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Film / Triangle of Sadness

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"Can you relax your triangle of sadness? It's like between your eyebrows here."

Triangle of Sadness is a 2022 satirical Black Comedy film directed and written by Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure, The Square), in his English-language debut.

The film follows two fashion models (Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean) who are invited on a luxury cruise for the rich. The dysfunction caused by the several frivolous and eccentric guests, the controlling head of staff (Vicki Berlin), and the perpetually drunk captain (Woody Harrelson) leads things to quickly go downhill, and established social dynamics are subsequently challenged. Dolly de Leon and Zlatko Burić round out the cast.

It was released in the United States on October 7, 2022. It also marks the final film role of Charlbi Dean before her passing in August 2022.

Triangle of Sadness provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Dimitry finds the Captain's (at first) vicious mockery of him, which escalates from simple "don't argue with an idiot" to "first against the wall" rhetoric. He similarly laughs off the Captain trying to give him alcohol poisoning, and genuinely appreciates the Captain's Marxist writings.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The film ends after Yaya has discovered a resort on the island on a hike with Abigail, who has appointed herself captain of the castaways. Abigail is holding a rock above Yaya, clearly contemplating murder to get rid of Yaya and silence the truth that rescue is within reach, since she wants Yaya's boyfriend and relishes the first power she's ever had in her life. We hear Yaya talking to Abigail with remarks that could pacify or incense her, and see Carl running through the woods to find Yaya. Whether Abigail kills Yaya or not, or whether the truth about the resort is discovered, or what happens if Carl finds the scene in either outcome, is not clear. Word of God states that Abigail does kill Yaya, but this is not shown in the film proper.
  • And Starring: During the opening credits and in the poster: "And Woody Harrelson".
  • Asshole Victim:
    • In a movie that still (mostly) humanises the rich bastards it's lampooning, the only people who really deserve getting maimed and thrown overboard by one of their own manufactured grenades are the kindly couple of Winston and Clementine, who are war profiteers who think the UN is a globalist downer on their profits.
    • In a bleaker sense, since she only meant well, Dimitry's wife, who forced the crew to take a swim and unwittingly caused the food to spoil and the engines to go kaput because there was no crew around to maintain them, suffers the most out of all the victims of food poisoning, and the film takes extra glee in showing the storm throwing her around in her now shit-and-puke filled bathroom.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: Alluded to in the title and events, though instead of spooky supernatural stuff, it's rich idiots causing problems.
  • Billionaire Wristband: European billionaires Dimitriy and Jarmo offer Abigail their luxury watches (a Rolex and a Patek-Philippe) in exchange for a night sleeping on the lifeboat. The next day, Abigail is seen wearing both watches on one wrist.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Dolly de Leon confirmed at an interview at Cannes that Abigail does kill Yaya with the rock, making the ending as such. Which, apart from most of the guests at the ship dying after it capsizes, would also mean that Carl would not be able to amend his relationship with Yaya after cheating on her for Abigail. On the bright side, however, the fact that they landed on a resort island means that it's only a matter of time before they can return to civilization.
  • Black Comedy: As one would expect from a Ruben Östlund film. A yacht is attacked by pirates and sinks at sea, leading to the few survivors getting into increasingly ridiculous situations after they wash up on an island. When Vera's dead body washes up on the island, Dimitry weeps tears of grief — while he is busy pulling all of Vera's jewelry off of her corpse.
  • Carpet of Virility: A handsome, bearded support staff member on the ship takes his shirt off, revealing his hairy chest, and gets mildly flirty with Yaya, who responds positively, prompting Carl to get jealous. It's implied he regularly does this on purpose. After Carl complains about this, the crew member is later seen shuttled off the yacht for good.
  • Casting Couch: Discussed. At one point on the island, Nelson asks Therese if she ever slept with somebody to get a job and she admits to one incident.
