2022 has been a peak year for cinephiles. After the “word that cannot be mentioned’, it seems the industry has upped its game and brought out some wonderful gems in the last year that can define a new generation of cinema. Satirical comedies about social classes, race, etc., seem to be the go-to pick for many directors, and it’s an incredible experience to see such creative manifestations of everyday experiences on the big screen. The “Triangle of Sadness” happens to be one of the most appreciated films of 2022, and for a good reason. A unique drama that makes you laugh, want to heave, and simultaneously feel existential; it’s a genuine contender for one of the best films of 2022. Of course, over the decades, the definition of a good movie has changed drastically, and today character-driven movies are all the rage, even amidst all the superhero movies (Martin Scorsese can be proud again). Let’s explore some of the botoxed, influential, and politically charged characters of the “Triangle of Sadness.”
Carl- The Suck Up
Carl is a young and budding model introduced to us as the primary character of the film right at the start. He begins at a casting call where he is shirtless amongst a dozen other shirtless models in a scene that a fashion enthusiast may consider striking. As he enters the room and performs his walk, the casting director asks him to “relax his triangle of sadness,” giving us a meaning for the title of the film. The focal spot between one’s eyebrows usually helps display one’s feelings clearly. Carl is young and handsome model at an early twilight in his career and is dating a beautiful young woman, Yaya (RIP Charlbi Dean Kriek), who is a more experienced model in the industry and a social media influencer. “Triangle of Sadness” works on the simple principle of hierarchy. It is clear that Carl, the lowlife model, is at the bottom of that hierarchy in the fashion industry because when he attends a fashion show where his girlfriend Yaya is walking the ramp, he is pushed out of his front-row seat due to the arrival of some VIP guests and is sent to the back row. When Carl and Yaya go for dinner at a fancy restaurant, he gets irritated that she doesn’t pay the bill. While he knows that she earns more money than him and that he can’t afford these fancy dinners, he hides behind the idea that women and men should be treated equally, so Yaya should pay for the dinner that she offers him. Carl is a performative activist, as through the film, we see his thoughts change from one idea to the next under the influence of other factors. For example, when Yaya smiles at a male crew member on the ship, he starts to question her for smiling at the hot crew member. He immediately goes to the ship’s staff and lets them know that there is a shirtless crew member on the deck. Until the crew member gets fired, he isn’t concerned at all about what he’s done, only realizing that that small moment of his jealousy has caused someone to lose his job. While Carl starts at the bottom rank on the yacht, he is a guest, even if it is something he received for free, and moves up a rank. Then, on the island, as he starts physical relations with Abigail, who on the island is the captain, he reaches the top of the hierarchy. Carl would do anything to survive, but his social appearance also matters a great deal to him. If we consider how he wanted to be in a relationship with Abigail after the rest of the islanders started making fun of him for being in the lifeboat with her, Carl represents every youngster today who wants to make a name for himself but, in the end, disappears into the murmurs of the crowd.
Yaya, The Survivor
Yaya is an established fashion model and an influencer. When Carl and Yaya fight about the money, she claims she doesn’t worry herself with money conversations because they are “unsexy.” While Carl is eager to be free from gender-conforming roles, Yaya tells him that she worries that her career will end soon and that the only thing she can do to maintain her lifestyle is be a trophy wife. She understands the limitations of her career and wants to make sure she’s taken care of in the future, so she manipulates Carl into paying for her. She also tells Carl that this relationship is merely transactional because it looks good for her social media status and, in the same fashion as Carl, helps her up the social ladder. They’re both well off, but they both worry about trivial things. Yaya is content with the position she is in and appreciates that her beauty will not last forever. Her only ulterior goal is to make as much money as she can when she’s young so she can survive, even if her beauty is taken away by age. On the island, it is very clear that Yaya has no say because she immediately gets bite marks on her face, essentially un-beautifying her. Yaya moves from the top to the bottom of the pyramid as her beauty can’t help her with anything on the island. Yaya accepts her beauty privilege, which allows her certain rights that other people who are unconventionally beautiful aren’t allowed. For example, she gets a free trip on the yacht, and while there, she takes pictures of pasta that she won’t eat because she’s gluten-free just because she can. On the island, Yaya learns to adapt and help Abigail as much as she can. In the end, when she finds a resort, she is thrilled because she can finally get off the island. She rejoices as she tells Abigail and hugs her tight. Yaya is considerate because she realizes Abigail’s fears of moving away from the island and suggests she could come work for Yaya after all this. Yaya believes she has formed a bond with Abigail, and even though Carl betrayed her, she still trusts Abigail and understands her position.
