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Triangle of Sadness Ending Explained: The Permanence of Social Structures

Triangle of Sadness, written and directed by Ruben Östlund, centres around the lives of several wealthy individuals who become stranded on a desert island after a luxury yacht descends into chaos.

Read on to unlock the hidden meaning behind the Triangle of Sadness ending.

As the survivors’ resources dwindle, they are forced to submit to a new power structure that develops within their isolated society.

The film’s ending presents an ironic twist as it transpires that there is a luxury resort on the other side of the island before the final image shows one of the characters sprinting through the jungle.

Triangle of Sadness Ending: A Subversion of Social Hierarchies

On the desert island, the toilet manager from the luxury yacht, Abigail, transpires to be the only group member with the knowledge to survive.

Amongst the useless guests, she’s able to catch octopus, build a fire and cook their food.

As a result, Abigail swiftly becomes the sole owner of the means of production and puts her in a position of power over her counterparts.

Östlund uses this idea to point toward the fragility of social hierarchies and the extent to which they are a human construct based on the environment around us.

Triangle of Sadness Ending Explained - guests on island

The Desert Island: A New Social Order

Abigail’s first suggestion as leader points towards the new direction towards a matriarchal society.

The dissolution of the old social order is perfectly embodied in the first time that Paula relinquishes her role as the Stewardess and guardian of her guests.

She mocks the Russian billionaire Dmitry to “get some nutella” when he asks what he can do to help, which harks back to a previously outrageous request of his to have a personal Nutella supply dropped by helicopter to the yacht. 

Abigail’s Reign: A Communist Dictatorship

During their time on the desert island, Abigail uses Carl for sexual favours in exchange for pretzel sticks, much to the amusement of the other men on the island.

Östlund uses this sense of exploitation to express a very poignant point that is once again relevant to the story’s theme.

Abigail has assumed the sole political power based on her manipulation of scarcity, and in doing so, she has become the essence of a Communist dictator. In other words, her position of power immediately corrupts her.

This is a very smart comment that despite the nature of the social hierarchies, all politics is ultimately immersed in corruption.

Triangle of Sadness Ending Explained Abigail

The Discovery: A Not So ‘Desert Island’

When Abigail and Yaya go for a hike to explore the other side of the island, Yaya makes the startling discovery of a luxury holiday resort.

At this moment, Abigail immediately slumps to the ground and sits, shoulders hunched. Östlund uses her body language to generate the subtext that she knows her reign in power has come to an end.

Yaya runs to embrace Abigail, again pointing to a sudden subversion in the power dynamics, as she cradles Abigail’s head like a child.

Abigail’s Dilemma: To Kill or Not To Kill

Whilst Yaya’s back is turned, Abigail grabs a rock and holds it above Yaya’s head, with a menacing look pasted over her face.

This is an interesting reflection on the idea that the only way for a suppressed minority to maintain its dominance in a biased system is through the use of violence and physical force. 

Triangle of Sadness Ending Explained Abigail Yaya

Triangle of Sadness Ending: Analysing the Final Shot

The very final shot in Triangle of Sadness ending is a point of contention for many viewers, as it depicts Carl running through the jungle in a state of panic.

One possible interpretation of this ending is that Carl is running to reunite with Yaya, with whom he’s grown apart after spending so much time with Abigail.

Ruben Östlund’s initial intention was that Carl has anticipated the danger of Yaya being alone with Abigail after also realising that they are not alone on the island. 

However, another interpretation is that Carl is running to Yaya in an effort to retain his drifting masculinity, which would take the movie in a full thematic circle, back to its opening scene at the restaurant.

Although this wasn’t Östlund’s original idea, he has himself stated his approval towards the interpretation.

For a deep dive into the Triangle of Sadness ending, and to learn how this is contextualised by the movie’s relationship between character and theme, click the button below to watch my video essay on the screenplay.

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Nick Fore Script Doctor / Script Consultant

Nick Fore is an experienced script consultant who reads screenplays for the British Film Institute.

He has written comprehensive coverage on over 1,000 scripts and has helped screenwriters get their work into development with production companies such as Imagine Entertainment and Screen Ireland. 

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