Triangle of Sadness
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Master of social discomfort Ruben Östlund trains his unsparing lens on the world of wealth, beauty, and privilege in this audacious, Palme d’Or–winning satire of our status-obsessed culture. A model-influencer couple (Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean) get a ticket to the luxe life when they’re invited aboard an all-expenses-paid cruise alongside a coterie of the rich and ghoulish—but an act of fate turns their Insta-perfect world upside down. Pushing each provocative set piece to its outré extreme, Östlund maps the shifting social hierarchies with the irreverence of a modern-day Luis Buñuel and the incisiveness of a cinematic anthropologist.
Ruben Östlund’s latest feature, Triangle of Sadness, receives a 4K UHD via The Criterion Collection on a triple-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The film is presented in 10-bit SDR 2160p/24hz. Criterion also includes a standard dual-layer Blu-ray disc that offers a 1080p high-definition presentation of the movie alongside all of the release’s special features.
The movie was shot digitally, and I would have to assume the master used for this presentation was sourced from the digital intermediate (the included insert doesn’t provide any notes on the source master). As such, it shouldn’t be too huge a shock to say the final presentation here looks great. The image is crisp and clean, with superior detail and vibrant colors. The encoding seems sharp, and I didn’t detect any notable digital anomalies. The blending of reds and blacks that occur in a few darker sequences even come out looking clean, unlike the Blu-ray, which has trouble in this area. Finer details also look sharper here, best shown in the pebbles on the beach in the last portion of the film. In this area, it delivers a modest improvement over the Blu-ray, though admittedly not too significant of one.
Despite the lack of HDR (which I suspect was Östlund’s choice, though I cannot confirm), the range present in brighter sequences and the earlier darker ones appears relatively wide with decent shadows. Things get a little iffy once the setting changes to the island in the film’s last portion. There are many nighttime sequences with (usually) a singular light source, and the black levels, which were otherwise rich and inky previously, can look murkier and flat, leading to limited depth and shadow detail. I suspect some of this is baked into the original digital photography.
Still, little discrepancies aside, the presentation looks reasonably solid.
The film comes with a 5.1 surround soundtrack presented in DTS-HD MA. The mix is pretty creative and gets periodically aggressive regarding surround activity. There’s usually always something mixed to the rear speakers, whether it’s music being played in the background (the opening catwalk, the restaurant, the various ship activities, etc.) or other sounds within the environment (waves crashing on a beach). There are then a handful of standout moments where all the channels and the lower frequency are used to significant effect, including the film’s “centerpiece” involving a storm rocking a yacht during a dinner that isn’t going too well (to say the least) or a much later moment where a storm can be heard outside an enclosed lifeboat. The viewer is placed right in the center of it, including the unpleasant noises at that dinner.
Volume and range are also superb, with a few thunderous moments, and the dialogue sounds sharp and clean with excellent fidelity. All in all, it’s an impressive audio presentation.
All supplements are found on the included standard dual-layer Blu-ray.
The features aren’t plentiful though what is provided is at least interesting. Exclusive to this release is a new discussion between director Ruben Östlund and actor Johan Jonason. With a runtime of only 19 minutes, it’s not in-depth. Still, Östlund talks about his inspirations and explains how he develops a film, usually built off a single conflict (like the avalanche in Force Majeure), and then examine how his characters will react and build from that. For Triangle of Sadness, it sounds as though he may have started with the idea of a modern “branded” couple leading to him taking aim at social hierarchies and how they shift when his characters are placed in particular situations, which of course becomes blatantly evident in the film’s last act/part. This then leads to some discussion around what the two call the film’s “pitchable” scene, the phrase referring to a scene that is usually discussed heavily after audiences see one of his films; the avalanche in Force Majeure, the monkey performance (or whatever that can be classified as) in The Square, and then the “dinner” scene in Triangle of Sadness. Altogether it’s an engaging and frank discussion, though I was a little surprised there wasn’t more about the film’s cast, with Harrelson receiving the only notable mention. Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean (who sadly passed away shortly after the film’s release) don’t come up.
Alas, the cast doesn’t come up anywhere else, either. There are two production featurettes, Erik, the Extra, and a visual effects demonstration. Erik focuses on producer Erik Hemmendorff and his work as an extra on the film. Hemmendorff plays the poor soul who gets blasted in the yacht stairwell by a river of waste, and this 15-minute piece provides a look at the rehearsals leading up to the final shot. Amusingly, during rehearsals, Hemmendorff keeps faking his reaction to being hit by the waste, which Östlund repeatedly insists he not do. When the final scene is shot, it becomes obvious why the filmmaker was adamant about him (literally) going with the flow.
It's an amusing little piece that provides an idea of the atmosphere on set, if not perceptive. The visual effects demonstration, on the other hand—and despite its short runtime of just over 6 minutes—proves to be the most fascinating feature here. Clearly, there are CGI and practical effects in the film, but there is a lot of invisible, subtle CGI work in the movie that is not obvious in any way. This quickly edited montage of before-and-after footage gives a sampling of everything, which is apparently (according to the opening title) 83% of the images in the film. This ranges from adding floatation devices on the central yacht or adjusting the lighting and colors of a scene to editing out crew reflections in glass and cleaning up backgrounds. It even goes further when it comes to editing, including long takes or multiple takes being sewn together into what appear to be single continuous takes, cuts being removed, repositioning actors in a shot, using performances from different takes and combining them in one, or even modifying facial expressions. They even adjusted eye levels or glances. And that dog that appeared during the opening rehearsal sequence? Yep, that dog was added in. This is nothing new, with many directors, including David Fincher and Bong Joon-ho (Criterion’s Parasite has a comparable feature), famously doing similar things. However, it still never fails to amaze me how far the technology has come and how seamless it can all be.
The disc concludes with Neon’s American theatrical trailer and six deleted scenes running under 13 minutes. There are a couple of interesting moments, including an extended version of that night vision scene on the beach. An entire subplot around an engagement ring was also excised. The sequences are interesting, but I don’t think they would have added much to the movie.
The included insert features an essay on the film by author A.S. Hamrah, who tackles the film’s skewing of its assortment of characters and how the film reflects today. It’s a fine enough essay, but it doesn’t make up for the lack of academic material on the disc. In the end, the supplements are worth going through, but it’s the type of material any other studio disc would have probably featured as well.
Criterion’s 4K presentation looks very sharp, with an excellent soundtrack to match. However, the features leave much to be desired.