The Lobster (2015) directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring – Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and Jessica Barden
Which animal will you be if you end up alone?
Set in a dystopian world The Lobster tells the tale of the human race as it is now: abide by the law, find love within 45 days or be turned into an animal of your choice forever, or live as an outlaw, be hunted by single people and be considered a loner, never to love again.
The narrative follows our central protagonist, David (Colin Farrell) and his experiences of both sides. Following the law he checks in to The Hotel, a last chance stop for those without love, giving him 45 days to find love again before being turned into a lobster. Assisted by the Hotel Manager (Olivia Coleman), singles are given all the help they can get to bring their psychological state into one of finding love so they can couple up and eventually move to the City.
This bizarre black comedy, never attempts to disguise itself as anything but bizarre. It plays with its absurdness and revels in altering every typical convention you thought there should be. The drab voiceover narration (Rachel Weisz) comes in late and tells us what we’ve already seen. The music doesn’t fit the action, what should be a romantic bedroom scene becomes sinister and uncomfortable to watch with fast and deep violin accompanying. The narrative doesn’t even fit the norm, there’s no conventional resolution, the climax is over in a few seconds and the character disruptions seem to cut off before seeing the character properly resolve them.
Even from a more analytical level, this film is just bizarre. There are no hidden meanings in the dialogue or anything much to take from it. Characters speech is completely flat and simplistic, every word in a sentence is properly spoken, there’s no colloquialisms, it is as if they are reading every exact word on the script. There is no hiding away from the fact this is not your conventional film. If anything, that’s what the film seems to be doing from the audience- hiding. It doesn’t just reverse the conventions but it hides them too. The audience only ever hears three of the characters names, at one point even acknowledging this;
‘You’re my best friend in the whole world.’
‘I don’t think I’m your best friend in the whole world. You used to spend much more time with John.’
‘Oh who’s John?’
‘John, the limping man.’
Instead of names the characters are given distinguishing features; the limping man, the man with the lisp, the heartless woman, the woman with the milk biscuits, the woman with frequent nose bleeds and the best friend. The additional characters almost become just background information in David’s central narrative. The audience don’t need to know what’s not important to David. The camera even reflects this, cutting away when characters on screen are reacting to something that we don’t get to see because we don’t need to.
The audience aren’t really given much of a chance to connect to any characters in this film. As mentioned above, the dialogue is drab, there’s no emotion conveyed in it or even through the acting. We very rarely see actors express anything beyond a straight face. However, limiting our vision of the world within the film allows us to focus more on David’s story, a factor almost necessary when everything else is flipped on its head. He’s one of only two characters we see express emotion. His name is the only name we directly know because his story is the only one that matters. There’s so much that goes on in it that the audience has to be focussed on what happens.
Yes its bizarre, yes its not necessarily a film you’re going to sit there and watch on a movie night with mates, but if you have any interest in films outside of the blockbuster realm and into the indie film world I would seriously recommend it. There are elements that in a normal film could be uncomfortable to watch but the opposite way everything is presented, make them humorous and absurd. There were a number of occasions where internally I was thinking, ‘what on earth?’ before laughing. It’s a black comedy with elements of drama, its not supposed to be taken seriously which is why it acknowledges its bizarreness. But for every moment of slight discomfort there’s a moment of comic relief. Picture Olivia Coleman singing and dancing on a stage at an awkward speed dating disco but completely straight faced. Picture Colin Farrell debating if a one off experience at high school makes him a homosexual. It is funny.
Overall, I did really enjoy this film. It looks absolutely stunning, filmed in Ireland, the cinematography really does revel in the scenery. The acting is brilliant in it. It’s not a usual style of acting but everyone in the film maintains the unusual style so well it completely throws you off. The story is so distinct it’s brilliant, it’s such a unique concept that the unexplained elements don’t leave you frustrated but more intrigued. It’s a romance but not your soppy love story. It is well worth a watch. Not for the faint hearted, and not a film you’re going to gather your family around to watch but if you love films that are just that little bit different, you’ll enjoy this one.
12/15 (a lobster reference, watch it to get it.)