VIFF 2015 Review: The Lobster
Once you see The Lobster, I’m sure it will make you think twice about going to one of those matchmaker hotels. Okay, maybe not but the whole scenario of matchmaking and the single life depicted in the film is downright bizarre.
The film is set in a dystopian future where single people are brought to a hotel in accordance to the rules of The City. The hotel gives people forty-five days to find a match. If they succeed, the couple is given a month to develop their relationship in a special section of the facility. After which, they are freed. If anyone fails in any which way, they are killed and reincarnated as an animal of their choice and sent into The Woods. People can extend their stay with The Hunt: people from The Hotel shoot tranquilizer darts at any of the ‘loners.’ One ‘loner’ capture gives one an extra day.
A man named David arrives at The Hotel. He brings with him a dog whom we learn to be his brother as he too was subject to The Hotel and failed to find a match in due time. David tries to get used to the hotel and its methods. He chooses to be a lobster if he does not succeed in finding a new woman. He even participates in The Hunt. He learns of the other leisurely activities at The Hotel. One awkward rule is masturbation is banned by painful punishment but stimulation from the maid is a requirement.
David first makes friends with The Limping Man and The Lisping Man. The Lisping Man would have to stick his hand in a toaster for masturbating one night. The Limping Man hopes to find a woman with a limp like him. Instead he’s attracted to a woman who has frequent nosebleeds. He fakes nosebleeds to win the love of The Nosebleed Woman.
David is inspired by this and first attempts to win the love of a woman whom everyone knows to have no heart. He’s impressed by her hunting skills and he’s attracted to her as she’s choking to death. He attempts to start a relationship with her but it turns out to be a disaster even to the point she kills the dog: David’s brother. He’s able to tranquilize her and bring her to the transformation room so she’ll be an animal forever.
It then gets to the point David can’t handle it anymore and escapes. He finds himself with the ‘loners:’ they live a wild life catching rabbits and hiding from the hunt. The rules are not as hard but they don’t permit any flirting or entanglement as they will punish it badly. David wins the affection of a short-sighted woman. This helps since he is short-sighted too. The loners give the two missions to go to The City and pose as a couple but it causes them to become more affectionate.
The loners go on a rampage where they try and split up the couples in The Hotel. David even goes as far as trying to split up The Limping Man and The Nosebleed Woman and others going as far as pulling a stunt with the Hotel Manager. Meanwhile the leader of the loners learns that David and the Shortsighted Woman are in love and blinds the woman. They attempt an escape. This leads to an ending as bizarre and unpredictable as the whole story.
It’s hard to see if this film was trying to make a point about dating life, being single and marrying. This is a very bizarre scenario from start to finish. Plus I would find it hard that such a situation would be for single people with our current human rights. Keep in mind this is set in the future. Hey, depictions of the future like that in The Hunger Games don’t paint a pretty picture. It’s interesting how the army of loners raid the Hotel. Makes you wonder if their mutiny is a form of rebellion or of personal anger.
I will have to say this is the most bizarre romantic movie I’ve seen since Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. That movie was what you’d call the ‘romance of the absurd.’ I do feel it is about love and surrounding human emotions magnified 100 times. The time limit put on those at the hotel to find love could be seen as the personal time limits one puts on one’s self to find love. The case of the leader of the loners trying to split all the couples up could be a case of one’s unhappiness and how one could try to impose it on others. Even those that end up in the hotel like the limping man, lisping man, heartless woman, nosebleed woman and the short-sighted woman may reflect on people’s insecurities. Meanwhile David is in the centre of it all. He starts out as possibly the most normal of the bunch but it isn’t until the end that he resorts to eccentric extremes of his own for the sake of love.
This is the brainchild of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. He has accomplished a lot in his directing career. His film Dogtooth was nominated for an Oscar five years ago. This is his first English-language film. In directing and co-writing the story with Efthimis Filippou, he creates a set of worlds that could easily look ridiculous on screen but worked with careful writing and careful directing. I see many cases with the hunt, the transformation room, the mutiny and even the character of the Heartless Woman that could have easily come across as dumb but was done right and was sensibly done.
Colin Farrell did a good job of playing this bizarrely comedic role well that’s completely different from any of his blockbuster roles of the past. He had to portray a man who treats this bizarre situation as something sane and normal. Even going from the sanest person in the film to committing an insane act for love at the right moment. He does it very well and gives the comedy the right tone. Although Farrell owned the film, Rachel Weisz as the Shortsighted Woman and Lea Seydoux as the Loner Leader were the strongest supporting performers. Some of the other minor characters were also very good such as Ben Whitshaw as the Limping Man, Angeliki Papoulia as the Heartless Woman and Jessica Barden as the Nosebleed Woman.
The Lobster is a film collaboration of five nations: UK, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands and France. It won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was a nominee for the Palme d’Or. It has also won top film awards at the Rotterdam and Ghent Film Festivals.
The Lobster is both bizarre and amusing in its depiction of a futuristic world and its ways of dealing with dating. It’s both bizarre and charming at the same time.