The Lobster (2015)

lobster_2015_poster
The Lobster (2015)
  • Time: 118 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Romance | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, Jacqueline Abrahams, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Jessica Barden

Storyline:

A love story set in a dystopian near future where single people are arrested and transferred to a creepy hotel. There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal and released into the woods.

4 reviews

  • An unusual fable about love as a misguided remedy to solitude, The Lobster is an outstanding master class in pitch-black absurdity. Perhaps not for all tastes, it is nonetheless one of the most original, subversive, provocative, moving, and immensely rewarding films one is likely to see in any year.

    Beginning with the assassination of a donkey – an act never referred to again, but one that will make sense as the film goes on – The Lobster quickly introduces viewers to its universe, a dystopia at once familiar and unlike anything seen before. This is a society that prizes marriage above all else to the point where single people are not only shunned, but hunted down and killed. Lest one think this punishment too severe, the society has implemented an institution to give the unattached an opportunity to find a mate within 45 days or be turned into an animal of their choosing and released into the countryside.

    Newly detached from his wife, David (Colin Farrell) checks into the Hotel, one such institution, where he answers a preliminary list of questions (including categorising himself as either heterosexual or homosexual; the bisexual option was discarded as it caused too many problems), then strips down to his underwear to join the other new inductees. They are each assigned room numbers; inside their room is a wardrobe filled with a certain number of shirts, pants, dresses, etc. Everyone wears the same outfits as standing out for one’s looks or style is not necessarily a factor for being a potentially viable match. Commonality is the main attraction, difference may lead to disaster. As the no-nonsense Hotel manager (Olivia Colman) puts it, “A wolf and a penguin cannot live together…because that would be absurd.”

    As such, David and the other residents seek out future companions based on their defining characteristics. Limping Man (Ben Whishaw) hopes to find someone with a similar disability, though he is not above faking nosebleeds to capture the interest of Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden). What’s more painful, Limping Man reasons to David, being killed, being turned into an animal, or banging your nose every now and again to feign a nosebleed? Once coupled, Limping Man and Nosebleed Woman are then moved into the couples section of the Hotel to undergo their month-long trial relationship. The final test is to spend a holiday together. Should any arguments arise, the Hotel can readily assign children, a surefire way of keeping any couple together.

    David decides to try Limping Man’s method of pretending to be someone you are not to establish a connection and attempts to win over Heartless Woman (Angeliki Papoulia), who has managed to extend the 45-day time limit by over a hundred extra days for her incomparable skill at bagging the loners that reside in the nearby woods during the Hotel’s organised hunts. This is a formidably cold-blooded woman, one who displays not one whit of emotion as a resident writhes in pain (“She jumped from the window of 180. There is blood and biscuits everywhere.”), and one whose idea of a compatibility test is to pretend to choke to death and see if David will rescue her. Unsurprisingly, their union is brief and brutal.

    The second half of the film finds an escaped David falling in love with Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz), one of the numerous wood-dwelling loners led by the disquietingly menacing Loner Leader (Léa Seydoux). These are the single people who have rejected society’s rule, but whose lives are governed by an equally strict set of do’s and don’ts. Loners may talk to one another, but flirtation is forbidden and kissing results in your lips being slashed. Even here, the individual must submit to the needs of the group. David and Short Sighted Woman carry out their romance in a series of coded gestures, and are soon planning to break away from under the watchful eye of Loner Leader.

    Director Yorgos Lanthimos crafts an impeccable satire not only on modern relationships but societal structures. This is a film that Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel would have embraced for its deeply surrealistic quality, a work in which the bourgeoisie are put through their paces in the most bizarre ways imaginable, and where comeuppances feel particularly just (a man who professes to love his wife would still shoot her to survive; a woman who forces a man to dig his own grave and cover his face with dirt so his face won’t be eaten by dogs wakes up bound and gagged in her own grave with dogs hovering about).

    Cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis gifts viewers with compositions that are geometric in their precision, formal in their framing, and unending in their capacity to stun. One is unlikely to forget the opening hunt, rendered in glorious slow-motion, with the characters running awkwardly through the woods, jowls wobbling, hair flopping, limbs flailing – it is a sequence both ridiculous and exquisite.

    The cast are exemplary, completely committed to the mercilessly deadpan style required of them. Perversely romantic and brilliantly idiosyncratic, The Lobster is a film that genuinely surprises with each frame and one that forces audiences to question how far they would go to avoid being alone, how much they would sacrifice to conform, and what they are willing to do in order to survive. Replete with poetic ironies, deliciously throwaway gags, and heartbreaking cruelties, this is a masterwork that asks a great deal of faith on the viewer’s part but one that is well worth believing in.

