Triangle of Sadness (2022): meaning of the ending, explanation of the plot, similar films.
Hypocrisy, inequality, cynicism: analysis of the film Triangle of Sadness.
Country: Sweden, Germany, UK, USA, Switzerland, France, Mexico
Genre: satire, drama
Year of production: 2022
Directed by: Ruben Ostlund
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Sharlby Dean, Woody Harrelson, Dolly de Leon, Zlatko Buric
Awards: Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, European Film Awards for Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actor.
The meaning of the film Triangle of Sadness, despite the direct, almost “on the forehead” presentation of the plot, in fact turns out to be multifaceted. Even with the critique of Western capitalist society and gender roles that seems to lie on the surface, things are not so simple. The creation of the Swedish director, who has already received his third award at the Cannes Film Festival, is a mocking observation not only of rich and poor, men and women, but of humanity as a whole.
What is the movie about
The Triangle of Sadness begins with an episode in which a journalist interviews male models, including one of the main characters named Carl. He asks the guys to show off their skills: make an arrogant expression, as if they are wearing expensive Balenciaga clothes, and smile, as if they were wearing something cheaper like H&M. A little later, Carl is casting. One of the members of the commission also asks him to play with his facial expression, relaxing the “triangle of sadness” – the space between the eyebrows.
Frame from the film.
Part one: “Karl and Yaya”
There is a fashion show. Visitors sitting in the first places are asked to change seats, as more important guests have arrived. The screening starts with the titles on the screen: “Everyone is equal”, “Act now”, “Love now”, “A new climate is coming to the fashion world”, “Cynicism imitates optimism”. One of the models on the catwalk is Karl Yaya’s girlfriend.
Young people are in a restaurant. Carl reluctantly pays the bill for two. He is angry at Yaya, who earns significantly more than him and, moreover, earlier promised to pay for dinner. The girl pretends that she simply did not notice how the waiter brought the bill, and that she does not have any cash. The quarrel is seen by other visitors to the restaurant and the couple covers up the conflict. However, later it flares up with renewed vigor.
In the taxi, Carl asks Yaya to talk to him about money and cost sharing, but Yaya replies that it’s “not sexy.” The guy complains that they play stereotypical gender roles, although equality would be the best solution. Yaya gets out of the car. To the remaining Karl, the taxi driver says: “Fight. If you don’t fight, you will become her slave.” In the elevator, it comes to screaming. Yaya throws the money she did have at Carl. He’s furious.
In the hotel, young people are reconciled. Yaya admits that she manipulated Carl, but for her own reasons: while she does earn enough money, however, this will not last forever. She will have to look for someone who can provide for her. And Carl is not suitable for this role yet.
Part two: “Yacht”
For rich passengers, an expensive cruise on a huge yacht begins. A boss named Paula instructs the attendants – everyone must unconditionally comply with any whims of those in power. If everything goes well, there is a chance to earn a generous tip.
Carl and Yaya are also on the yacht. They got here for free, because the girl is an influencer – a blogger with a large number of subscribers. Carl becomes jealous of Yaya for one of the members of the crew and complains about him to Paula for walking around the deck bare-chested. Later, the guy sees how the violator is fired for this – put on a boat and taken away from the yacht.
The couple meets the Russian oligarch Dimitri, who spends time on a yacht with his wife and young mistress. He says he made a fortune by “selling shit” – in the nineties he managed to pull off successful deals for the sale of manure, and then put the money into circulation.
Elderly spouses Winston and Clementine, who made a fortune selling weapons (as they later say, weapons are used “to maintain democracy throughout the world”), get acquainted with the German Teresa. She survived a stroke and can’t say anything except for one single phrase – “In den Wolken” (German: “In the clouds”).
Paula tries to rescue an American ship captain named Thomas from his cabin. He has been on a drinking binge for several days in a row and refuses to go out. However, he must certainly hold a dinner party for passengers. Thomas agrees, scheduling him for Thursday, the day the yacht is due to enter the storm zone.
The role of the captain was played by Woody Harrelson, and Arvin Kananyan played the role of Darius. Frame from the film.
Yaya flirts with one of the passengers named Yarmo. Later, she and Carl enjoy lovemaking. The latter depicts a member of the attendants. The girl pretends to be the wife of a rich man.
Dmitry’s wife, Vera, is talking to a service representative named Alicia. She says that people on their deathbeds regret most of all that they worked too hard. Therefore, it is worth paying more attention to your desires. Vera also says that everyone is equal, so Alicia needs to relax and take a dip in the pool right now. She insists that this should be done by all members of the service staff. Fulfilling the desire of the wife of a Russian oligarch, the cooks also go to have fun, because of which the products intended for the dinner party begin to deteriorate.
One of the passengers expresses her concern to Paula that the sails of the yacht are dirty, although in fact there are no sails, because the yacht is motorized.