  • Chekhov's Gun: While there is no mention of their itinerary or location, we briefly see armed guards on the ship in two early scenes, suggesting that they are traveling through dangerous waters; sure enough, Ruthless Modern Pirates attack the ship at the end of part 2. A couple who earlier admitted that they made their money from selling grenades and other explosive weapons find one the pirates toss onto the deck, and after they wonder if it was one of theirs they die as it explodes. Just to make sure we get the reference to the trope, very loud seagull cries are heard immediately after a second explosion, which sinks the ship.
  • Condescending Compassion:
    • What kickstarts the plot is Dimitry's wife forcing an unfortunate guest services henchwoman to listen to her spiel about how she finds it awful that she's privileged, then insists the unfortunate woman join her in the pool. When the woman rightfully declines because one of her coworkers got fired and kicked off the ship for taking his shirt off in front of guests, Dimitry's wife has the gall to get furious at her for refusing and ups the ante by asking all the servicepeople on the ship to take an hour off and use their water slide... even though they're trying to make sure the food doesn't spoil or that the ship doesn't fall apart. Sure enough...
    • The ending has Abigail clearly feeling guilty about even thinking of killing Yaya, who despite everything and all the dumb power games on the island, found rescue (and is thus jeopardising Abigail's kingdom), and gives her a speech on how she's just so glad that the two of them found rescue and lived through it all and are true companions. It's only when Yaya offers her to be her assistant after Abigail just got through with saving all their asses and lording her newfound power over them that Abigail doesn't feel guilty about caving in her brain with a rock. Oops!
  • Cringe Comedy:
    • The first scene has a Camp Gay presenter interviewing a pack of auditioning male models and adding in some very dark jokes about them and the industry, such as joking about having to fend off the advances of gay fashion designers for the privilege of earning one-third of what the women make. In front of the camera, the men must simply laugh along with him.
    • The first act is primarily a giant, poorly communicated argument between Yaya and Carl over who should pay for dinner that drags in everything from gender politics, materialism, and privilege to deflect the fact both are in fact poor.
    • Jarmo nervously asks Yaya and Dimitry's mistress to take a picture of him enjoying his now-solo vacation to get back at a date who ghosted him. He stumbles and stammers throughout.
    • A guest services worker, Alicia, has to listen to Dimitry's wife rant about how it's unfair she was born rich. Then the wife insists Alicia join her in the pool, forcing Alicia into a Morton's Fork between breaking the rules (on a ship where one of her coworkers got tossed off the ship for far less) or refusing a guest. There's a shot that drags on for half a minute of Alicia flopping between a deer-in-the-headlights look and her best guest services smile of terror that makes her look like a malfunctioning Disney animatronic.
    • The last half of the second act are bouts of misery and increasing terror as the ship starts to fall apart... punctuated with shots of the miserable guests puking and shitting and then getting covered in it as the storm starts throwing them around.
    • After the shipwreck, as Carl is trying to make sure there are other survivors and is horrified that Yaya may be dead, Dimitry gets suspicious and asks a black man (Nelson) who claims to work in the boiler room for proof. Nelson rightfully takes offence at the implication he's one of the pirates because he's black, and while Carl is trying to make heads-or-tails of his situation and Yaya's condition, Nelson's chewing Dimitry out while Dimitry awkwardly insists it's only because he hadn't seen him among the crew.
  • Death by Irony: Clementine and Winston, the two British weapon merchants, are quite proud of their business, boasting about having made bank on selling explosives to Africa and the Middle East, especially their hand grenades. They are the amongst the first victims of the pirate attack, when said pirates throw a hand grenade onto the deck, and Clementine spends her last moment asking Winston if the grenade is one of theirs.
  • Death of a Child: Implied. We see a baby during the disastrous Captain's dinner, and as Dimitry and the Captain fuck around and order everyone to get off the ship, a young girl is among those with life vests. We don't see them again after pirates explode the ship, and as bodies wash on shore, it's heavily implied anyone we don't see died.
