(Some Spoilers Included) The Lobster is an avant-garde film co-written and directed by Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, which stars Collin Ferrell, Rachel Weisz, and Lea Seydoux. Lanthimos has a lengthy filmography filled with pensive human stories, but this is his first English language picture. It features a thought provoking sci-fi premise that combines both dramatic and comedic elements.
The film is set in a dystopian near future in which human coupling is mandatory. To ensure that people are matched with a romantic partner, they are sent to a hotel with other single people. This event limits the participants’ timeframe to find a mate to within the first 45 days or else they are turned into an animal of their choosing. It appears to be a misguided endeavour to reach serenity and cooperation in a disturbing, emotionally dulled, parallel world.
There is unsettling organization and a cold calculated methodology in the search for love, or rather mutual qualities. Everyone is separated into single rooms, single tables, single activities, and even go as far as handcuffing people to their belts to avoid certain unwanted behaviours.
The first act follows the experiences of a group of three men: the near sighted protagonist David, the lisping Robert, and the limping John. Desperate to find a partner, they decide to change themselves to find a partner and avoid the terrible life as a feral animal, only to be eaten by a larger animal. John didn’t find any women with a similar affliction in hotel and began to lose hope of finding someone who would be convinced they are a match otherwise. He does however see a woman he fancies with an easily replicated nose bleed. In simultaneously hilarious and disturbing scenes, without a word, he bashes his nose onto hard surfaces to simulate a chronic issue with nosebleeds.
David on the other hand initially overlooks a match through his near sighted characteristic and, being unsure of what he wants, follows his attraction to short haired women instead. This leads him to appear sociopathic to relate to a visitor dubbed the “heartless woman”. This once again brings out comedy as he over-exaggerates a disdain for humanity.
As the days dwindle away, the single people get closer and closer to a beastly fate, which leads to all sorts of desperate behaviour beyond just impersonating the perfect mate. The only way to earn more time to find a partner is through “The Hunt”. People are given tranquilizer guns and left to prey on those who left society for the physical and ideological safety of the woods. They are known as “Loners”, and if caught can give people an extra day at the hotel.
The Loners have built their own society in the wilderness to escape the tyranny of the world, but by running too far away, they have reached the opposing pole. Each ideology is as restrictive as the other, just inversely. There is a demonstration of the extremes on both sides: solitude and partnership.
Just as Yorgos Lanthimos has done in his previous films like Dogtooth, there is message and plenty to think about. The film seemed to do this in a metaphor for relationships in reality. In reality, there are many of us that have a fear and anxiety of not finding a partner, and ending our lives alone. The thought of turning into a beast, like the thought of not finding someone makes you inhuman, is what encapsulates this idea.
Today the prospect of an unrelenting and unending marriage has diminished in appeal and questioned in its success in attaining bliss. We also live in a world where some people don’t want to be partnered. Perhaps they relish solitude and individuality, but are nonetheless pitied by others and pushed to want it. The threat of a sort of forced reincarnation for the unwanted and unwanting, allows for an insightful exploration of the intricacies in human relationships.
A comprehensive understanding of The Lobster’s premise is important to get the finer points of the film. It was however a little too blatant when explaining that premise. I wish they had held back a bit and allowed us to explore it for ourselves, but it did pay off in the bluntness of conversations with great deadpan humour.
The film felt quite long and could have told its story in a much shorter amount of time. There were some scenes that felt redundant and reiterated the same sentiments over again once it had already been established previously.
It had an odd structure to it as well. At around the midpoint of the film there is a substantial change in the story that presented a different setting and group of characters. The issue is that the story built itself up to this momentous plot point and then came to a drastic halt. The pacing made the film feel drawn out unnecessarily. It felt like it would have been better to have ended it much earlier, as there was a certain exhaustion being in this world of stoic individuals without adding much more substance to it.
It is hard to make interpretations on the actors’ performances as just about everyone played their characters in a similar way, a sort of rigid, mostly emotionless character. There wasn’t really anyone that stood out because of it. It seemed rather a bigger picture effort that used the sameness and dull demeanour to focus on and amplify the circumstances. But I can say that everything that was performed was apt for the characters and the story. At the very least, you can say a good performance includes those things, especially when it is the writing and direction that stands out.
Despite somewhat overstaying its welcome without anything more to say, The Lobster is a creepy and hilarious tale that shines because of the surreal imaginings of co-writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos. If you are into the more philosophical sci-fi than the action oriented, then this will be a great experience despite some awkwardness in structure.
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