Review: Triangle of Sadness


1. “The last capitalist we hang is the one who sold us the rope.” Who said it?

Nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, “Triangle of Sadness” is a cutting satire on power and the human condition. The very worst part of the film, which lasted many minutes, was the sickening storm at sea. Some people may laugh at all the ways to film vomit, but I found it disgusting.

However, my very favorite sequence in this ambitious yet cynical look at capitalistic society by Swedish director/writer Ruben Östlund, is the game played by the drunk Captain (Woody Harrelson) and the blustery Russian manure dealer (Zlatko Buric). Quotes are on cards and the alternating opponents, the Marxist (Woody) and the Capitalist (Zlatko), compete to guess the authors. You, my reader, may play along:

2. The problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.

3. The most powerful force in the world today is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent.

4. Capitalism remains the same as it was in ancient Greece – freedom for the slaveowners.

5. Unrestrained growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.

(Authors listed at end).

No matter how you rotate a triangle, one point is always at the top and there is never a resolution for the points at the bottom. Östlund examines this concept. No matter what we do, our basic imperfect nature dooms us to a spot on the triangle of inequity (or sadness) where any true modicum of happiness is elusive – for everyone.

That sounds like a miserably depressing preface for a film. And please note, as I took notes while watching “Triangle of Sadness” I wrote: “This is an awful, awful film.” Despite that, I ended up subjecting myself to the film twice! What was so fascinating and worthy of discussion?

First, Woody Harrelson’s comedic characterization of the Captain is lovable despite his awful, brutal honesty. In every line of his dialogue there is a significant moment for audience reflection. He yells, in his innocent Woody-voice, into the $l50 million luxury yacht’s microphone: “We all know you don’t pay your fair share of taxes. While you are swimming in abundance the rest of the world is drowning in misery!”

Later, he intones: “My government murdered MLK, Malcom X … and war itself became our most lucrative industry.” (“A second assassination of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. has been the attempt to distort what they really stood for in their last years of life” – World History Archives).

The film, which won the Palme d’Or at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, may be creatively metaphoric, but its uncanny perception of the nature of humanity and its class hierarchy hits an uncomfortable bull’s eye, as there is “No Exit” (as Jean Paul Sartre would say).

(Answers: 1. Karl Marx, 2. Margaret Thatcher, 3. John F. Kennedy, 4. Vladimir Lenin, 5. Edward Abbey)


Director/Writer: Ruben Östlund
Producers: Erik Hemmendorff and Philippe Bober
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly de Leon, zlatko Buric, Iris Berben, Vicki Berlin, Henrik Doris, Jean-Christophe Folly, Amanda Walker, Oliver Ford Davies, Sunnyi Melles and Woody Harrelson
Cinematography: Fredrik Wenzel
Editors: Ruben Ostlun and Mikel Cee Karlsson
Music: Mikkel Maltha and Leslie Ming

Countries: Sweden, Germany, France and UK
Release: Oct. 7, 2022 (limited)

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