The Lobster Review
The Lobster (2015) Film Review, a movie directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, and starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Rosanna Hoult, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, and Ashley Jensen.
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English language feature brings some of the same visual and thematic elements from his 2009 debut Kynodontas (Dogtooth); where Dogtooth bites, The Lobster only pinches.
The Lobster is an absurdist satirical take on the rules of contemporary courtship, and on societal pressures to partner up before your romantic expiration date passes. The film is split into two distinct halves. In the first half, Colin Farrell’s character David is introduced to life at The Hotel, a sort of grim, dystopian OK Cupid, where he is instructed to find a romantic partner within 45 days, or else risk being physically transformed into an animal of his choice. Hotel patrons can gain extra days for their stay by participating in an tranquilizer dart manhunt. The second half of the film, which takes place in a nearby forest, approaches the response of irritated singles to the cult of coupledom by creating a guerrilla force, referred to as The Loners, who try and sabotage The Hotel and bring an end to their animal transformations and all romantic partnership as a whole.
The notion that visitors to the hotel have to find a person with one similar trait seems to be a commentary on the concept of finding “the one”. The Lobster is a successful satire of cultural expectations of romantic relationships, and also, of the expectations we put on our own partners. The first half of the film is far more captivating and engaging than the second half, mostly because the film’s entire premise rests on the situation that has lead David to be placed at the hotel. Once we leave The Hotel and enter the world of The Loners, Lanthimos’ tight-knit storytelling begins to unravel, and the focus of the film becomes unsure of itself.
Yorgos Lanthimos is a director whose cinematic voice is specific and jarring. There are certain elements to The Lobster that are reminiscent of his 2009 film, Kynodontas (Dogtooth). While The Lobster ventures further down the path of life into adulthood and deals with the cultural pressure to find a suitable partner, Dogtooth portrays life as a child under the roof of an overly protective parent. Whereas Dogtooth‘s family compound provides us with a clear-cut set of rules and structures that aid in the development of the world rules of the film, The Lobster only gives the audience those same parameters for the first half of the film, leaving a lot of critical questions unanswered by the time the credits roll.
The biggest artistic success of The Lobster is the unity of space provided by The Hotel itself. The Hotel embodies one of the film’s core themes, which is the banality of evil. The bland, corporate landscape of The Hotel and the emotionally void rule-keeping of its staff, who serve as wardens for the condemned singles, both seem to mask true State oppression under a blanket of beige and static. By leaving The Hotel and entering the forest world of The Loners, the film loses its thematic focus and begins to wander in an unclear direction.
One highlight of the film is its brilliant score. The use of a small string ensemble and a recurring, staccato central theme, builds tension and anxiety in all the right moments. This pairs perfectly with Lanthamios’ geometric, neoplastic visual composition.
In The Lobster, sudden, explicit violence is used as punctuation to draw the audience’s attention to Lanthamios’ main thesis argument. The imagery he uses is extreme, but it still functions artistically because of the presentation of the material itself. The most violent images are presented in long, still frames without the excessive, graphic exaggerations that appear in the films of other art house directors, such as Lars Von Trier or Gaspar Noe. If anything, Lanthamios’ work is closest to that of director and filmmaker Michael Haneke. Similarly to Lanthamios’ portrayal of violence, sex and sexuality are stripped of any sensuality or arousal. The presentation of sex within the film echoes the presentation of The Hotel itself: plain, technical, and at times, grotesque.
Lanthimos’ voice is one that deserves your attention, but his sophomore effort feels less complete than his debut. Ultimately, despite its weaker second half, The Lobster is worth a watch if you’re a fan of dark, absurdist satire, and while it’s not a film that you’ll come away from with any definite answers, it will keep you thinking well after you leave the theater, and it might even keep you off Tinder.
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