Yorgos Lanthimos’ (Director) The Lobster is a hilarious and absurdly amazing film. It is set in a dystopian world where the prevailing laws are… let us just say somewhat different from our own. The essence and magic of this movie lie in how ordinary frames are granted extraordinariness through blatant originality
The laws of the land in The Lobster have some strange requirements. All adult persons who have failed to find their own partner must be taken into custody and granted asylum at a special hotel designed to form couples out of the loners. Living life as a single adult is abhorrent. Criminal even! These ‘loners’ have 45 days to find a companion or be turned into an animal of their choice – forbidden from masturbating they are gifted one dry hump a day to speed up their desire to find a partner.
Attempting to escape the hotel results in the guests (or inmates) riding out and hunting the escapee through the forest. Their interest? For every escapee caught another day is added to their deadline. And for those who do manage to avoid the inmates and escape – they join a group of Outsiders who live a life of isolation in which kissing is deemed severely punishable.
Our protagonist David (Colin Farrell) arrives in one such hotel – status: ‘Single’! He has one-and-a-half months to find a partner or be transformed into an animal of his choice. His is the important central role and it is expertly played by a stony-faced Colin Farrell. The narrative is peppered with interesting characters! There is the lisping man and the woman with no emotion who liven up the film and prepare the stage for future events.
It is not difficult to see that the ‘hotel’ is just an elaborate metaphor for the criminal prison system! The ‘inmates’ are given moral lessons before being released based upon displaying ‘favourable behaviour’. The woman who is granted the gift of living out her final few days as she pleases reminds us of the final wishes granted on death row. Most characters talk and interact with minimal emotions and in a matter-of-fact style which depicts their inability to handle human emotions and thus their failure to land a life-partner. The deliberate moustache and glasses help Farrell appear as unreachable and emotionless as his jailed cohorts – detached from a loved-up society.
There is no specific reason given for why living a single life is a crime. All the people in this world could have started believing in a one true God – Cupid. Thus, refusing to fall in love and maintain a relationship is seen as an act of impiety. But that does seem a little far-fetched! It seems more ‘probable’ that in the dystopian world of The Lobster a large plague or nuclear war has decimated the population leaving them desperate to repopulate. As such, the government have taken extreme measures to ensure the survival of humanity. This seems plausible! Almost all the scenes outside of the hotel and forest show quiet fields and roads: a desolated land.
The biggest achievement of this film is its ability to put a wildly unconventional spin on familiar topics. The sheer absurdity never detracts from the seriousness of the film. It is an entirely different society constructed in The Lobster but one that is richly detailed and thoroughly stitched up. There is not a loophole to be seen. This film as intellectually satisfying as any serious drama whilst being utterly original. The entertaining dialogue keeps things thought-provoking whilst drawing laughs (and sometimes shock) out of us as well!
This is easily one of the finest of modern masterpieces! It will remain a major tour de force for many, many years to come and definitely implores us to revisit it more than a ‘couple’ of times.