In the short extent of three days I had lobster for dinner thrice, though not in the literal sense. I wouldn’t err in saying I’ve never eaten lobster in my life, which is an outrageous shame, but let’s not dwell on crustaceans longer than necessary, this is not a culinary blog. Instead I’ll focus on another, more substantial and bizarre, flavor that has been food for thought for some days now. Yes, I am talking about the acclaimed film by greek director Yorgos Lanthimos.
The fact that you are reading this leads me to believe you’re already familiar with the film. You saw it and figuratively, or literally, scratched the back of your head the moment the screen turned to black and the credits started to roll. Honestly I was disconcerted, it felt too brief. It was over before reaching completion, yet it didn’t suffer from any anti-climatic ails whatsoever. If you’re like me, then you were absorbed by The Lobster, utterly immersed in its compelling atmosphere.
Note this will not be a spoiler-free review, nor is it going to adhere to the strict definition of the aforementioned term. I would find no enjoyment in trying to stick labels and objectively critique something so out of the ordinary, one of the most unique films I’ve ever seen. Coming from me, it’d be no more than a disservice, and quite frankly, there’s so much to be talked about and put under the microscope, that you’d be staring at a five-thousand-word essay.
Art is art is art. Whether you adored the film or not, there is no denying this cinematographic venture has left indelible mark in the hearts of many a cinephile. I’m convinced, without a hint of doubt in my mind, that the The Lobster will garner its fair share of fanatics in the years to come, thus effectively attaining cult status.
But I’ll try not to get ahead of myself so soon; the previous statement was merely a slip. Unraveling Lanthimos’ work is no easy task, still I’m going to share my perspective, as eloquently and intimately as I can.
The world in which David lives is fractured yet fixed, subversive but aggressively subservient; it would be a nightmare if brought to reality. Can you even begin to fathom the devastating horror of having to constantly live in partnership in order to avoid being turned into an animal, despite it being of your own specific choosing? I can’t. But then again, I don’t need to. Thanks, Yorgos!
It’s not difficult to see how this film would be directed towards a smaller demographic, and I’m not saying this to sound snob. Really. I can understand someone (or some people) not buying into the outwardly magical realism of the premise. Humans turned into animals? It is inconceivable and irrational. It’s preposterous. But in its incongruity, it’s wonderful too.
I didn’t stumble upon this film by mere chance, nor did I enter this wild ride without previous knowledge of what was to be expected. My admiration for Colin Farrell had me seeing more than a few interviews before I was actually able to watch the film. Biased as I was, one look at the trailer was all it took for me to know that I was going to love it.
From the alluring cinematography to the refined classics that conform the score, combined with the terrific acting and the incredible originality of the script, The Lobster captured me from the very first scene. I rode shotgun in the rain, I stayed in the car and saw the woman shoot the donkey. That opening scene is horrifying in the most enchanting way, but that is not the full scope of my take.
To be completely honest, I’d be dead before much long were I to live in such a ghastly world. Twenty, with no romantic prospects in tow, and with little practice in charming others using either my personality or physique, I’d be a lost cause. Hence, if we follow the law, I’d be promptly turned into an animal (How depressing! Do converted humans feel trapped? Can they still think and reason like proper humans? Are they simply limited by the weaknesses of their newly acquired bodies? Or, do they lose all recollection of their time as human beings? The latter sounds less credible.), or I could opt for rebellion, but being a loner would require great bravery, wouldn’t it? What is a person to do in such tyrannical circumstances?
Truly delving into the world of The Lobster equals stripping away moral intricacies, there is no room for predicaments, only basic human drives. You can keep your emotions, but they must be subdued, muted. Everything is flat and uniform, like a great yellow plain in a vast blue horizon. But here is the thing, it’s not just a plain but a rapeseed field, and walking amongst the stalks you’ll see people hiding and running and embracing each other. There is a feeling of quiet, obedient desperation in this film, craftily mastered by the director and the actors, who prove capable of inciting empathy or disdain in the viewer through matter-of-factly performances. Beforehand, I thought the design of the script was too restrictive. That the tone of the story, the coreography of the camera and the repetitive usage of the music was too restrictive. Yet the story flows and unfolds effortlessly. It is serene and calm, almost uneventful except it’s charged with graceful action, seemingly orchestrated by the baton of Beethoven himself. God, that was one hell of a praise. Nonetheless, I must insist, its magnificent narrative reinvents social constructs at the time it mocks the flaws of our society by posing as a magnifying glass.
However that is not to say this film is flawless, that would be absurd. Think about it. As with beauty, faults are in the eye of the beholder. To my eyes, my ears, my mind, this film is a masterpiece.