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  • Early in 2015, word-of-mouth was spreading from festival-goers that The Lobster was a strange masterpiece, a dark and bleakly hilarious portrayal of modern relationships that could even compete for the Oscars as long as the voters were not put off by the general weirdness. It however limped into cinemas with little promotion (that I saw), gaining positive reviews from the critics, but was notably absent during awards season. This may have been down to the film being simply too out-there, but I believe it’s down to the fact that the incredible precision of the first act gives way to a depressingly bleak and rambling latter half.

    The first half of the film is where Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos sets the scene for this not-too-distant living nightmare, where couples must either find a loving partner or face being turned into an animal of their choice. Sullen David (Colin Farrell) arrives at a hotel in middle-of-nowhere Ireland hoping to find a mate. The rules are simple – find love within 45 days or become a wild beast, and David has decided he is to be a lobster. Escape into the surrounding woods and you’ll have your former buddies hunting you at night with a tranquilliser gun in the hope of gaining an extra day for each ‘kill’. David tries courting the ‘Heartless Woman’ (Angeliki Papoulia), as she is billed, but things turn sour and he decides to make off into the trees.

    The hotel scenes are mostly uncomfortably hilarious. David’s new friend, ‘The Limping Man’ (Ben Whishaw), tries to find common ground with ‘Nosebleed Woman’ (Jessica Barden) by bashing his head against a wall to cause his nose to gush so they can share something in common, while the Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) is forced by the stern Hotel Manager (Olivia Colman) to put his hand in a toaster as a punishment for masturbating (which is strictly forbidden, while the inhabitants are forced to receive a dry humping from the Maid (Ariane Labed) without ejaculating every morning). Courtship here is routine and emotionless, likely commenting on the ridiculous state of modern dating, which is usually based on linking shared interests and statistics electronically. Whatever happened to a good old natural spark?

    It’s also depressing, but absorbingly so, but loses its pace once David is in the woods. He meets the leader of escaped hotel guests the Loners, played by Lea Seydoux, whose way of life seems even harsher than the hotels. Romance and sexual activity are punishable by violence and mutilation, but nevertheless David falls in love with the ‘Short Sighted Woman’ (Rachel Weisz). Once the focus shifts away from the Hotel and the bizarre hook of the films title, the film is just not as interesting while in the world of the Loners. The satire loses its edge and the story could have benefited from 15 minutes or so shaved off. Still, The Lobster is an oddball experience I would recommend anyone to sit through at least once, and features a terrifically restrained performance from Farrell, playing against type.

    Rating: 3/5

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  • (RATING: ☆☆☆½ out of 5)

    THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF: A partly successful mix of surreal satire with some very perceptive moments.

    GRADE: B-

    SYNOPSIS: A man must choose his fate and form in a dystopian society obsessed with coupling.

    JIM’S REVIEW: The Lobster takes an absurd comic premise and reworks it into a dark satire about love and relationships. Set in the not-to-distant future, David (Colin Farrell), a recently divorced Loner, has an urgent need to find a new partner. Why the deadline, you may ask? No, it’s not due to his loneliness causing him to go directly into the dating pool to find another soulmate (although he is a sad and desperate man)…it’s just that he must connect with another human being in order to survive. At least, in his present form. You see, this totalitarian government stipulates that unless he gets a girl, within 45 days, he will be turned into another species..a dog, a lion, a lobster…that, at least, will be his choice in this brave new world.

    Director / Writer Yorgo Lanthimos creates a bizarre and compelling film, although he tests the patience of many moviegoers with his purposely ambiguous detours in his plot.
    The film is quite effective in its first half as David checks into a resort that prides itself on transformation and conformity. Irony is layered in its thick impasto strokes of surreal imagery and intellectual musings about society’s obsession with coupling and partnership. Less successful is the film’s second section which begins to meander and lose its way (just like its main character does). Yet the talented Mr. Lanthimos brings forth clever insights and a unique narrative to his Orwellian tale.

    The international cast works within the limits of their unusual characters. Colin Farrell portrays David nicely as a pawn in the scheme of things while other fine actors, like Rachael Weisz, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, and Olivia Coleman bring solid support to this odd yet thought-provoking film.

    But it is Lanthimos’ screenplay (co-authored with Efthymis Filippou) that relies on the vague notion of obedient submissiveness that remains unclear from the start. The film lacks genuine pathos and subtle humor, never allowing its interesting subject to fully resonate. Characters remain one dimensional and their actions baffling and strange. Except for David, everyone is nameless…Nosebleed Woman, Lisping Man, Biscuit Woman, Limping Man, Short-Sighted Woman, etc. This may be an intentional decision by the filmmaker, but it does give a slight artsy silliness to the whole venture. And let’s not even discuss the film’s enigmatic and disappointing denouncement!

