THE LOBSTER || 2015, Greece / Ireland / Netherlands / UK / France || Comedy || Directed by – Yorgos Lanthimos / Written by – Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou / Produced by – Simon Arnal, Caroline Benjo, Julie Billy, Cait Collins, Joost de Vries, Ceci Dempsey, Rory Gilmartin, Ed Guiney, Christos V. Kostantakopoulos, Yorgos Lanthimos, Sam Lavender, Andrew Lowe, Lee Magiday, Leontine Petit, Tessa Ross, Carole Scotta, Milan Ueffing, Derk-Jan Warrink / Cinematography by – Thimios Bakatakis / Editing by – Yorgos Mavropsaridis / Production design – Jacqueline Abrahams / Starring – Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, Michael Smiley / Running time: 118 mins.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos makes his English language feature debut with The Lobster, an original and witty film that draws inspiration on contemporary paranoia and takes shots at society in general. It is set in a futuristic Orwellian world in which single people are, basically, illegal; they are given a deadline to find a significant other half and failure to do so condemns them to being transformed into an animal of their choosing. Lead character David (Colin Farrell) chooses the lobster; hence the title.
Single man David is taken to a huge mansion in the woods where most of the first part of the film takes place. This is where other single people are taken; in coming together, the hope is that they will find a lover. But this is a task that proves to be more arduous than it looks. We know that the story of the film is set in the future almost solely by instinct because, as in other works by Lanthimos – namely his impressive debut feature Dogtooth – there is an air of timelessness to the film that brings along with it a sense of familiarity. There is also attention paid to architecture, especially with the aforementioned mansion, which can be seen as a symbol of society, surrounded by the wilderness, where dangers to be frowned upon lie – soon enough we realize that that is where single people who escape the institution live, they too practicing their own form of extremism, forbidding any form of romantic ties.
The Lobster blends comedy and drama quite naturally. Its satire has bite, yet there is a sense of urgency and tragedy to be found in the original concept. The cinematography favours still shots and meticulous mise-en-scéne, which represents the repression and tension that lurks underneath the ethical superficiality being preached by the powers that be, often in a patronizing or downright theatrical way.
The absurbist and satirical side of the story is presented in a natural blending of drama and comedy. The satire has bite but there is enough sensibility and warmth in the screenplay by Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou to humanize the surrealism of the its dystopian universe. Such warmth is embodied by the quiet and sad central single male David, portrayed by Colin Farrell at his absolute best. His restrained performance and excellent timing is a real driving force in the film. He is passive but likable and it is uncertain whether he is shy or a true romantic. Farrell also ditched his usual wild boy good looks and traded it for a few extra points and the physique of a couch-sitter; visually this also makes all the difference. Farrell heads a stellar cast that features other top players in show-stealing form. Among them, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux and Rachel Weisz, the latter playing a central role in the film’s second part.
The provocation of the familiar theme is successfully represented. The Lobster is an interactive experience, and part of its success is that it is not unlikely for individual members of the audience to experience the movie in different ways and come up with their own conclusions. Some will focus on its political ethos, others will be touched by its more humanist observations on relationships. It’s almost impossible to imagine, however, anyone not enjoying the film because for all its intelligence, it is also a downright entertaining film. – 5/5