Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Stars: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden
If you are considering seeing The Lobster, you may want to keep this short anecdote in mind:
On my way out of the theater, I overheard a woman behind me say to her friend, “I am so sorry for bringing you to see that.” Half the audience would have probably grumbled in agreement while the other half would have simply laughed (which I did). Morale of the story is that I loved The Lobster. But I wouldn’t blame you if you hated it.
Some films are meant to make us laugh, some to make us cringe, and others to make us unbearably uncomfortable. Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English-language film falls somewhere in between black comedy, drama, sci-fi thriller and romance. The Lobster is quick-witted and unexpectedly funny, but I wouldn’t classify it first and foremost as comedy. Rather, humor acts as glue to keep the whole thing together (and, admittedly, to keep the audience in their seats).
Within the confines of The Hotel, guests have 45 days to find their “match” or will be consequentially turned into an animal of their choice. These animals are then sent to The Woods, an area also inhabited by Loners, or those who have escaped the hotel and live illegally without partners. Ironically, the very place that houses humans is the least humane; guests must follow strict protocol or face the consequences (David’s friend was caught masturbating and must stick his hand in a toaster).
The Woods, rampant with social outcasts and misanthropes, is far from a lush Utopia. Human relation to nature in The Lobster is quite removed; the Loners, with their stolen technology and weather-ready apparel, seem displaced in the wilderness. Interestingly, many animals in the Wood are entirely out of place: we even see a peacock roaming about in the background in one scene.
This purposeful displacement seems to be a theme throughout the film. First, the main character David’s search for eternal love takes place in a highly controlled, potentially dangerous environment (i.e. the hotel). The juxtaposition of something as wild and pure as love against a manipulated backdrop is startling. And then there is the fact that David himself is out of place. Even after he flees The Hotel, David struggles to find belonging amongst The Loners. It is not until he meets the Short-Sighted Woman (played by Rachel Weisz) that he finds his home.
Similarly, misplacement, irony and absurdity power the film’s dark humor. Bizarre, disturbing lines are delivered deadpan; characters nonchalantly continue conversations in the midst of bloodshed. Yet there is an oddly playful element to The Lobster. I think the Short Sighted Girl’s voice-over throughout the film keeps it from dipping too far into the dark. The narration is purposefully redundant and honestly a bit annoying at times. It’s almost as if the writer couldn’t decide between making a bedtime story or a twisted drama.
All in all, there is nothing clear-cut or logical about The Lobster. Maybe that’s what makes it so great, because there is nothing clear-cut or logical about its subject matter: love. So it should come as no surprise if The Lobster leaves you feeling a little out of sorts. Actually, that might not necessarily be a bad thing.