Updated: May 22, 2022 9:46:48 am
Can you remove that triangle of sadness from your face? A model co-ordinator flings this question at an aspirant as soon as the movie begins, setting its tone. There are no soft edges in Ruben Ostlund’s brilliant, black satire “Triangle Of Sadness”, and its sharp lines go deep.
That “triangle” is your basic frown, which turns your face into an inverted triangle, drawing ridged lines down the side of your nose, and mouth. It makes you look old and disagreeable, but if you belong to a certain set, you know that you can Botox that triangle out of existence, at least for a while. Once the effect of the injection disappears, wham, it is back.
Ostlund wastes no time in sending up literally everything — capitalists, socialists, communists, and everyone who is convinced that everything has a price. He also throws in the multi-million dollar beauty industry, and the global obsession with upping your social media profile. If you don’t have cash, the numbers of your followers become your currency.
The very sleek Yaya (Charlbie Dean), and her boyfriend Carl ( Harris Dickinson) who’s just come off a modelling audition, squabble over the dinner cheque. You want me to pay because I make more than you do, she says. It’s not about the money, he says. It’s about being equals.
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This is one of the big concerns in Ostlund’s cinema. The last time he trained his lens acutely on differences and hypocrisies in “The Square” (2017), he won the top prize at Cannes.
“Triangle Of Sadness” takes it to the next level, and bids fair to win big too. This good-looking couple with a sheen only youth can give off, is transplanted from a hotel room they have got gratis ( she is an influencer, creating constant Instagrammable moments) to a suite on a luxury yatch, which again they aren’t paying for. But they are surrounded by some of the wealthiest people on the planet.
Everyone at those ultra rich tables — a Russian who sells fertiliser, a middle-aged couple who manufactures arms ( the things that keep democracy going, as he puts it with a fat smirk), a guy who is so rich that he is rolling in Rolexes — has everything money can buy, but no money can save you from a shipwreck. The ship’s Marxist captain ( Woody Harrelson, terrific) is convinced that the world’s woes can be drowned in booze — after a pirate attack, he is seen no more.
While you are wincing at all the savage send-ups, you can see the film is slyly referencing the very sentimental “Titanic” ( in a great upstairs-downstairs moment, a rich woman orders all the staff to go for a swim, and there’s nothing that the buttoned-down woman who is in charge, can do about it). You also get a strong “Lord Of The Flies” whiff when a bunch of these guys fetch up at an island, and are whipped into shape by a woman whom they wouldn’t even have recognised : the ‘toilet manager’ of the cruise turns into a ‘captain’ who knows how to light a fire, catch fish, and feed them.
What happens to humans when they are stranded and starving? What happens when social order is upended? All rules go out of the window. Ostlund’s film is a cautionary tale in a world slowly going under, and it tells us to wake up, and not reach out for the Botox.
A story from Egypt
“Boy From Heaven”, by Swedish-Egyptian director, Tarik Saleh, is story of men and morals, religion and faith, belief and betrayal. In a small town in Egypt, a fisherman’s son is selected for higher Islamic studies. But when Adam (Tawfeek Barhom) reaches the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, he finds himself getting involved in intrigue and low-level espionage. Saleh’s film comes off as a serviceable spy thriller in which impressionable students are targetted by spymasters, blind imams stand steady in their beliefs, and power is bartered between religious heads and state-sponsored agents. The film is also about masculinity, and the pressures that are brought to bear upon young men to perform, and prove themselves constantly. “So many men stuffed together in one place, of course it will turn toxic”, said Saleh at a press conference. “The idea is to find a balance between all the opposing elements”.
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