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A Note on The Lobster

Lobster-QuadThe world can be a cruel place to someone “unmatched.” You are hunted down in the forest, harassed by police in the shopping malls and you’re forced to find a match or else you’ll be turned into an animal. Or at least, this is the world of Yorgos Lanthimos’ acerbic, absurd satire, The Lobster.

 Rachel Weisz’s unaffected narration sets the tone of the film and introduces us to David (Collin Farrell). He’s an “unmatched” man with a boarder collie his only companion. The collie is of course his brother who didn’t “make it through” on his visit to The Hotel. After an awkward series of admission questions and quick orientation from an administrator David is subjected to life at The Hotel. For the first day, one hand is handcuffed behind his back as a reminder everything works better in pairs. The Hotel staff performs skits to remind the residents of the danger of living alone. And they use “awful” methods to keep them horny but punish masturbation in painful and humiliating fashion.

lobster2-xlargeThe logic of The Hotel parallels the logic of our society; you are expected to have a significant other, people suddenly seem proud of you just because you have a man or a woman on your arm. You may have won an Emmy, or cured diseases but you’re a sad case if you’re single. We’re stuck in an an over-sexualized environment to keep sex always at the forefront of thought but masturbation is condemned and we’re encouraged to use any thin connection to one and other as reason to “find a match.” In The Hotel it can be as thin as finding anyone that shares your lisp, your limp, your chronic nosebleeds or your complete lack of emotion. If you don’t have any of these superficial traits in common, then fake them. Fake a lisp, a limp, or nosebleeds and even change the emotional core of your personality.

David feigns an emotionless personality to find a match with the Heartless Woman (played by Lanthimos favorite Angeliki Papoulia) only to have his emotional state tested when she… well… I’ll let you experience the tragedy. Failing to find a match and afraid of being turned into an animal David fleas into the woods with the Loners, a group of unmatched individuals that abhor relationships as much as society abhors bachelorhood. In The Hotel David was encouraged relentlessly to find a match, here any sort of cavorting is strictly forbidden and met with punishment. You are free to masturbate though, so David has that going for him.

THE LOBSTER. Photo Despina Spyrou L_05703-0-2000-0-1125-cropWhen David meets the Near-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) living among the Loners he finally finds a real connection (he’s near-sighted to, you know). Sure, it’s still based on a singular feature of the individual, but it’s not artificial. But out with the Loners even if the connection to another is genuine you are made to feel as though it’s wrong.

The social commentary is beautifully constructed and the satire is fierce and at times disturbing. All of this comes through the wonderfully controlled, muted performances from the entire cast. They were funny, endearing and heartbreaking. It’s Colin Farrell’s best performance since In Bruges. Perhaps I was influenced by the collective experience but I haven’t seen a comedy this year that was as well written and so precisely directed. Which might be why at times it felt like a piece of classical music, hitting notes and movements with precision and allowing the audience to live within sustained moments instead of spoon feeding us one-liners in a quick cut zany world.

Lanthimos’ attention to detail adds a hilarious layer to the film. He stages random animals walking around through the forest as a reminder of The Hotel’s practices or places small drops of blood on the shirt of the man faking his chronic nosebleeds. Even when moments are tense, it adds the necessary levity.

The pacing might not be for everyone, but you’d be remiss if you didn’t at least give this film a shot. It’s the most unique romantic comedy since Eternal Sunshine. David and the Near-Sighted Girl create a special bond they must hide from the other and develop a complicated form of communication through body movement and hand gestures. And when their relationship is threatened, as the world often threatens those genuine couples, they must find a way to stay together. The ambiguous ending is something my wife would despise, but it does leave us wondering how far we are willing to go to have something in common with another. What parts of our personality and physical appearance are we willing alter in order to find companionship?

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