Triangle (2009) is an example of what the ‘twist’ genre should emulate. It is seamless. All loose ends are tied up by the final scene. The lead character, Jess (Melissa George) is understated but well played. The audience can’t anticipate the twists because many are constructed by camera angles, specific dialogue and what may at first seem unimportant. Watching Triangle a second time may cause a-ha! moments when we see these storytelling mechanisms as foreshadowing. Every shot that may have felt odd is explained either visually or through slowly unraveling plot elements.
Loosely linked to the mythological tale of Sisyphus, the theme here is one we’ve seen a million times. Humans will never be able to cheat death. The difference between the million other films tackling this idea, and writer-director Christopher Smith’s Triangle, is that the latter is tight. There are almost no filler scenes. Every shot; every piece of dialogue, every hesitation, every flashback has its place. Even Jess’s annoying cohort’s snarky quips about Jess being a troublemaker (okay, female dog, really), are pertinent. This makes the theme more relatable, as it unfolds carefully and pointedly. There’s no outlandish hair and makeup or wardrobe, no flashy sets. Everyone looks like average people on an average yacht, thrown rather suddenly into a science-fiction string of events and scenery. This unexpected change of mood only lasts a moment, and then the viewer is brought back to a relatable day at sea without goblins, ghoulies or unexplainable explosive weather.
Triangle is in fact the name of a sailboat that leads Jess and her co-passengers into a creepy deja-vu of repeated violent events. Triangle‘s skipper tells Jess “You can’t be everywhere all the time.” The comment is rather cheeky once we realize it foreshadows the very notion of Jess being, well – everywhere at once. Is it the past? The future? Has Jess stepped into a warped time-space continuum? One might say that it’s all of the above. Jess, meet Jess. And the Jesses face off, multiple times with slight variations. There are hints of Maya Deren in the repetitive camera views, certain close-ups on Jess’s hands, and her interaction with décor or props. Triangle is not an oneiric film but definitely shares such elements. Certain scenes are quite dreamlike, and may remind audiences of Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, or At Land. Like Meshes, Triangle uses mirrors (often segmented or broken) to hint at the fragmentation and reflection of time and the Self. Jess is losing it. Or is she? She sometimes stares at herself in the mirrors. Other times she is oblivious, and only the viewer notices how her form glides through the reflective surfaces. The character is both aware and unaware of her existence and the predicament she is in. She is both here and there, and everywhere and nowhere.
One could analyze Triangle as a study about the paranoia of motherhood and relationships. Or we could take it at face value as psychological thriller about clones attacking themselves in some alternate reality. In this way, Christopher Smith’s oeuvre may remind some viewers of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Jack Nicholson loses himself to a creepy hotel which causes him a paranoid crisis. Or was he unstable to begin with? Nicholson is to Jess what The Shining‘s hotel is to Triangle‘s Aeolus (the vessel that rescues Triangle‘s passengers). There are eerily similar scenes in both films. Triangle‘s characters walk into empty ship cabins looking for clues, just as Nicholson wanders into clue-giving hotel rooms. There is even a brilliant nod to Kubrick’s ballroom sequence, where Jess observes obscenely rotten food at the Aeolus’s ballroom buffet table.
To look at Smith’s creation without noting its deeper storyline would cheat the director of deserved praise. Due to the ‘twist’ nature of Triangle, it is difficult to critique or describe it fully without giving spoilers. Let’s just say that there is something more than comparisons to other films, or psychological profiling of the central character. These are the surface plot elements, but those that are more meaningful are worth discovering by watching the film. In a sense, Triangle is not what it may seem if only based on this review. It comes full circle by raising a more dubious question. Is the Aolus an evil ship that kidnaps innocent people, or is it the entity that controls Jess’s entire world?
In one of the final scenes, the camera pans across a high school marching band. The logo on the drum skin reads AO. That is a hint. To elaborate, especially about humans trying to cheat death, would ruin the entire viewing experience of a completely underrated piece of Cinema.
(Please note, Cinetalk.net did not include a link to the Official Trailer because it gives away too much about the plot twists)