Don't you see that this is all just in your mind?
--Greg to Jess, Triangle
My Triangle Interpretation
by Susan L Whigham
January 7, 2015
(contains movie spoilers)
As always, please keep in mind this is just one person's interpretation - I would not presume to suggest that there is only one correct interpretation. This is simply a reflection of my own perspective at this time.
In a nutshell, this movie is about a woman (Jess) who is experiencing a recursive hell. The reason she's in hell is not explicitly stated, but likely has to do with her abusive nature toward her son which possibly caused his death, an event for which she clearly feels responsible and is unable to forgive herself. Atoramos on Reddit makes a convincing argument for the idea that she is being punished for something that wasn't necessarily depicted in the film. It's even possible that she violently murdered her child in a fit of anger (presumably at 8:17am, the time on her watch, which matches the time on the ship), launching her into this Sisyphean situation, which is perpetuated by her feelings of guilt, and her conviction that she can somehow go back and change the outcome.
The entire film works well as an invocation of the Greek myth of Sisyphus. That being the case, the ship (named Aeolus after the murderous, iron-fisted father of Sisyphus), serves conveniently as a symbol of Jess' violent temper which gave birth to her role as Sisyphus, wherein she repeatedly breaks her promise with Death to return to pay the toll, which she can never repay until she can finally bring herself to let go of the past. Even though the driver tells her that nothing can be done to save her son, she keeps getting back on that yacht to give it another go.
The people who are with Jess on the yacht are probably people she knew in real life, although now that she's in her hell-state, they serve a symbolic function. Why does Jess have to kill everyone on the ship? The simple answer is to say that it's the only way to reset the time loop - that much is explained in the film. But on a metaphorical or allegorical level, why would this be necessary? What do the people on the ship represent in the context of her hell?
Killing the passengers aboard the ship may collectively symbolize her indifference to their social acceptance, or even disdain for their lack of ability to empathize with her situation. They may each offer symbolic meaning at the individual level as well. After all, she must silence Greg, who symbolizes the voice of reason. Sally, for her judgmental nature where her son's autism and her own emotional trauma are concerned. Victor, for his repeated refusals to believe her. Downey, for his arrogant and superficial concern with appearances. Only Heather is allowed to escape execution, by virtue of her warmth and compassion. Her exile from the ship holds out a small beacon of hope that Jess may at some point escape her hell, by eventually reconnecting with that sense of compassion and forgiving herself. Until then, she is stuck repeating this vicious cycle of killing the crew members, one by one. Once Jess has eliminated them all, she is left alone, forced now to reconcile her feeling of loss for her son with her own violent tendencies. This forced solitude calls attention to the fact that the burden rests on her alone to resolve her situation.
Ideally, Jess will reach a point someday where she finally accepts that she cannot change the past. This is incredibly difficult, however, when her pain is so great that she must disconnect herself from it and thereby, any ability to remember what's gotten her into this cycle. This is a great metaphor for the way we create recursive hells in our own lives, drowning out painful memories with agents to numb ourselves and thus hindering our ability to see a clear way out of the cycle.
Susan Lien Whigham © 2015 All Rights Reserved
firstname.lastname@example.org - Feedback is welcome.
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Links to other explanations of the movie Triangle:
Atoramos on Reddit
Discussion at StackExchange
Andrew Price at Commentarama Films
Unbiased Movie Reviews
FAQ at IMDb
Empire interview with Christopher Smith
Tom Dirks' Greatest Film Plot Tiwsts (Scroll down to find Triangle)
Peng Yang on Youtube