  • Deserted Island: Where the survivors of the wreck wind up and are forced to create a new society to survive. Only it's not deserted; the group sticks close to the shore they washed up on for at least several weeks. When Yaya finally decides to venture over the mountains, she and Abigail find a luxury resort.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: As things on the ship go south, Dimitry accuses the Captain of being a commie. The Captain has to correct him: he's a Marxist.
  • Double-Meaning Title: As stated in the film, Triangle of Sadness refers to the area at the top of the nose and between the eyebrows, but not only is it a Bermuda Triangle allusion, it also applies to the love triangle between Carl, Yaya, and Abigail.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: In-universe, Carl is mocked by the other survivors on the island for sleeping with Abigail in exchange for preferential treatment, even though he's coerced by the power imbalance between them and clearly not happy about it.
  • Eat the Rich: A theme in the film, especially in the third act. The rich cruise guests are repeatedly shown to be clueless, useless people. See Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense for examples of how they demonstrate their detachment from everyday life.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: On the cruise ship, the passengers and "upstairs crew" of servers and attendees are predominantly Caucasian, while the "downstairs crew" of cleaners are predominantly Filipino. It becomes played with when they are stranded on a deserted shoreline and the Filipino cleaner Abigail is the only one with any survival skills, eventually ending up in charge of the mostly-white upperclass Caucasian survivors.
  • Food Porn: Various close-up shots of Snooty Haute Cuisine dishes during the Captain's dinner. It's subverted by some of the dishes being quite bizarre, and most of them being positively revolting for diners who are becoming seasick during a turbulent storm. And they're unsafe to eat due to insufficient cooking prep time, giving food poisoning to the guests as well.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When forced to scavenge food for himself and Nelson, Carl digs through a garbage heap that looks too well-established to have washed up along with them the previous day... because the deserted island is actually inhabited. Similarly, what's a donkey, which is domesticated, doing on a supposedly remote island?
    • Jarmo, one of the remaining survivors after the ship capsizes, manages to kill a donkey with a rock. Abigail will later prepare to kill Yaya with a rock in the same fashion after being offered the opportunity to work as Yaya's assistant. Just like the donkey's pitiful cries, Yaya's offer is a meaningless repetition of the only way she knows how to relate to other people, in this case by paternalistically offering fragments of her wealth and status. Like the donkey's braying, it is unlikely to save her life, and rather gives her killer a reason to finish the job.
    • The presenter in the beginning jokes about the (unfortunately true to life) issue of male models (like Carl) having to trade sex acts to rich gay sponsors and designers to get a leg up in the fashion world. Abigail certainly isn't gay, a man, or fashionable, but...
  • Full-Circle Revolution: After upending the social classes and becoming "the captain," Abigail becomes just as despotic and exploitative over her minions as the rich were back in the real world. She goes as far as murdering Yaya to maintain her power and prevent the group from returning home.
  • Gold Digger: Deconstructed and discussed. Dimitry believes that Nelson would be able to get women if he invested his money better and became rich. It gets a more sympathetic take when Yaya explains to Carl that she expects him to look after her because, if they settled down and had children, she wouldn't be able to work while he would.
  • He Knows Too Much: Abigail apparently kills Yaya, partially to cover up the fact they're really on a luxury resort so it doesn't spread to the rest of the survivors.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: A rare literal example: Winston and Clementine are killed by a hand grenade made in their own factory.
  • Hope Spot: Therese is able to call a beach vendor for help but is unable to properly communicate with him due to her speaking disability, rendering the attempt useless.
  • The Horseshoe Effect: The film posits that when it comes down to it, the poor are just as capable of being as ruthless in maintaining their power balance, but are also capable of acts of kindness and working together. Just ask Abigail, her rock, and Yaya's soon-to-be corpse.
  • Humans Are Bastards: A common theme through Östlund's films by showing how shallow and ignorant the rich and their enablers are, but there is a moment of subversion: in the middle of his angry socialist rant at Dimitry and the entire ship, the Captain admits that Dimitry, and most of the people on-board, have good hearts who want to do right deep down. While the film does delight in putting the rich through the wringer, it also doesn't pull any punches in how miserable they are as things break down, and also shows the poor are just as capable of being vicious in enforcing power dynamics.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: As conditions on the ship deteriorate, the good captain admits that he's a shit Marxist by ranting and raving at billionaires while happily taking their money and shirking work to drink some more.
