With Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos created a new wave of filmmaking that is still rarely seen from anywhere outside of Greek cinema. After an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film and another acclaimed film in the warped Alps, Lanthimos has crafted another dark comedy in his English language debut, The Lobster. Audiences familiar to his style will expect the deadpan sense of delivery and pitch-black humour from the director, but it is hard to understand and, in some cases, may be seen as impenetrable emotionally, but this strips The Lobster down to its essential message and tone. Anyone that is worried about the jump from Greek to English should be put at ease.
Colin Farrell, in a form you’ve never seen him before (fat and unattractive), stars as David, the shlubby and newly single inmate to the singles hotel. Lanthimos, along with his co-writer and regular collaborator, Efthymis Filippou, made the most horrific and hilarious dystopian communities in years. Unless David is able to find a mate within 45 days, he will be turned into the animal of his choosing. Of course, he chooses the eponymous lobster. With particular glee, Lanthimos cuts deep into the dynamic of relationships and modern dating with each couple having something in common, whether it’s nosebleeds or short-sightedness. Lanthimos takes as many chances as he can to blend a sense of absurdist humour with the ghastly reality of real life.
Lanthimos has attracted some of the most gifted actors available for roles no matter the size. Lea Seydoux, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, John C Reilly, Olivia Colmon, etc. are among all the talent directed to work their deadpan deliveries with devilish delight. Everyone in this film seems to be having so much fun, you’d almost be able to tell if it weren’t for the grim subject matter. The Lobster is equal parts, romance, satire, science fiction; it’s truly hard to decipher a genre for such a movie. Thankfully, there isn’t a time when you really need to try and figure it out when you’re thrown head first into the pool of insanity that is Lanthimos’ mind.
What I admire about The Lobster is its gift for humanity. As I’ve stated earlier, every character is flat with their delivery of lines, but between the emotion in the dialogue and beauty of the connection that connects the characters together, all I could feel was fright for our leads, Farrell and Weisz. I don’t want to spoil the film, but you may see all the names I list and wonder why they aren’t in the film until the latter half, but that turn is a near stroke of genius. The middle of the film, does indeed, take a jarring turn, but not one that doesn’t work outside of the context of the movie.
The Lobster may slow down for the latter half of the film, occasionally to the detriment of the manic first-half set in the luxurious but haunting hotel, yet doesn’t set aside its sights on the effects of relationships or lack thereof. Lanthimos’s camera sets its sights on the beauty of the forest, and later on, the germ-free city which acts as the villain of the story. Better yet, the villain of the story is society and its norms. While that may seem as a little rebellious and hippie-ish for a lack of a better word, it does so without much judgment for the characters. We all look towards a life with someone by our side, but are we willing to sacrifice a part of ourselves?
My one caveat to the film are truly my own expectations. Neither a laugh out loud comedy, or a drama that is entirely serious, Lanthimos crafts a film in the same absurdist genre that he’s lived in for his past couple films. This may seem nitpicky, and I’m willing to admit that it is, it delayed my appreciation for the film and it took me a couple days to truly acknowledge the entire brilliance behind it. Lanthimos may make intelligent and startling films, but it can take some time to process and understand.
In the middle of a packed theatre, I was nervous to what the reception of the audience would be. The Lobster is another challenging piece of filmmaking that isn’t made to be appreciated by all. If you do love the movie, don’t expect to go out and recommend it to each and every one of your friends. This is definitely an acquired taste. But if you enjoy something that is out of the ordinary and a little thought provoking with a little dash of grotesque imagery, The Lobster is right up your alley.