During a raging storm, a dinner party begins. The restless passenger again expresses her anxiety, this time to the captain, about the dirty sails. Rich passengers are sick of pitching and spoiled food. The wait staff, to the very end, pretends that everything is in order, continuing to serve gourmet dishes and recommending something to eat to eliminate unpleasant sensations. Moreover, at the end of the dinner, under the guise of delicacies, almost waste from the kitchen is served – ordinary fish tails. Almost all passengers get sick. A child is crying, someone has heart problems. The wife of a Russian oligarch tries to eliminate nausea with champagne, but to no avail.
There are no visitors left in the restaurant, except for Captain Thomas and the Russian oligarch Dimitri. One is a Marxist, the other is a capitalist. Each pours quotes from great people, denouncing the ideology of the other. There is no conflict at the same time – both feel complete unity. Under the influence of booze, they lock themselves in the wheelhouse and continue the conversation already on the ship’s radio.
Thomas, criticizing the “shit seller” and “dirty capitalist pig” Dimitri, admits that he is no better either. He is a socialist who sees how the rich live at the expense of the poor, but he himself enjoys the abundance that he has inherited and does nothing to change the world.
The pitching continues, passengers suffer from vomiting and diarrhea, the saloon is flooded with sewage from the ship’s sewer. Paula and her assistant accidentally turn off the lights on the entire yacht.
Sharlby Dean played the role of Yaya, Harris Dickinson played the role of Carl. Frame from the film.
Thomas on the radio reads about the wars that the ruling classes start for their own gain, hiding behind patriotic slogans. At this time, a grenade of their production falls at the feet of an elderly couple of arms dealers and explodes – the work of pirates who swam up to the yacht.
After some time, a few surviving passengers find themselves on the island. One of them Dimitri sees a black stranger and suspects that he is a pirate. However, Paula confirms that it is Nelson, an engine room worker.
Part Three: “The Island”
Cleaning lady Abigail arrives on a lifeboat. At first, she obeys the boss Paula, but gradually takes the reins of government, appointing herself captain, since only she is able to make a fire and get food. The Russian oligarch tries to protest, quoting the Marxist slogan “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”, but to no avail. He and the other men also try to bribe Abigail with expensive items to secure a roof over their heads in a closed lifeboat, but that doesn’t work either. Matriarchy begins: women, led by a former cleaning lady, receive a privileged position, and men serve them.
Abigail bribes Carl with food and a roof over his head – now he sleeps with her.
Jarmo kills a donkey stuck in a thicket. During dinner, she is immortalized with a rock painting.
One morning, Yaya decides to go to the mountains to get a better view of the island from above. Abigail goes with her. On the way, women communicate. Yaya acknowledges the merits of Abigail – she really managed to establish a matriarchy.
Teresa suddenly sees a dealer in fake branded items and realizes that the shipwrecked are not alone on the island. The answer is found by Yaya and Abigail: on one part of the island, they find an elevator on the shore and understand that all this time they were not far from an elite resort. However, the former cleaning lady is in no hurry to meet civilization. She takes out a large rock and sneaks up on Yaya, intending to kill her. Yaya, without turning around, offers: “Will you work for me? Will you be my assistant?”
At the end, we see Carl running through the thicket, spewing curses.
Henrik Dorsin as Yarmo, Zlatko Buric as Dimitri, Jean-Christophe Folli as Nelson. Frame from the film.
The meaning of the film Triangle of Sadness
So, the director of Triangle of Sadness clearly did not try to put some kind of hidden meaning into the picture that would turn it upside down. The content of the film is dedicated to human society – and the viewer is constantly reminded of this. More precisely, we are talking specifically about the problem of inequality and, in fact, the impossibility of solving it at this stage of development. However, the meaning of individual episodes may slip away. Let’s do our analysis of the plot of Triangle of Sadness and give an explanation for some scenes.
The first episode with male models, which managed to break into memes, is intended to reflect several ideas that will be continued in the film: the hypocrisy of society (separate behavior for expensive and cheap brands), its desire to look better (the very form of models), the blurring of boundaries between men and women (reporter’s reflections on the profession of male models).
At the casting, Carl is advised to smooth out his “triangle of sadness” – this is a call to all viewers: you should not take everything further on the plot too seriously. There will be a description of the impartial sides of society, but, perhaps, there is nothing left but to accept them as they are.
The on-screen credits during a fashion show also allude to the topics being discussed. “All are equal” – the issue of inequality will be touched upon. “Act now”, “Love now” and “A new climate is coming to the world…” are the ripe need to change the world. “Cynicism imitates optimism” – and this seems to be what the director is busy with: he dissects urgent problems, while still expressing hope for a better future.
Frame from the film.
The relationship between Karl and Yaya shows how the boundaries between a man and a woman are almost completely erased. There is a substitution of roles that have been established for millennia. A woman earns more than a man and takes the status of the main breadwinner in the family. A man almost brings himself to hysterics in an attempt to achieve equality with the opposite sex. On the island, Karl will completely obey the strong Abigail and will sleep with her for food. It turns out that there has been a substitution of stereotypical gender roles, but the inequality is as it was, and is. The gap between different social groups is emphasized with the help of an elevator that constantly closes between Karl and Yaya.
On the yacht, the director jumps from the topic of inequality between men and women to the topic of inequality between rich and poor. Interestingly, Vera, a member of the power class, is trying to erase this boundary, forcing the attendants to have fun along with the passengers. But in fact, the workers on the yacht are simply following orders from above.