Shall I dig a little deeper?
The hotel. The forest. The limping man. The short-sighted woman. The loner leader.
It is often said the devil is in the details, and it is mostly true, but that phrase does not apply to The Lobster. Its brilliance relies on the frugality of the characters, the settings, the amount of information that is given to the audience.
Far-fetched and illogical as the world depicted in The Lobster is, it resonates with reality. Just like lies are far more believable when they’re born out of truths, the closer you remain to the root, the better your falsehood will sustain. Paralleled to the real world, certain aspects of the other world may seem silly, but they are not quite so. If anything, all features and characteristics are enhanced versions of the authentic ones.
We live alone, we die alone, but don’t we all want to find suitable companionship? Doesn’t being single an estrangement from the ideal image history has forcibly bestowed upon us, thus reducing people to mere beasts that will ultimately be killed and eaten by that big bad wolf, the rest of the world?
It speaks to me profoundly, this fierce need to find a partner. We’ve been fed the idea of having to find a significant other in order to be successful, accepted, whole. It is logical then to infer all unions must be cemented on a shared defining characteristic. We both bleed quite suddenly, we both have a limp, we both are short-sighted, we both are heartless. Easy.
Except it isn’t. Not at all. Though I am sure you all know why this would not work out right. We’ve heard it all by now, it is not about finding someone equal, it is about finding someone willing to accept and celebrate the differences.
The sad truth is, these characters live in deception. They could find love beyond a conjoined defining characteristic, they could be on their own, they needn’t conform to the rules of their society. But that’s just how oppresive regimes work! They exert power by conditioning their citizens, and decimating their convictions by means of emotional undermining and outcasting of those who deviate from what has been rigorously established and commonly gobbled down as the norm.
Back to Lanthimos’ imagination, if you lay all prejudice in the threshold before watching this film, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how fresh, funny and liberating it is. Its Academy Award nomination was truly well-deserved (snubbed by MBTS, if you ask me).
Under closer examination, once you’ve cut out the quirkiness and the stunning if purposely dull landscapes of Ireland, you’re left with universal truths, which ultimately speak volumes about the human quintessence. There is a primal need for love. It is unfounded, it is absurd, it is dangerous, and it can get you killed. Still I must clarify there is an inherent desire for company inside humans, since we are after all, social creatures.
This is a film that lays out plainly all of its elements. It is unapologetic in the rules that govern its fictional society, merciless in its portrayal of justified violence, cruel yet humorous. You either take it or leave it, there is no stalling. You dive in headfirst, and trek an illiberal maze where no varying shades of gray can survive. There is only black or white, right or wrong. Or. The “bisexual option is no longer available”. In The Lobster‘s reality, every aspect of life is dictated by the insufferable, strangling and bisectioned yoke of a leadership that crushes its people into submission. It’s heart-breaking because the concept is applicable to our society as well. With no ground for emotional growth, people are forced and encouraged to keep their feelings to themselves, to become moving islands. Two extremes that are put in an arena, in a feral, childish quest to annihilate one another, destined to fail perpetually, because without the mutual tug there would be no conflict. Which reminds me, sometimes enemies are created just so we can have heroes. Paradoxism on point.
It’s the same concept used in The Lobster, a constant, dichotomic pattern that doesn’t break from its ellipse until the diner bathroom scene. Up until that point there were clear bifurcations that resulted in characters picking a definitive path, not hesitating, not pondering, their bases sturdy and unmoving. The lisping man was going to shoot David, the biscuit woman jumped out the window just as she said she would, the limping man remained obdurate in finding a partner and not being turned into an animal in spite of having to go against the rules by lying. But the ending is inconclusive and ambiguous, deliberately open to interpretation.
First time I watched it I thought: Oh, David abandoned her and ran away. The second time I clung to the dreadful but hopeful possibility of David blinding himself just so he could be with the short-shighted woman. The third time got me thinking: “Maybe he was turned into a lobster after all.”
I am still digesting the ending.
Whatever ending you fill the blank with, David and the short-sighted woman deviated from the design of their society. If he did blind himself in the bathroom, then he is capable of feeling beyond the bounds of convenience, even if it encompasses sacrifice and pain; he breaks his own mold. If he failed to stick the knife in his eyes, then he feels fear and doubt and is human. To act upon emotions is a power on its own.
I don’t know about you, but I really, truly enjoyed this film immensely. Also, I’m terribly excited for The Killing of a Sacred Deer, directed by Lanthimos and starring Colin Farrell, I’m certain it’ll be a unique experience, although possibly not as seductively bizarre as The Lobster.