Abigail is a character who is introduced to us in the third act of the film. She is a toilet cleaner on the yacht but ends up escaping on the lifeboat. She’s the only person on the island who is able to survive the harsh environments. It is clear that she has roughed it before, being able to catch fish, start fires, and cooks with whatever is available around them the exact luxurious meal served to the guests on the cruise during the captain’s dinner. Abigail understands the power she holds on the island and clearly tells her fellow islanders that she is the captain because she gets the food. It is certainly a bold move by her, but she is able to use the food that she prepares for everyone as leverage to make herself captain. The few survivors of the ship believe they will be found because of their “influence,” but Abigail is all alone out in the “real world.” She is absolutely content on the island, where she can rule. On the island, she gets the handsome young man too. Abigail understands that her relationship with Carl is purely transactional, but when Carl suggests they put their relationship out in public, she is reluctant because everyone around would never believe that they are actually together. In the end, Abigail considers killing Yaya because she doesn’t want to move away from the island, where she is at the top of the pyramid. We don’t know if she actually did it, but presuming her character, Yaya’s words probably persuaded her to keep her alive.
Dimitri is the resident rich Russian on the yacht. He voices his capitalist ideologies and revels in quoting political jokes in front of everyone. Unimaginable riches don’t stop a man from being greedy. On the yacht after a violent storm, Dimitri, along with the drunk Captain, uses the microphone to announce an emergency, causing the already unwell passengers to panic even further. Dimitri’s wife, Vera, is a wannabe philanthropist and suggests that the entire crew take a swim in the middle of the day because she wants them to. Dimitri can just buy the yacht if anything goes wrong with the crew. Dimitri also has a mistress, and neither his wife nor his mistress make it to the island after the disastrous night. Dimitri remains unbothered by this, though; he still boasts about his riches and offers Abigail money when they’re off the island to give him more food. On the second day on the island, when Dimitri finds a dead Vera on the shore of the water, he chooses to remove her jewelry, unbothered by the last hours of suffering. On the island, Dimitri trusts he is still powerful with the thought of returning to his money. He continues to enjoy himself there with Jorma and makes fun of Carl, who is doing his best to keep himself and Yaya in good hands. It is true that the second Dimitri arrives at the resort (which they would eventually find even if Yaya was killed by Abigail), he will be able to survive everything with his money and power.
Jorma- Moneybags 2.0
Jorma finds himself unexpectedly alone on the yacht. With his sob story, he introduces himself to the beautiful girls Yaya and Ludmilla (Dimitri’s mistress), asking them to take his picture. Ludmilla, being “generous,” suggests he take a picture with the two girls, and they do. Jorma then offers to buy the two ladies’ Rado watches because he’s filthy rich. Jorma is not very different from Dimitri on the island. He is the one who ends up killing the donkey on the island, giving him his one moment of fame. After doing so, they celebrate with alcohol, and he even wears his suit as if it is the biggest triumph, killing a poor, harmless donkey.
Captain- Drowning In Alcohol
The captain of the yacht makes a small but powerful appearance. An idealistic man who is aware of his exact position. When he and Dimitri have their alcohol-fueled debate on capitalism and communism, he is unbothered by the fact that the ship is in great danger and the passengers are all uneasy (an extremely difficult sequence of scenes to digest). Instead of reassuring the passengers, he chooses to announce his love for Karl Marx and to express his personal thoughts to the heavily sick and panicky passengers. In his conversation with Dimitri, he mentions how he is a failed socialist because he has a lot in comparison to his crew. A comfortable position to express such thoughts from. Finally, he doesn’t show up on the island, probably captured by the pirates or dead from the attack.
“Triangle of Sadness” thrives on its Schadenfreude. But even with its uneasy viewing experience, it manages to be deeply rooted in the realities of today, keeping you thinking for days.