  • "I Can't Look!" Gesture: The expression of all the bystanders when Jarmo has to kill the not-so-dead donkey for real.
  • Implausible Deniability: Carl and Nelson claiming not to have eaten the Bretzel sticks while Abigail waves the empty pack in front of them that she picked up from the ground.
  • Irony: The film invokes some complex ironic power dynamics.
    • The guest who has a moment of fervor insisting the staff get to swim and enjoy themselves on the cruise fancies herself an egalitarian, but the whole staff ends up swimming because she's ordering them to and their policy is to bend over backward for their guests, meaning the woman's notions of noble gestures are just another power-trip over service workers.
    • Abigail appoints herself captain of the survivors because she's the only one with the skills to keep them alive, ironically making her the leader while she functionally still has to be the servant to the wealthy people who survived.
  • Kinky Role-Playing: Yaya and Carl engage in one of these in their cabin with Carl pretending to be the poolboy while Yaya plays the lonesome housewife.
  • Literal Metaphor: When asked about his business, Dimitry states, "I sell shit." But he doesn't mean he sells some random, cheap products. He literally sells fertilizer.
  • Matriarchy: It gets name-checked as the form of Abigail's "society" on the island. She enforces (or rather claims to be enforcing) general fairness among the other inhabitants but exploits them for her own enjoyment and doles out favors to those she prefers.
  • Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Inverted, like many dynamics, once the survivors wind up on the deserted island. older, more worldly Filipino woman Abigail, who is now in charge of the survivors, begins sleeping with hapless white pretty boy Carl by promising him perks, to the consternation of his equally hapless girlfriend Yaya. This is in contrast to the common depiction of older white men engaging in sex tourism in Southeast Asia.
  • Mock Millionaire: As an influencer, Yaya earns money by photographing herself on expensive and exotic excursions, like the cruise she's on. In reality, she got the tickets for free, and she can't even afford to pay the check at a fancy restaurant.
  • Modeling is Glamorous: Main characters Carl and Yaya are model-influencers, and Yaya specifically is introduced as a popular and famous runway walker. They dine at fancy restaurants and get invited on a luxury cruise — though they're both anxious about money since they're aware that their good looks won't pay the bills forever.
  • Motif
    • Gender roles. Male models are lampooned for receiving less money than their female counterparts. Carl has friction with Yaya for feeling put-upon as the man in the relationship, but displays very aggressive behavior toward her and might actually want to get away with contributing less under the guise of an equitable relationship. In the fashion show, the huge marquee at one point flashes the slogan, "Ladies First." Carl gets into a fight with Yaya over their income disparity and broadens the argument into gender roles. The cab driver tells Carl that he needs to fight Yaya, or he'll be her slave. On the ship, Dimitry attends the cruise with his wife and his mistress. On the island, Abigail creates a "matriarchy" where she rules and the men must be subservient to her. Carl becomes her kept man, and the other men hunt a donkey in an attempt to reassert their masculinity, but they end up crying and hugging over the trauma. While the able-bodied women bond and assert power over the males, they also disregard the disabled Therese, effectively barring her from their matriarchy. Later, Therese tries to get help from a passing seller, who mistakes her mannerisms as wanting to sleep with him.
