The Lobster (2015)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Actors: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Léa Seydoux
Yorgos Lanthimos has been on my radar for quite some time. His films would always be mentioned in discussions made by cinephiles or having posts dedicated to his films on r/truefilm. His films looked interesting to me from the get go, but for some reason I never felt that “need” to want to watch them. It always felt like something that I will one day get to see. Especially with my busy schedule this past year, I haven’t had any time to watch movies. The thing that tempted me to watch The Lobster was a friend of mine, who watched it and kept insisted that I see it as well and discuss it with him. As my other friends started watching it as well, I could see completely polar reactions from some of them. Some of my friends absolutely despised a film and thought it was a waste of time, while the one who recommended it loved it. I love films that result in such a polarizing reaction, you either love it or hate it, no in between. Last year’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is a great example of this type of polarizing film. You either think its genius or you think its trash. With Three Billboards, I fell on the “I hate it camp”. Well with The Lobster, I’m on the other side. I think this film is brilliant, and here’s why.
I think whatever camp you fall when it comes to The Lobster, we can all agree that the film is ambitious. Not only in its storytelling but in its execution as well. The film is unique, and you will never see anything like it. I’m not saying that just because it is unique, means that you should like it. Not at all. What I am saying is that whether you love this film or think its awful, I think we can all appreciate the idea behind this film. Even on a surface level the film is interesting, without needing to go into analysis or trying to decipher the subtexts. The film is about a world where all humans are forced into couples. It is the way of life. If you fail to have a partner or lose one, you are taken to this hotel, where you have a set amount of days to find a partner or you are changed into an animal of your choosing. Crazy idea if I say so myself, but it works, if you get what the film is trying to tell you. I think as I said, the film has an interesting idea, and it is executed well technically (camerawork, soundtrack ..etc.). So what is that polarizing factor that is putting people into two distinct categories of either loving it or hating it. I am pretty sure that your enjoyment of this film will hinge on the fact that you realize this film is a comedy, and that you find the film’s humor funny. I am pretty sure that if you are someone who hated this film, and just read that it was a comedy you would laugh at the whole idea. That’s what happens when I told my friends who didn’t like it that it was a comedy, they couldn’t believe it. But it is, the film is a satire, and it is meant to be funny. If you can’t get that aspect of the film then you clearly wont enjoy it, because everything is done to heighten that strange comedic style. For example, the way the characters talk is strange, everything they say is in this monotone and robotic style. If you don’t get the comedy, the dialogue in the film will be one of the strangest and most awkward aspects about it. As someone who does like the humor of the film, the way they talked just added to it. All in all, what I am trying to say here is that I think its quite clear what the tipping point is between loving and hating this film. And there is nothing wrong with hating it because you don’t find it funny. Humor is one of the most subjective things in the world, so that is why we see many polarizing opinions about this film. As for me, I laughed my ass off, and I loved every minute of it.
I want to shift now and dive deep into this film, because I feel like it had alot to say, and I want to be able to bring those hidden messages out to the surface. The film is obviously an epic satire on relationships. It takes relationships to the extreme to show us how arbitrary they really are. Think about it. In real life, there is no rules that result in a successful relationship. One person can like tall blonde people while the other prefers short brunettes, and it doesn’t mean anything if you like one or the other. In our world, we fall in love based on subjective aspects. It just is. The Lobster flips this concept upside down and gives us a world where love is determined objectively. It is an absurd take on life, but it just further highlights how absurd our way of life is as well. We live in a world where love is arbitrary and The Lobster is set in a world where love is definite and clear. Both sides are as ridiculous as the other. Let’s go back to the film for now. In the movie, people are paired up based on very specific characteristics. A woman has frequent nosebleeds, so she is only looking for someone with the same condition. That is how their world works. It may seem cruel to us, but to them it is completely normal. On the other end of the spectrum we see the Loners, who are the total opposite to society. They are as strange as the people in the hotel. You cannot be in a relationship, you pleasure yourself, you don’t get close to anyone..etc. It is a stark contrast. What interested me when I saw the film was that I did not think the rules were cruel. I think that the true villain in this film was Lea Seydoux’s character as the loner’s leader. She played an interesting role in setting up this subsociety which works as the total antithesis of the norm. However, she never seems irritated by people who do follow societal norms. She frequently visits her parents and never tries to convince them to join her group. She sits back and plays around with the minds of both her group and the other side. Like when they raided the hotel, it served no purpose. All it did was show the couples how fake their love was. It was cruel, and she played a pivotal role in balancing between both sides and creating enough chaos to keep things interesting in the second half of the film.
Now while watching the film, many would feel like the film is depressing. That the characters are miserable since they cannot be with who they want, but who they HAVE to be with. However, that is all refuted if you take a look at the ending closer. Since we come from a world where love is arbitrary and we can choose whoever we want, it is understandable how we can view this film as cruel or depressing. However, I feel like the ending showed how the characters themselves are more than okay with this system. I might even go as to say they want to follow the system. Here is why I say that. In the film, everyone acts on selfish needs. It is a need for survival. They don’t care about anything or anyone other than themselves. That is highlighted in the ending. When you watch the ending, and see David going to the bathroom to blind himself. I bet your initial thought was something along the lines of “oh that’s so romantic, he is blinding himself to be with her”. However, I think that is the total opposite. Because you have to think about it in the perspective of their world and rules. Him blinding himself is the selfish option. It is the cowardly option. If he actually “loved” her in the sense that we think of love, he WOULDN’T stab himself. Because he would just be with her and won’t care that they don’t share a defining characteristic. She wont know if he actually did it or not. So why would he do it? Because in that world, they actually BELIEVE that you cannot be in love with someone without having an objective similarity. That is why he is doing it. For himself, and not for her. It is a very interesting conclusion to the film, and makes you think differently when analyzing it. Because you can’t look at it from the perspective of the real world. You need to look at what the characters are doing as if you were part of their world. Obviously this is just my interpretation on the events of the film and the ending. Personally, it makes sense, and I am glad Lanthimos made such an ending that could have multiple outcomes with various interpretations of each.
The Lobster is a strange film. I have never seen anything like it. It is a very dark film, when you look at it from the perspective of a normal human. If you shift that perspective to fit Lanthimos’ intention, you get a strangely enjoyable dark comedy. One that made me laugh out loud from a guy kicking a little girl, and a woman jumping to her death. I feel awful saying that. But the way the film is made, it just works as a comedy. I never expected to laugh during the film. I went in with no clue on what the film was and what it was about. However, around 15 minutes in I see myself laughing for no reason. It just clicked after that. I knew what it was trying to do. It was this absurd satire. And it played into that aspect brilliantly. It is not perfect by any means. I enjoyed the first half (the hotel), way more than the second. It had more interesting dynamics and rules to keep things interesting. However, I still appreciate the direction the film took. Because I would have felt that the film would be incomplete if it did not show us the other side of this strange society. All in all, the film is strange. As I said in the beginning, it is a film that you either love or hate. And that lies upon the fact of whether or not you are able to relate and connect with the humor the film is trying to portray. If not, I understand why you wouldn’t. However, I personally enjoyed the film thoroughly. More importantly, it made me laugh. As dark as that may seem, I can’t say that about many other films. I will take Colin Farrell kicking a girl in the shin over generic blockbuster comedy films any day of the week.