The screams of joy and horror that greeted Ruben Östlund’s latest film Triangle of Sadness are a sign of the award-winning Swedish director’s success, he said on Sunday after the film’s premiere in Cannes. Östlund explained that he wanted to create a “roller coaster experience” for adults.
“People applauded like it was a football game,” Östlund said.
Ostlund, best known for his 2014 alpine drama Force Majeure, which was remade in English two years ago as Downhill, may well have managed the status of young British star Harris with this new film to establish Dickinson. Dickinson, 25, from Leytonstone, east London, carries much of the narrative of a film which also includes copious amounts of vomit and diarrhea – yet has earned the longest audience ovation of the festival so far (eight minutes).
In the role of a male model, Carl, who is in a relationship with a supermodel influencer, Dickinson said he had to allow himself to be treated as a “piece of meat” in the drama, but joked he would have gladly accepted the part Donkey, an animal that gets a sticky end in the film, that’s how interested he was in working on the project.
With a title that references a model’s unwelcome frown, Triangle of Sadness is a vicious satirical assault on the distorted but perhaps inevitable social power of beauty and wealth. Östlund described the film’s original tone as a story that “starts in the fashion world, leads to a luxury yacht and ends on an island, and in which we’ll see the models use their looks as currency throughout.” It will be the end of western civilization.”
As a shock effect, Triangle of Sadness may have forestalled the thunder of David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future, which premieres in Cannes on Monday and for which the director has already predicted audience strikes.
Östlund, 48, from Gothenburg, who won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for his art-world satire The Square, acknowledged his latest film has disappointed some critics with its broad humor and deliberately bad taste, but said he was pleased the reactions of the audience .
“At the premiere and during our test screenings outside of the cities, for example in the Spanish countryside, there was a lot of laughing and screaming. We urban Europeans are not a good audience. We sit with crossed arms. My goal had been to play it like an adult roller coaster, to use the cinema for what it was meant to be used for. Not for smart watching.”
The director added that he aims to blend the European cinematic tradition of “saying something about society” with the prolific American habit of making films driven by the need to connect with audiences please and make money.
Some critics have hailed it as one of the festival’s best films to date.
Östlund’s actors, including Woody Harrelson as the drunken Marxist yacht captain, were all asked to improvise and regularly endure 25 takes for each take.
Harrelson, 60, who attended the Cannes premiere, said he didn’t identify closely with the role he played because the character, while a Marxist, is an anarchist. Then he hazarded his own risqué joke, inspired by President George W. Bush’s recent gaffe about the Russian invasion of Ukraine: “I’m the guy who thinks it’s despicable when a country, a country with all this military, is a superpower , attacks I just got a county like Ira…Afghanistan…Vietnam…No sorry got lost there.”
But the American star gushed about working with Östlund on the film.
“He can make you extremely uncomfortable and make you think. He consistently makes you laugh, which is perhaps more important, which is quite a ruse. I’ll be in his next movie whether he wants me or not. It was a revitalizing experience, one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
Ostlund said he decided to research the fashion industry because of conversations with his wife, who is a fashion photographer, and his interest in how fashion commercializes the human instinct to find safety in the looks of the herd.
Dickinson said he felt his character in the film had a knowing role to play in this economy: “He knows exactly where he stands and he uses his looks to his advantage. Ruben makes incredibly perceptive observations about human behavior and pokes holes in all of our egos. I had to allow myself to be pathetic and offer myself as a piece of meat. That works and gets Karl ahead.”