    • Class divisions. The reporter makes jokes about the different campaigns of cheap "smiley" clothing lines and "grumpy" clothing lines that only are for rich people. Carl and Yaya's relationship suffers because he's financially dependent on her. At the fashion show, a group of people are kicked out of their front-row seats for some VIPs, and then everyone must move down one seat so they can sit together, pushing Carl out of his seat. The fashion show itself ironically begins with an "Everyone's Equal" marquee. On the ship, Paula tells the service staff to say "yes" to everything the rich guests say so they'll get a big tip. The service staff get a day of fun like they're guests, but only because they were ordered to meet the demands of a wealthy passenger on a self-important moral power trip. The menial support staff are lower in status than even the service staff, and one staff member survivor's identity can't even be confirmed by his superior. Carl feels guilty after accidentally getting one support staff member summarily fired for taking his shirt off. Overall, Carl feels out of place among the guests, since he and Yaya got the tickets for free and aren't rich like the others. In bed with Yaya, Carl roleplays as a pool boy who sleeps with his wealthy client. Dimitry and the captain quote back and forth about Marxism and capitalism. On the island, the traditional social roles are upended, and the menial Abigail becomes "the captain" because she has all the survival skills.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Carl complains to the head of hospitality that one of the workers took off his shirt to flirt with Yaya. The worker is promptly fired and taken off the ship, causing Carl to suffer a crisis of conscience.
  • Not So Remote: The cruise ship survivors live off the land of what they think is a deserted island. In the final minutes, it turns out to house a luxury resort on the other side.
  • Odd Friendship:
    • Dimitry, Jarmo, and Nelson - respectively, a boorish businessman, an awkward computer programmer, and a crew member on the yacht who might have been a pirate - end up forming a mutual friendship while stranded on the island.
    • This seems to be Dimitry's knack:
      • He makes friends with much of the important cast despite being their opposites: he befriends Carl and completely understands the fact he and Yaya are influencers who got on for free because he also got lucky by being in the right place at the right time.
      • Later, he makes friends with the Captain. The Captain fucking despises him and his Reagan-worshipping Thatcherite ass at first, but Dimitry laughs off his very pointed barbs and encourages the captain, semi-ironically at first and whole-heartedly later, to deliver his Marxist rants to the entire ship and to keep writing. It's implied that Dimitry, despite loving capitalism, understands the Captain's viewpoint, because he also worked a fairly menial trade before ascending, as Captains tend to start out as simple crewmen.
      • He's the first to accuse Nelson of being a pirate, which triggers a cringe-worthy argument about race while the others are trying to figure out a way to survive, but nonetheless helps him and later happily discusses the economics of piracy towards the end of the movie.
  • Onscreen Chapter Titles: The movie is divided into three chapters (Carl & Yaya, The Yacht, The Island) with each one being announced via an on-screen title.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Nearly all of the first act is spent on Yaya and Carl trying to get the other to pay for daily expenditures and getting increasingly furious about who should be paying by hiding behind things like gender roles, who's more privileged, who does the most in the relationship, etc. instead of talking things out.
  • Pineapple Surprise: Winston realizes too late that he is holding a hand grenade with the pin removed.
  • Quote-to-Quote Combat: Staunch Marxist Thomas and staunch capitalist Dimitriy get into a debate over dinner about their respective political philosophies. They start trading off relevant quotes off the top of their head. Later on they pull out their phones and start reading lines they looked up on the internet.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: A common motif to hammer home how out-of-touch the rich are.
    • A Running Gag is that of a Finnish lady who keeps complaining that the sails on the ship are dirty. This would already be a trivial complaint, but the ship doesn't even have sails. First, the head of staff is confused but is too policy-polite to make a remark, and the guest later brings this up to the captain, who has no care for her and openly points out there are no sails. The guest instead doubles down and gets her husband to "confirm" based on the presence of sails in the cruise catalogue they looked at, and has to be politely ushered off by guest services before she can raise a bigger stink.
    • The nice old British couple don't care at all about what product their manufacturing business makes. Carl has to ask several times before they blithely state that it's hand grenades. They also lament the UN regulations that stopped them from making land mines. When Clementine spots a grenade made in her own factory, she doesn't notice that its pin is out.
    • Vera is completely oblivious to how her class-upending frivolities could get Alicia in trouble and starts getting angry when Alicia tries to refuse her, ironically asserting her superior social station to force the whole staff to slide down the water slide for her amusement. This results in the food poisoning incident that leaves the ship open to capture by pirates and possibly kills nearly all those on board.
