“Eat the rich” has become a rallying cry over the past decade as income inequality continues to rise. The pandemic has widened the gap more than ever, reinforcing sentiment. And while those at the bottom of the ladder continue to struggle to make ends meet, those at the top of society enjoy more wealth than anyone can imagine.
This sentiment has led to a rise in films that attack this same struggle in exciting new ways, the most memorable of which is Parasitewinner not only of the Palme d’Or but also of the Oscar for best film in 2020. The time has come for a new film to be the symbol of our time, and it is yet another Palme d’Or winner. Gold: Ruben Ostlund triangle of sadness. If the Academy has taste, triangle of sadness can follow in ParasiteBest Picture Winning Steps. But the movie is probably too offbeat and, frankly, crazy to warrant Oscar consideration.
triangle of sadness does not just eat the rich: it eats them, spits them out, puts them back in a blender and swallows them. It’s a nasty, wickedly funny satire of the global elite, twisting in unexpected ways, culminating in a third act that throws everything you thought you knew at its head. Before he gets there, however, triangle of sadness delivers an absolute tour de force in the form of the best, grossest, funniest scene of the entire year.
Spoiler for triangle of sadnessobviously, follow below.
Let’s set the scene: we’re on a luxury yacht, the kind so exclusive you wouldn’t find it unless you knew where to look. On board are people who have amassed incredible fortunes in incredibly insane ways; “I sell shit,” jokes a Russian billionaire who works in the fertilizer business. Guests enjoy unparalleled luxury – someone buys engagement rings, one of which costs just 30,000 euros (29,000 USD). The food and champagne are exquisite and top notch, of course.
The best is yet to come at the all-important Captain’s Dinner, where guests can come face-to-face with the Captain himself (Woody Harrelson) and sample the finest seafood you’ve ever seen. The dining room is full of the whitest tablecloths and the kind of silverware and glassware whose brand name is only uttered by the highest tax brackets or you’ll turn to stone. They are the richest people in the world on the fanciest yacht, after all!
The trip was all good times. But tonight, something is wrong. There’s a storm brewing, and the slow, methodical rumble of the waves against the boat sets our pace, matched by Östlund’s expressive long shots. It’s also immediately obvious that things are out of whack, literally, as the camera is heavily titled.
Discomfort springs from the screen. Passengers, dressed in their most luxurious dresses and tuxedos, can barely move due to the storm, and watching well-to-do folks walk at a ridiculous angle across the room is hilarious. You might be wondering why they wouldn’t just postpone dinner to a more appropriate night, but if you’re asking that question, you might never have met an ultra-rich person. Imagine telling Elon Musk or Jeffrey Bezos that they can’t have something they want. Thus, the dinner plods along in truly perilous circumstances.
As the sharp angles and passenger discomfort increase with every passing second, we hear a multitude of noises: bottles rolling on the floor, waves crashing, stomachs turning, babies crying ( who would bring a baby aboard a luxury yacht, you ask, proving yet again that you have never encountered a societal elite). The sound chaos is the perfect setup for what’s going to happen in this room.
Here’s a warning: if you’re averse to discussions of various bodily fluids, now is a great time to leave. triangle of sadness probably isn’t for you, and that’s okay! Now, sick friends, let’s continue.
Remember how I said triangle of sadness gut the rich? Never in my life have I seen a sequence that enjoys eviscerating the rich like this. When the first dish of oysters with black caviar from Russia arrives, things start to get out of hand and the vomiting is not long in coming.
Despite all the vomiting of projectiles and the knowingly shaking camera, the food continues to be served. Next comes the octopus, followed by the sea urchin. These are exquisite dishes that people like me can only dream of, and they are about to be covered in vomit. It’s disgusting, it’s extremely funny, but it’s also strangely cathartic, to see these people receiving their (very gross) reward and to see such symbols of outrageous excess spilling over into various bodily fluids.
Eventually, after the vomit has covered most of the room and the rocking of the boat only intensifies, people finally start heading for the exit. But Östlund is not done with them yet. The sequence is so crude but so impeccably filmed that it creates a dizzying and hilarious effect: how many times do you see a long tracking shot of people falling over themselves vomiting? That, to me, is cinema.
We’re not done yet – so far there’s been nothing but vomit. But Östlund is keen to maintain the depravity, and for that I am grateful to him. Following the guests to their rooms, we see various people having violent diarrhea on sensational porcelain toilets. There’s no soft way to say this, but vomit and poop are absolutely everywhere. People get covered in it, roll in it, and… you get the idea.
The storm subsides and, finally, there is some peace. The cleaners try to scrub the fluids endlessly. Guests slowly begin their recovery. If you thought things might relax, Östlund has another twist up its sleeve: pirates approach the ship and throw a grenade on board. In a perfect twist of irony, he is picked up by an old lady who runs a grenade-making business. This magnificent moment ends not with a shitty explosion, but with a very real and violent explosion that changes everything.
The critique of the right to the upper crust is clear and the formal audacity elevates the vulgar imagery into something magnificent. Best of all, all the sheer madness is intersected with a conversation between the captain and the Russian billionaire, who exchange barbaric quotes about capitalism and Marxism.
It’s the sharpest satire, managing to feel both utterly absurd and absolutely grounded. Östlund’s film goes beyond “rich equals bad” to focus on class divisions and how unlimited funds can affect someone’s mind. Take the start of this disgusting and hilarious scene: a woman complains that the yacht’s sails are dirty and someone needs to clean them. However, there are no sails on the ship. The woman doesn’t back down, of course, and she can’t be wrong, so the captain, even though he knows full well she has no idea what she’s talking about, nods.
There are many moments like this throughout triangle of sadness, but a powerful person’s complete outrage at the facts is the perfect set-up for this sequence. Hell, people can barely stand, let alone swallow any type of food, let alone seafood with bottles of champagne and wine. We know this dinner should definitely not be happening, but the quixotic cocktail of being surprisingly wealthy and outraged wins out, and as they say, the show must go on.
It’s one of the captain’s observations that sums up the entire sequence beautifully: “While you’re swimming profusely, the rest of the world is drowning.” The dinner scene reverses this damning condemnation of inequality. Here, it is the rich who are drowning, albeit in fluids entirely their own. It’s the proverbial perfect icing on the funniest, most adventurous and grossest cake of the year.