Note: Sorry about the weird placement of my entries. I finally fixed my posting issues.
Triangle, to me, is about a woman’s descent into madness, only for her to realize that she never had far to go. The film realizes its capacity for tediousness and tries to compensate for it by creatively blindsiding us at every turn. It unravels the story bit-by-bit, trapping us in a mystery that leaves us with more questions than when we started. But the real question here is… does Triangle count as horror? I think the answer lies in the psychology of the story as one of fate vs. choice and in whether those two things should be seen as entirely separate entities or as “two sides of the same coin”. Are the murders (and Jess’ subsequent acceptance of this state of things) the frightening part of the movie, or does the true horror lie in the way things so quickly spiral out of her control?
Stephen King is well known for the phrase “Hell is repetition” and, in this case, I would have to agree. The repetition here could be seen as punishment, as a way for Jess or fate or death or whatever to punish her for abusing her son. Or, as David Chen thinks, her punishment for trying to escape or renege on her deal with death. But is this repetition a result of Jess’ conscious choices or are her so-called choices just the inevitable byproduct of a greater, supernatural force that can cause sudden storms, time breakage, and a mysterious unmanned ship to come floating out of nowhere?
While I’m no stranger to the misogynistic side of the horror genre, I think Triangle exemplifies one of the twists commonly seen in modern horror stories: it is never kind to the woman but it doesn’t quite underestimate her either. Perhaps driven by the idea that women are the more “intuitive” of the two sexes, the woman is typically the first person who becomes aware of the true state of the world. She hears a bump in the night and thinks, rightly in these situations, of ghosts and ghouls instead of trees and floors creaking from age. In this case, Jess is the only one sensitive to the supernatural circumstances (though hers is a special case as she is directly causing the circumstances herself.) She rages against it in an effort to free herself but, in the process, gets further entwined in it. Just as we all are in one way or another, she’s trapped in her choices and in the fact that she must continue to make hard, frightening decisions to get back to her son.
I’m of the mind that, throughout the movie, Jess is already dead. There is nothing to be done about her situation and all she’s doing is reliving her own brand of hell, punishing herself over and over again in a Sisyphean attempt to atone for her abuse and get back to her son. Whether it’s an active or passive choice on her part is debatable but all actions and consequences seem to directly come from her. This brings to mind the idea of karmic retribution, but also somehow muddies the waters even more. If the “final” Jess, by choosing to board the boat and murder her companions, is making an active, independent choice how is it that she is then creating an inevitable fate-like situation for herself in the process? Are the choices just a part of fate or do said choices actually “create” fate? It’s a bit of a chicken/egg scenario.
I explored the mythos of the story, hoping that it would lead me to a better understanding of these themes but I either missed the fine print or expected too much from the movie’s biggest underlying metaphor. Having evoked the names Aeolus and Sisyphus, I expected to find something there that could help tie together all the movie’s internalized craziness. I’m still not sure if it was right of me to expect something. Aeolus was clearly a reference to the Jess character: three separate but interconnected personas, the lines between each blurring depending on the interpretation. Sisyphus, of course, refers to the never-ending nature of her struggle but comes with it the entire back-story of the arrogant King Sisyphus who tried to defy death. But when it comes to questions (and, more importantly, answers) about fate and choice, I’ve found no help from that quarter.
Like the movie itself, I don’t think there’s a good, solid answer for any these questions. I’m inclined to think of Triangle as a tale about the inevitability of fate and, thus, claim it for the horror genre. There is nothing scarier to me than losing the illusion of choice. But maybe the movie is just a metaphor for depression and self-hate… or maybe I just have a bad habit of trying to find metaphors in everything. Who really knows at this point.