Film Review: The Lobster (Film4, 2015)

Photo: Sony Pictures
Photo: Sony Pictures

Rosemary O’Dowd, Contributor

Is there a parallel between the life of a lobster and the human pursuit of love? Well no, unless you consider a degree of short-sightedness intrinsic to both and the fact that love and lobsters have the potential to grow forever. Unless they eat each other, that is.

The Lobster is a surreally choreographed satire by Yorgos Lanthimos, bringing these unusual and surprising alliances to the fore. A director attributed with introducing audiences to the new Greek “weird wave” of cinema with previous works Dogtooth and Alps, his films excel in drawing the absurd to a near-normal exterior . Set in a familiar, though nameless landscape, The Lobster offers a darkly humorous exploration of society’s rules in a world that closely resembles our own. In something similar to the chaos of the marriage market, we are initiated, along with David and his dog –formerly his brother – into the world of couples and loners.

It is a world in which only those matched into arranged and instantaneous love, can survive. Played by a brilliant and inscrutable Colin Farrell, David arrives at The Hotel, knowing that he has 45 days to find true love or face the rest of his life as a lobster. Under the watchful guard of The Manager, played by Olivia Colman, he joins in the purpose-built but frantic quest for love, dining, dancing and catching loners, in a world which equates singletons with sadistic shootings.

Colin Farrell as David. Photo: Sony Pictures
Colin Farrell as David. Photo: Sony Pictures

But beyond the beautifully landscaped territory of The Hotel, the Loners lie in wait. Headed by a fierce Léa Seydoux, the rebels enforce their own laws and forms of obedience. With no forced sociability, the companionless loners dig their graves and celebrate their triumphs by listening to electronic music. It is here that we meet the short-sighted, rabbit-catching loner, played by Rachel Weisz and the strange passions of nature bring about a metamorphosis of their own. It brings about, as Farrell claims, “a delightful air of uncertainty throughout.”

Described as “high-concept, low-tech”, this is the director’s first English-language feature length film. Filmed on-location in Ireland, he draws on the natural landscape of Kerry and Dublin, using no studio lighting, make-up or special effects.  Focusing on place –The Woods, The Hotel, The City – and characters –The short-sighted one, The nosebleeder, The loner leader – Lanthimos creates a world comical and entertaining in its sinister definites. Uncertainties are shot away with a violent defiance by loners and couples alike. To succumb to the incertitude of nature will force you back there, as one of the strange creatures left in confusion to face life in the wild. Part- Eugenics project, part-marriage plot, the film balances itself on the human instinct to survive and the need to find love.  Armed with Rachel Weisz’s brassy voice-over and a charming soundtrack, this winner of the 2015 Jury Prize at Cannes is a modern-day allegory of love in a wonderfully weird climate.

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