Film (2015). A24 Release, Film4, Bord Scannán na hÉireann / Irish Film Board, Eurimages, the Netherlands Film Fund, Greek Film Centre and BFI present in association with Protagonist Pictures an Element Pictures, Scarlet Films, Faliro House, Haut et Court, Lemming Film co-production in association with Limp with the participation of CANAL+, CINE+ and Aide aux cinémas du monde, Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée, Ministère des affaires étrangères et du développement international and Institut français. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Written by Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos. Cast includes Olivia Colman, Colin Farrell, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, Léa Seydoux and Rachel Weisz. 118 minutes. Colour.
A man from a Dystopian Near Future society is given forty-five days in which to find a new romantic partner when his wife leaves him.
The moustache of main character David/The Lobster (Farrell) might easily serve as emblem for the film: earnest and yet outrageously out-of-place, trying to fit into a world whose societal constructs and everyday cruelties in fact make no more sense than any other animal endeavour. Absurdist SF is combined with deadpan Satire to disorienting effect.
The laws of "The City" indicate that David and the other single people in The Lobster must be taken to "The Hotel", a desolate and joyless locale in the style of an English holiday resort wherein those visiting must couple-up within the forty-five day time limit or be sent off to live in "The Woods": "If you fail to fall in love during your stay here, you will turn into an animal." David's brother is rendered as real-life dog on screen because "he was here a couple of years ago but he didn't make it". Masturbation is banned, Sex with the Hotel Maid (Labed) is as mandatory as it is joyless, and the hotel is filled with single people unable to talk, dance or connect emotionally with one another except via a bloodless rendition of romantic customs vaguely reminiscent of the transmitted narcissism of Internet dating. "If you encounter any problems you cannot resolve yourselves," announces the Hotel Manager (Colman), "you will be assigned children. That usually helps."
David attempts to connect himself to a "Heartless Woman" (Papoulia), kicks a small child in the shins as part of a bid to convince her of his own heartlessness and is forced to escape into the Woods when the Heartless Woman kicks his brother to death and he breaks the rules by revealing his grief. There he takes up with up "The Loners" – "You can be a loner as long as you like, there is no time limit – any romantic or sexual relations are punished" – and soon finds himself attracted to a "Short Sighted Woman" (Weisz). "If you need more rabbits, I'll bring you more," he tells her. "Do you promise?" she replies. The Loners launch a raid on the Hotel but their leader (Seydoux) discovers David's plan to elope with the Short Sighted Woman and blinds the Short Sighted Woman as punishment. The film ends with David holding a steak knife, considering whether or not to blind himself in a bid to bring himself closer to the woman he has chosen as his mate.
The second half of The Lobster is not so spellbindingly unusual as the first: events in the Woods feel narratively disconnected from those at the Hotel, despite the screenplay's attempt to engineer a dramatic confrontation between the two parts of the dystopian society. That the film manages to finish on a note as disturbing as at is romantic is however a testament to the originality of the tone The Lobster has struck throughout; this is a genuinely unfamiliar form of love story. The Lobster won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival of 2015. [MD]
see also: Apes as Human; Postmodernism and SF; Zoo.
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