Members of the exploiting class take their position for granted. None of them think that they just profited from others. Even arms dealers perceive their activities as the most ordinary business, moreover, working “in the name of democracy around the world.” At the same time, they make an extremely cute look and sincerely care for each other, not for a second remembering the thousands of lives ruined with the help of their “products”. By the way, the names of these characters are clearly not accidental. That was the name of the Churchill spouses – prominent British politicians, among other things, ardent fighters against communism. Yes, and a lot of weapons are named after the same name – from rifles to tanks. It is symbolic that Winston and Clementine in the film die from their product.
However, socialists, communists and representatives of the lower strata also get from the director. Thomas himself says that he is not much different from the oligarch Dimitri – he lives in abundance and does not want to do anything. Note that Thomas is a captain and an American. Formally, it is he who directs the entire “society”, but in fact the yacht sails by itself – no one is watching it. In other words, no one controls the world for a long time. And this becomes one of the causes of the catastrophe in the form of a literal flood (first in sewage, and then in the ocean) and the end of the world (an episode with a power outage).
The role of Faith was played by Sunny Melles. Frame from the film.
Despite the deterioration of the situation, the rich still continue to stuff food and alcohol into themselves, and the servants indulge them, continuing to fawn. The point here is that the vicious system, which has long been outdated, works according to the knurled one, and its cogs often understand everything perfectly, but do not want to do anything. However, not all – the majority is simply tormented by a vague anxiety – “dirty sails”. One way or another, everyone cares only about their own lives, nobody cares about the fate of future generations (they are symbolized by a child crying in the midst of a “feast”).
Triangle of Sadness is also the allegorical name of the pyramid of human society, which the yacht represents. Above – the rich, in the middle – the middle class, below – the poor, hard workers, who are not even visible to the upper layers (an episode with Dimitri and Nelson).
After the catastrophe, the pyramid turns over: money no longer matters, the main resource is the skills and abilities associated with survival. It turns out that there is no collapse of the social system after a global upheaval: the same hierarchy is being built, but according to a different principle. The rich change places with the poor, the women with the men, but on the whole the system does not change. Even culture, although primitive, is being rebuilt (the episode with the rock art). Interestingly, in the new world, the representative of the United States died, the German woman is still dumb (is “in the clouds”), and the Asian Abigail takes power over representatives of other parts of the world.
In general, the meaning of each episode complements the essence of the film, which consists in stating the inequality of people among themselves and the impossibility of correcting it.
Sharlby Dean as Yaya, Dolly de Leon as Abigail, Vicki Berlin as Paula. Frame from the film.
Triangle of Sadness Ending explanation
The meaning of the ending of the film Triangle of Sadness may remain unclear, since the director chose to leave it open. But a simple cinematic rule works here: if the director did not show the development of events, then this is no longer important. The problem is considered, the characters played their role.
When it turns out that the island is not uninhabited at all, Abigail is in no hurry to go to the rescue. Because she doesn’t need it. The former cleaning lady is the mistress here and is at the top of the pyramid. Upon returning, you will have to return to the old way, where it will be at the very bottom. Therefore, Abigail decides to kill Yaya so that she does not tell the others about the discovery. However, she is not a killer and it is extremely difficult for her to take the next step.
In addition, the victim is bargaining – Yaya offers to become her assistant. Here, another theme of Triangle of Sadness is played out, which can be described as “Everyone is for sale”: each character, one way or another, sells himself for the sake of survival and a comfortable existence. There were no principled idealists either on the yacht or on the island. It can be assumed that Abigail will still accept Yaya’s offer – and not because of a reluctance to kill. Sooner or later, the shipwrecked will learn that they are not alone on the island. Teresa already knew about it. So salvation is a matter of time. And it’s foolish for Abigail to refuse Yaya’s offer.
Another part of the explanation for the ending has to do with how the director played with the heroes’ escape. It turns out that it was very close for a long time. It was only necessary to climb the mountain, look around and go from the other side. The following interpretation is possible here: the solution of even the global problems of mankind may turn out to be very close – you just need to stop marking time, discard selfishness and look at the situation more broadly. And here the director already expresses genuine optimism: the elevator is in front of the heroes – a chance to rise immediately to a great height.
And the last thing: where is Carl running? Most likely, he also found out about the whereabouts of the crashed people, and is in a hurry to tell Yaya about it. It could be assumed that he, not even guessing about the salvation, changed his mind and decided to return to her, despite his position. However, it is unlikely that such a drastic change took place in his mind. In a global sense, this run can be interpreted as the desire of mankind to break out of the vicious circle of oppression of some by others and reach a new level.
Frame from the film.
- Parasite (South Korea, 2019): a drama dedicated to class inequality and earned several Oscars at once;
- Don’t Look Up (USA, 2021): Hollywood satire on contemporary society;
- Survival Island (USA, UK, 2005): a sailor and two newlyweds survive after a shipwreck – a thriller about jealousy;
- Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (UK, 1983): A hardcore satire from a cult comedy troupe that has become a classic.