water slide. It’s an almost surreal scene that Luis Buñuel couldn’t have dreamed up better for a anything but charming bourgeoisie.
Ruben Östlund is concerned with deeply abusive conditions in economically defined hierarchies, which would nevertheless not be an issue for #MeToo: The humiliations that employees in poorly paid service jobs have to endure are too commonplace. Right from the start, the staff is sworn to say yes unconditionally, always with the hopefully lavish tip in mind. But what if a guest insists that a dirty sail be washed when you are on a motor yacht? It would be easy to poke fun at the plight of the service staff, but Östlund’s sympathies are, when in doubt, with the underclass.
The captain has mischievously scheduled the captains dinner for the super-rich on the evening of a predicted storm. What follows is the most spectacular crushing chorus in cinema history since Marco Ferreri’s bourgeoisie-critical classic “The Great Food”. But the climax is far from the end: the final act, as a robinsonade, shakes up the social hierarchies as thoroughly as a badly made martini shakes up its ingredients.
How it comes about that some of the characters we already know find themselves on a lonely island with a few others is, according to all screenplay ethics, actually cheeky: Unknown people throw a hand grenade at the ship – without further explanation – right in front of its feet an armaments manufacturer, which she picks up briefly to determine that it is one of her production.
With a big bang, the screenplay abruptly separates itself from some supposedly important characters, including, unfortunately, Harrelson’s captain. Iris Berben gets screen time in a quiet supporting role of Fellini-esque poetry: As a speech-impaired passenger, she achieves a remarkable presence with a single sentence of dialogue. And also gets Filipina Dolly De Leon as the ship’s former toilet attendant: in a place where money can’t buy anything, suddenly others are in charge; for example, who knows how to pull a fish out of water.
While in Östlund’s “The Square” the criticism of classism and false morality was still focused on the microcosm of the art world, in “Triangle Of Sadness” he turns the zoom ring of his camera back significantly. This in the truest sense of the word overflowing farce moves the imbalance of an entire world order into the picture window in a feather-light tone.
Östlund came to the art of film from advertising, and he still draws on its quick action and clarity. As he explained to us in an interview: “If you want to get an idea out there, you first have to attract attention – and only then can you put forward your ideas.” But what could be better than when a good idea immediately stimulates punchline fireworks ?
Triangle of Sadness. Director: Ruben Östlund. S/GB/USA/F/GR/TK 2022. 146 Min.