A Review of The Lobster, Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Greek film director Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster is set in a world similar to our own, with one exception: love is state-policed and being alone is illegal. Only days after the break-up of a marriage or the death of a spouse, our hapless heroes are sent to a hotel – presided over by the chillingly imperturbable Olivia Coleman – to find a match. They have 45 days, but can extend their stay by shooting ‘Loners’ in the woods with tranquilliser guns: each body gives them one extra day to find true love. Should they fail, they will be turned into the animal of their choice.
Colin Farrell is David, who has recently been left by his wife. His decision to become a lobster (“I’ve always loved the sea, and they live for one hundred years”) should he fail to find a match gives the film its name.
At first he is subdued and submits to the regimen of the hotel: masturbation is forbidden, propaganda-watching is compulsory, relationships are built on the most trivial of shared experiences. One couple form because the woman is susceptible to nosebleeds and the man, fancying his chances, fakes them. David pretends to be heartless to start a relationship with a woman who has “literally no feelings”, but after she murders his brother and then catches him crying, the game is up. He has to escape.
He runs away to the woods where he joins the feral pack of loners, presided over by the gimlet-eyed Léa Seydoux. They listen to electro music and romance is forbidden. Each loner must dig his or her own grave. But among this band of outsiders is a woman who shares David’s short-sightedness (Rachel Weisz), and they strike up a rapport…
If this plot sounds ludicrous, well, it is. But this film is a parable about the fetishisation of coupledom, and how to be single is to be seen as a parasite. Like King Lear the sight metaphors come thick and fast, and culminate in two horrifying blinding scenes. Duke of Gloucester, feast your eyes on this. The Lobster belongs to the same tradition of dystopia-light as Never Let Me Go and Under The Skin. Like those films it features virtuoso performances and moments of great wit. Also like them, it uses an extreme to examine a more chilling truth about who we are, how we live and what we value.
Written by Violet Hudson, Film Editor of Arteviste.com