Why a Catchy Dance Song About Pandemic Lockdowns Appears in ‘Triangle of Sadness’

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Spoiler: This article mentions the last scene of “Triangle of Sadness”

While in the post-production phase on his wild comedy “Triangle of Sadness,” director Ruben Östlund needed to find a song. In his previous films like “Force Majeure” and “The Square,” Östlund’s soundtrack cuts have included original score, classical composers like Vivaldi and contemporary musicians such as Bobby McFerrin.

Set mainly on a luxury yacht and a desert island, “Triangle of Sadness” is about the lives of two fashion models (Charlbi Dean and Harris Dickinson). And though making the movie required a long pause in production due to COVID (and then over a thousand rapid tests on set when filming restarted), there is no overt reference to the pandemic in the movie — except in the lyrics of the song we hear in the film’s final scene.

“I have a friend I often call when I need a suggestion for a song,” Östlund explained to TheWrap. “He’s great because he recommends songs to me that I just love. I’m talking about those kinds of songs that the first time you hear them, you just fall in love with the music and you can’t get it out of your head.”

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Östlund explained the plot of “Triangle of Sadness” to his friend and described the vibe he was looking to capture.

“The location at the end of the film is a reference to a club in Saint-Tropez called Nikki Beach. And I told him it was a place where everybody is rich and glamorous with champagne bottles in their hands, and I needed music that would first be heard coming in a very inviting way as elevator doors open,” he explained. “There is a character of a successful female fashion model in the film, and this would be a place where she would feel very comfortable.”

Östlund’s friend thought for a moments. “And then he asked me if I’d heard of ‘We’ve Lost Dancing,'” the director said.

The insanely catchy tune – its full title is “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)” – was released in February of 2021, about a year into the coronavirus pandemic. A celebration of the things that were taken for granted during the COVID lockdown (such as “hugs with friends,” “people that we loved” and, of course, “dancing”), the song is the work of British DJ and producer and Fred Again, who sampled a Zoom conversation with his friend, American DJ and producer the Blessed Madonna, for the song’s hopeful lyrics.

Östlund was instantly addicted to the tune.

“First of all, I really need to give all my respect to Fred Again for what he did with this song,” Östlund said. “He’s an amazing, fantastic artist. And I love that it was written during the pandemic, and if you listen to the words by the Blessed Madonna in the song, it’s all about how we have lost so much but we just need to get through today. It’s a wonderful, escapist way of looking at things in the world. Like, don’t worry, let’s just get through this thing. So I thought it pointed out some positive attitudes in our society today that I really liked.”

The director loved that within the context of his story, the song could serve as a siren call to desperate people stranded on a desert island – or a warning about the restoration of a power structure in society, depending on how you interpret the ending. While at the same time, the tune was so bouncy and engaging.

For the film’s final shot, which depicts Carl (Harris Dickinson) frantically sprinting through the jungle, Östlund had experimented with using the movie’s original theme music to score the moment. “And it worked fine but it wasn’t adding an extra layer to the situation,” he said. “I also tried using cheesy, ironic elevator music, but that didn’t seem to do the trick either. But when we added ‘We’ve Lost Dancing,’ the effect was instantaneous. It was perfect. That house music beat, that arena techno sound, was just incredible.”

According to Östlund, he was also thinking of the people who would be seeing “Triangle of Sadness” in the movie theater.

“When you make a two-and-a-half-hour long film, you want to give a nice jolt of energy to the audience when they are leaving the cinema,” he said with a smile. “So ‘We’ve Lost Dancing’ is also a great way of pumping some adrenaline into the audience at the end of the movie.”

“Triangle of Sadness” is in theaters now.