Title: The Lobster
Country: Ireland, UK, Greece, France, Netherlands, USA
Language: English, French
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cinematography: Thimios Bakatakis
John C. Reilly
Eccentric Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos’ fifth feature, four years after ALPS (2011), is an Ireland-based multi-national English-speaking production starring Colin Farrell as David, a misfit in a dystopian society aka. the City where couples are the norm and all single people are given a 45-day stint to stay in The Hotel and find a partner, otherwise they will be transformed into an animal. David’s wife has passed away recently and lobster is the animal he chooses to be if he fails the mission, which instantly reminds me the reference of the claw-holding lobsters in FRIENDS, it is the symbol of true love, but here David gives away his own reasons: blue-blood, longevity, fertility and his love of ocean, yet we should also know, lobsters are blind.
Farrell undergoes a formidable physical transmogrification into a portly middle-aged architect, and is stripped off any celebrity glamour with his bookish semblance and unwieldy awkwardness, in the hotel, he meets two single fellows, a lisping man (Reilly), a limping man (Whishaw), and tries to woo a nosebleed woman (Barden) while refuses the courtship from the biscuit woman (Jensen), as he confesses, pretending to have a feeling for someone whom you don’t is the hardest. Meanwhile all the singles in the hotel are regularly organised to hunt for loners – those single people who rebels against the City and live in the woods. For catching a loner, their stint will be extended for one day, but David is not very good at it, the deadline is pressing, he concedes to his proclivity for short-haired woman and chooses a heartless woman (a steely Papoulia) as the last resort, who is the record-holder of the loner-hunting and has no urgency to end up her single status. It is a terrible mistake, eventually David sneaks out of the hotel and plunges into the wood, becomes a loner himself, which brings the film into the second half, the world of loners.
Loners lead by a French woman (Seydoux), they conform to the doctrine where no relationships are allowed among loners, they cannot have sex, cannot dance together, even flirting will be punished by “red kiss”, it is the exact the other side of the coin from the City, however, David again, is a misfit here, since he falls for a short-sighted loner (Weisz), David is myopic too, their romance develops steadily, they even invent a set of body language only can be understood by themselves, to communicate with each other without being too intimate in front of others, a make-up free Weisz elicits a memorable presence radiant of earnestness and compassion. But the leader finds it out eventually, and deprives the woman of myopia. And then the two decide to flee together and enter the City as a couple, with one big decision for David to take, to test how strong their love is, and after a suspicious long-take, the film ends without revealing what has happened to David, and what’s next for the star-crossed lovers.
In spite of the outré setting of the story, unlike the elusive ALPS, the film puts forth a quite comprehensible narrative arc which channelled by a woman’s voiceover (later viewers would know it is from the short-sighted woman’s journal), and leaves audience hooked in the idiosyncrasy of the concept and the exigency of David (and his lover)’s plight. Relying on dramatic classical pieces, including a smart exploitation of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ WHERE THE WILD ROSES GROW hummed ominously by David; contrasting landscape and scenes of hotel and wood, outskirt and city; highly stylish camerawork from Thimios Bakatakis (slo-motions and long-takes are put into action during crucial moments), Lanthimos’ metaphysical methodology of exposing the deep-rooted alienation among human individuals ends up with an impressive high note with THE LOBSTER, it is a slap-in-the-face ridicule about rigid conformism, whether being single or staying as a couple, accepting the anomalies should be the new normal.