The Lobster [2015] is a project by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos of Dogtooth [2009] fame. This is his first English-language film. Colin Farrell plays David, a man who, after his wife has left him, embarks upon the task of finding a new mate. This is society’s mandate and he has 45 days to complete the task. If he fails to find a partner, he will be transformed into an animal of his own choosing. David’s animal of choice is the lobster. Farrell is by no means the sole actor with name recognition in The LobsterRachel WeiszLéa SeydouxOlivia Colman, and John C. Reilly all play supporting roles to varying degrees of importance. The Lobster feels like the natural culmination of Lanthimos’ work. He has come a long way since his Kinetta [2005] days (which taxed even my patience—begging the question: How patient am I? In short, I’ve read Atlas Shrugged). This is recognizably a Yorgos Lanthimos film and his signature is all over this shellfish in the best way possible.

What-Ifs… The Lobster is a peculiar love story. But, in fact, to call this picture just a love story would be to do it a disservice. It is much more than that. The Lobster is an acidic satire of society and humanity that homes in on both our couple-centric tendencies and the artifice of dating without giving in to sweeping conclusions or indignant pontification. Lanthimos also continues to build upon threads from his previous work by scrutinizing the idea of control by looking at the restraints that emerge from social constructs. In considering hypothetical situations, one way to structure an analysis is to take it to zero or take it to infinity and The Lobster feels like Lanthimos’ thought experiment where he does just this. What sort of world is the world of The Lobster? It’s the kind that hinges on dichotomies. This or that. Couples or loners. It’s the kind where you are either homosexual or heterosexual. It’s the kind where shoe sizes are only available in whole cardinal numbers. Bisexuals with a size 8.5 foot really need not apply. Lanthimos confidently commits to his surreal world and The Lobster will please those with a dark sense of humor.

It’s A Matter Of Taste… The flavor of The Lobster’s humor and sensibilities is yet another recognizable Lanthimos trait. It’s unusual. It’s deadpan. Because there is no irony in crafting this world, the absurdity is accepted and delivered as quite a matter of fact. And it’s this banal treatment of the absurd that characterizes The Lobster’s tone. One of David’s earliest pieces of dialogue involves him expounding that his dog is actually his brother—48 years old, medium build, bald patch—who didn’t make it. Other times, the laugh comes just from the sheer ridiculousness of the imagery presented before us. There are various ‘performances’ within our actors’ performances that will surely amuse. One of the more rewarding amongst these sequences involves dance, both the immensely spastic and intensely awkward—something that lovers of Dogtooth will come to expect. This banal and blunt treatment of the absurd also extends into how violence and the macabre are depicted. The brutality of humanity is never too far below the surface and when it does surface, it’s treated so customarily that this is where the horror arises. Horror and humor often coincide such that you may find yourself laughing at some truly terrible or strange things. One of my biggest guffaws was followed by the thought: Oh, kids. Aren’t they just the darnedest? (Darnedest psychopaths!)

Sounds From A Face Hole… Another Lanthimos trait will come across in the actors’ performances, if classical filmmaking is concerned with removing artifice and promoting naturalism, Lanthimos’ work will more closely approximate the Brechtian principle of defamiliarization. The dialogue is delivered dispassionately even when the words themselves are passionate or emotive. Characters often poorly and farcically rehearse or act out sequences, not in a way that breaks the fourth wall but actually within the context of the narrative. When characters fib, their untruths will sound like a recitation of phrases from a Lying 101 handbook. Recitation also happens rather frequently in these characters’ regular conversations such that these people come across as seemingly incapable of conducting a regular conversation. It’s as if The Lobster was about a society of autistic people trying to hash out this thing we call life. Lanthimos refrains from the obvious ways of crafting his scenes and character interactions and this esoteric nature of The Lobster smells of Brecht’s idea of jarring an audience into attention by being deliberately difficult. It’s often intriguing and occasionally hilarious. Despite all of this, The Lobster is actually perhaps Lanthimos’ most accessible film yet; and, though I would hesitate to suggest this to everyone, its appeal may not be as narrow as his previous work.

The Lobster is an acquired taste that you should try if only to call its fans (like me) a damned fool.

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The Lobster
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