    • For far less humourous examples, Carl complains to hospitality after one of the workers deliberately gets in the path of his sunbathing with Yaya and flirts with her. He doesn't realise he just got him sacked until he sees the worker made to deboard, and regrets it.
    • On the island, the riches of the guests are useless, and the only person with any survival skills is Abigail, the person with the lowest station on the ship.
    • Finally, Yaya's just so grateful for Abigail for saving them all and accompanying her to the other side of the island, where they find it's a resort island. Unknown to her, a desperate and power-hungry Abigail is preparing to kill her so she can keep her current kingdom, but is clearly broken up about it... until Yaya cluelessly offers her a menial position under her. Cue offscreen rock to the head.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Was Nelson a pirate? He insists that he was one of the crew who worked in the engine room, but towards the end, after Dimitry challenges him, he seems to be pretty familiar with how Ruthless Modern Pirates work, and isn't in the uniform of the boiler room crew.
  • Robbing the Dead: When Dimitry finds the washed-ashore corpse of his wife, he cradles her while also snatching all the jewelry from her body.
  • Robinsonade: The third act sees survivors from the pirate attack marooned on a deserted shoreline and forced to live off the land.
  • Running Gag: Dimitry repeatedly and proudly explaining he got rich by stating, "I sell shit." He does this even as the ship is on the verge of going off-course and breaking down.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: As if things couldn't get any worse for the luxury yacht of guests evacuating their digestive tracts from every orifice (including the ship's pipes!) it's attacked by a gang of modern pirates, who blow it up and sink it for good.
  • Sexy Stewardess: The stewardesses on the cruise ship are all young and beautiful with short skirts.
  • Time-Passage Beard: Dimitry is seen in one scene with a long beard, showing that the survivors have been on the island for quite a while. He's later seen getting a shave from Nelson to explain why the other men's facial hair doesn't change much.
  • Title Drop: The film's title is dropped during an interview for Carl, referring to the area at the top of the nose and between the eyebrows.
  • Toilet Humour: Much of the comedy during a storm at the Captain's dinner which causes the guests to vomit and the toilet bowls to malfunction.
  • Uncertain Doom:
    • The Captain, Ludmilla, Alicia, Darius, Uli, the woman complaining about sails, the preteen passenger, and various others onboard the ship are never seen after it sinks. While they probably died, it is possible they simply washed ashore somewhere else, remained adrift at sea, or were kidnapped for ransom by the pirates.
    • The film doesn't show if Abigail did kill Yaya with a rock in the final moments. The director has stated that Abigail does in fact kill Yaya.
  • The Unsmile: One of the film's biggest jokes is a hospitality worker faced with either getting fired because she'll be mistaken for goofing off with the guests (after one of her coworkers got fired for goofing off with a guest), or getting fired because she just refused a command from the now-angry billionaire she's talking to. For a good ten seconds, she looks like a broken robot with a big, empty smile on her face.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Vera's whimsical demand that the whole crew go for a swim means that the captain's dinner of highly perishable seafood goes bad and the maintenance of the engines is delayed, resulting in a catastrophic mass food poisoning and makes the boat more vulnerable to the pirates attack.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Many of the guests fall seasick during a storm at the Captain's dinner and uncontrollably vomit (and defecate) as a result. The film quickly derails with the crew and guests sliding all over the boat covered in bile and diarrhea.
  • Wealthy Yacht Owner: Alluded to when Russian oligarch Dimitry repeatedly expresses a desire to buy the superyacht they're all cruising on.
  • While Rome Burns: As the yacht descends into chaos fueled by stormy seas and food poisoning, the Captain and Dimitry sit around the dining room (and later the Captain's quarters), quoting political slogans at each other and playing cards while getting increasingly drunk.



Video Example(s):


Communism vs. Capitalism

The American communist captain and the Russian oligarch get into a debate over dinner about their respective philosophies. Dimitriy tells a joke; Thomas is able to counter with another quote. To keep it going, they read quotes off their phones.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / QuoteToQuoteCombat

Media sources: