Director: Yorgos Lanthimos. With: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C Reilley, Ben Whishaw, Lèa Seydoux, Olivia Colman, Ariane Labed. Ireland, UK, Greece, France, Netherlands, 2015. IMDB: 7.1. My rating 4/4. Black weird absurdist tragicomedy set in dystopian future.
– Now have you thought of what animal you’d like to be if you end up alone?
– Yes. A lobster.
– Why a lobster?
– Because lobsters live for over one hundred years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and stay fertile all their lives. I also like the sea very much.
(dialogue between Hotel manager and David)
– Can I come to your room sometime for a chat? I could give you a blowjob. Or you could just fuck me. I always swallow after fellatio and I’ve got absolutely no problem with anal sex if that’s your thing. My ex-husband always used to say I had the most beautiful thighs he’d ever seen, but let’s not talk about him.
(Biscuit Woman to David)
Yorgos Lanthimos likes to bring it to the extreme. In Dogtooth (2009) it was a family, now it is the whole society. Or at least some imaginary city or country. We don’t know. He depicts a world in which single people have only 45 days to find a partner and are put in a special hotel facility. As this term expires, they will be turned into an animal they chooses. Welcome to the strange world of Lobster. There’s a lot to explore. It is the first movie Lanthimos made in English. With the budget of $4 million it grossed about $14 millions and received a whole bunch of awards. The scenario was co-written by Lanthimos’ long-time collaborator Efthymis Filippou.
Yes, it is really, really strange, weird and haunting world. Honestly, it actually took me almost a week to concentrate and collect my thoughts for a review since this movie had really impressed me and I couldn’t get it out of my head for days. It’s not an easy film. For sure, Lobster is of the highlights of last years. It’s more accessible than Dogtooth and makes you reflect upon very different things. Actually, the more time passed after I watched it, the more I liked it. It’s as good sign.
As the story unveils, you don’t really understand whether it’s a comedy or…what? A black weird absurdist tragicomedy set in dystopian future, let’s put it like that. But there is much more than it seems. As every great movie, it’s not a one trick pony about the pressure of the society about being single (strangely, many critics wrote that the movie is about that). This is just the main premise. It’s a satire. A deadly analysis of our society. Our behaviour, ambitions and egoism. How we need to be liked by the others and what we are ready to do for it. How we cherish our egoism. How we choose the partner (or do not choose it). While being extremely delicate but ruthless the movie asks, how much of your own character you should oppress when you love somebody? Should you? How? Why? And what will happen if you don’t? It doesn’t give any clear answers, but provides enough to make you reflect upon it.
Lobster is an extremely multi-layered movie. It’s rich with details and elements, being constructed of many levels. So everybody will find something unique inside, something different. It’s always a sign of a great movie. Many short scenes are absolutely outstanding. Lanthimos takes some typical samples of our world, let it be having pets, small physical disabilities, electronic music, even having kids or something else, and turns it inside out, by penetrating inside it like a surgeon, showing it with honest cruelty and bare bones. It’s like a broken mirror… But be ready to see our real world in it.
As the 45-day testing period is coming to an end, everybody takes different decisions. You can hunt more single people to gain extra days in the hotel facility. Some try to fake some special traits to attract other people. Somebody tries to escape from this rigid system. The movie is actually divided by plot into two parts – the 45-day hotel and the forest, where the group of singles is commanded by furious Lèa Seydoux character. The second section is less intense and little bit more clumsy, while most ideas were concentrated in the first part. But this is where the love story starts, and this may be one the weirdest love stories we have seen.
Outstanding cast, not only Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz (without doubt, one of their best roles), but all others as well – John C Reilly and Ben Whishaw as 2 other guys on 45 day trial, Ariane Labed as the hotel maid, Olivia Colman as the hotel manager and Lèa Seydoux as the dictator of the single forest people. In one of the interview Yorgos Lanthimos mentions that from the very beginning he planned Farrell and Weisz for the main roles and didn’t hold any test casting for most actors. Instead, he watched and read their interviews, trying to see if they had the ”right sensibility for the movie”. He also wanted to worked with those actors who watched his previous movies and found them interesting. During the filming, the actors had almost absolute freedom. This approach worked perfectly and you can see great chemistry.
Colin Farrell did a particularly great performance, of course. With his pot belly, mustache and funny glasses he is both miserable and hilarious, I actually didn’t think he could be that funny. In fact, he doesn’t do anything comical. Most scenes are funny in a weird or dolorous way, when we see his obedience and sadness. He causes something between pity and laughter through tears, acting very reservedly, somehow it reminded me of Bill Murray in his late comedies by Wes Anderson or Jim Jarmush.
The film has some resemblance with One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and you can draw the parallels between Olivia Colman’s character and Nurse Ratched, the hotel facility and the hospital. In both worlds, the emotions are oppressed. Most characters are obedient and it’s painful to watch, but… the surprising thing is that even though many scenes seem absurd because of the plot and the environment, they would actually seem normal in our ”normal” world.
Many gorgeous shots, great photography. It’s a beautifully shot movie and many scenes could be cut cut of the movie and enjoyed as short films. Some of them are particularly haunting, like the forest dancing scene, where each person dances to his own music, hunting slo-mo episodes or the scenes of punishment and violence. In the same forest, camels and goats and other animals sometimes pass by – they were people turned into animals. The masturbation is forbidden, thus when John C Railey character is caught, the hotel management forces him to put his fingers in the toaster. The maid of the hotel visits the rooms to perform some kind of weird massage to keep the men in shape. Visiting the supermarket, a guard approaches Farrell’s character, asking him for the right papers to prove that he is not single. And the whole movie is like that – it rich, layered, full of absurd and weird details. Dialogues are weird as hell too. Most people seem completely empty, thus they say exactly and literally what they mean, without any context.
Worth watching? Great, great, great. Don’t miss it. It is weird and not everybody will like it. Let me be clear – it’s a thinking movie with lots of metaphors. So if you want some straightforward fun and entertainment, avoid it. But if you overcome that, you will see one of the most touching movies of last years, a horrific fragile story hidden in an absurd, oppressing and weird world. And not that different from our world, too. That’s what makes that so impressive.