    However, Lanthimos is a far better director than storyteller. His use of slow motion techniques, poetic voiceovers, and mix of classical and atonal music gives his film an eerie otherworldly sense of time and place. He has his actors deliver that lines with flat readings and very little emotion which somehow works to his advantage in creating a loveless universe.

    The Lobster is the type of film that will garner critical praise but leave the average moviegoer questioning the film’s overall effect. Its characters are a passive and soulless lot, even if this filmgoing experience rarely achieves its complex goal.

    Still The Lobster is a noble effort by a gifted filmmaker worthy of one’s attention.

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  • “We dance alone. That’s why we only play electronic music.”

    In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into animals and sent off into The Woods. Best of luck, right?

    If director Yorgos Lanthimos wants you to get anything out of this movie, it’s that society influences or constricts our ability to love. As blogger Adam Riske at FThisMovie accurately explains it, “It’s basically if Her was made by someone who hates life.”

    If The Lobster is an acquired taste, it’s one that I have not and will not acquire. Ever.

    I first heard about The Lobster last year when it was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and won the Jury Prize.The film is directed by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos in his English language feature film debut. More buzz surrounding it circulated later that year at the Toronto Film Festival as praise from critics and bloggers continued to pour in. Reviews were outstanding for this quirky little indie, and I was ready to embrace the absurdist sci-fi reality flick and potentially consider it to prematurely be included in my year’s top 10 list.

    Lanthimos made comments regarding the film that were absolutely fascinating and relevant.

    “We make observations about the way we live and organize our lives — and structure our societies — so we wanted to do something about romantic relationships and how single people are treated within society. The pressure that is on them in order to be with someone and … the pressure that they put on themselves to be with someone. What we like to do is push those situations to extremes in order to reveal the absurdity behind them, behind things that we consider normal in our everyday life.” via The Washington Post

    The exploration of society pressures in dating is rarely exposed on screen, but what I discovered is that while there’s humor in this film, the tale is ultimately grim.

    This isn’t a date movie. Trust me.

    Featuring a cast of A-list actors, including Colin Farrel, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman and Lea Seydoux, this movie has all the ingredients to produce something great (or at least worth watching).

    In a not so distant future where single people attend a month-long dating retreat in a luxury hotel, companionship is vital for human survival. This is a hotel of lost souls forced into a absurd dating regimen. If they don’t find a suitable partner in the 45-day stay, they are transformed into an animal of their choice and released into the countryside. People can gain extra time in their stay with hunting sessions by shooting lowly singles hiding out in the woodland. Each kill earns them an extra day at the hotel and increased opportunity in the dating arena. You better hope you have the finesse of Katniss Everdeen to succeed, or you’re not going to get very far.

    Some scenes offer a chuckle here or there, but the dialogue is as sedated as the emotionless characters themselves. The flat delivery of the lines loses momentum after the first 30 minutes of the nearly two hour movie. The absurdism coupled with the blatant social commentary fails to find me. While I was prepared for the unusual, the awkward and the strangeness this movie would be, I just couldn’t enjoy it. Rachel Weisz, I haven’t seen you in ages, and you give me this monotone malarkey?

    What was the director thinking?

    “It was very clear that we weren’t going to just make something completely different. It was hopefully a progression from what we were already doing. It was maybe a more accessible subject because it’s one of the main things that we’re preoccupied with in life — relationships and love. We tried to approach those kind of people.

    This is an honest account of the view I have so far based on what I’ve seen and experienced. Hopefully, the film is open-ended and open to interpretation, with plenty of questions about this topic. I think human relationships — the whole thing is cruel. It’s very difficult. But I also believe that, probably, although much of it is fake and fabricated, because we feel the need to go through all these things, there’s probably some truth to it here and there. For other people it’s a bigger truth for a bigger duration. For others, less. I don’t really have the final answer. Is there real love and how will you find it and how you will you know?” via IndieWire

    While I can understand his purpose behind the script, I couldn’t find it accessible. My boyfriend had similar notions that he expressed more eloquently than I could.

    “It really, really bored me like a David Lynch film. Personally, I just don’t like that style. The story was an excellent commentary of modern relationships, but the narration and dialog were both dull and lazy. On the flip side, it had some strikingly beautiful cinematography and told a wonderful story visually when dialog ceased. Sure, I get that this lack of serenity is on purpose, but the dialog was very Bukowski(esque), and I can’t stand Bukowski. I do think they did everything for a reason whether it was for driving points or irony, but I found no real value in this reasoning. It was like an uneducated hipster drop-out made his attempt at crossing Wes Anderson and David Lynch, and thankfully didn’t try his Tarantino hat on while he was at it.”

    It’s undoubtedly a very well-made film. This isn’t your average movie; from the cinematography to the accompanying score, it hit high marks. But the drabness of the film coupled with the sedated characters and script made it hard for me to appreciate what the story was trying to tell.

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