“Without filter”, cruising is no longer fun



Without filter **

by Ruben Ostlund

Swedish film, 2 h 22

First, let’s enlighten the reader. The original title, Triangle of Sadness (“the triangle of sadness”) means in Swedish the wrinkle of concern, lodged on the forehead at the junction between the eyebrows. It’s a shame that the French distributors converted it to Without filtermore banal, which nevertheless has the advantage of indicating the delirium of this tragicomedy, most of which takes place during the hectic time of a luxury cruise.

Ruben Östlund, its director, is now known as a cinema dynamiter. He aligns, film after film, disturbing themes that he treats provocatively to reveal and underline the faults of his contemporaries. With anthology scenes, unforgettable and already classic. The avalanche, in opening, of Snow Therapy ; the gorilla-man threatening on the tables of a gala dinner in The Square and, this time, a romantic meal between two influencer models that turns sour over hilarious questions of money, and their exchange on male precedence and the demand for equality for women.

Pulverization of contemporary cynicism

From the outset, the filmmaker pulverizes the codes of fashion and the new humanitaro-ecological vulgate with which the big brands perfume themselves, in a fit of cynicism and hypocrisy that the film pinpoints with a joyful verve. After the parade, the two models have dinner together. At the time of the addition, everything goes wrong, revealing ulterior motives that are less than brilliant against a background of exacerbated narcissism, encouraged by the permanent use of social networks. These two handsome guys keep taking pictures of themselves and posting the insignificant episodes of their futile lives.

Reward for their vacuity, they are the star guests of a luxury cruise, confronted with class differences, indisposed to have to rub shoulders with employees on the same deck as them. To share their sunny feasts, a few representative passengers: a vulgar and macho Russian, a couple of old Englishmen who made their fortune selling weapons. And an alcoholic and Marxist captain who stubbornly refuses to leave his cabin, even when a storm is looming, on the evening of the gala dinner which he does not intend to honor with his presence, too drunk to steer the ship and unwilling to hang out with customers he can no longer see in painting. Cruising is no longer fun. She goes down the drain.

All these adventures take up two thirds of the film. It is a firework of comical, grating, hilarious situations, pushed to the extreme with a refinement of staging, more effective than the heavy cavalry, to bring out the grotesque postures, the fragility of the veneer of civilization which cracks very quickly, letting loose a form of natural savagery, obviously disturbing, already perceptible by many small details.

A second Palme d’Or

But Ruben Östlund is engulfed in the general catastrophe and, like his characters, abandons his good manners to wallow in the scatological, repeating ad nauseam unsavory figures of speech. The last part of the film, on an island, reversal of perspective and triumph of the class struggle, drags on. After the game of massacre, the prodigy of Swedish cinema lets go and unbalances his film with too much support, as if the inspiration was drying up.

Nevertheless, in spite of these few reservations, his vitriolic demonstration, served by an elegant staging to hide the sordid, seduced the jury of the Cannes Film Festival which awarded him a second Palme d’or, five years after the premiere for The Square. A few weeks later, the main actress, Charlbi Dean, South African model, whose first role in the cinema, died, at the age of 32, of a mysterious illness in a New York hospital in the heart of the summer. Lightning flash of a shooting star…

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A film prodigy

1974. Birth of Ruben Östlund in Sweden.

Studies at the University of Gothenburg.

2005. The Guitar Mongoloid.International Critics Prize at the Moscow Festival.

2008. Happy Sweden. Selected at the Cannes Film Festival (“Un certain regard”)

2010. Bank incident. Short film, Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

2011. Play.Selected at Cannes (Directors’ Fortnight).

2014. Snow Therapy. Jury Prize “Un certain regard”.

2017. The Square. Palme d’Or.

2022. Without filter. Palme d’Or.

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