So Stoic: THE LOBSTER
In all honesty Yorgos Lanthimos’s THE LOBSTER (2015) put a reserved smile on my face and I mean that in the best extraordinary way possible partly because I do have a morbid sense of humor. Nonetheless this film tickled my mind in strange ways, mostly because I put myself in David’s (Colin Farrell) shoes and if I equate my dating history into this bizarre story, I’d probably perish to being a lobster. Or in my case, the animal of my choosing would be a rhinoceros because they are majestic “almost” unicorn-like creatures. Rare by today’s standards. However, this absurd dystopian society values coupled people more than singles which is hysterically messed up and well kind of faintly correlates to this thin veneer of our culture today.
The atmosphere of this film is sublime in all of its deadpan comedy along with its obscurities measuring in a monotone voice over by Rachel Weisz. Calling it “weird” doesn’t even do it justice. The narrative points fun at the nature of coupling people together because those are the rules of this specific world. The minute you become single or are “dumped” you’re escorted to a hotel for single people and have to find a compatible partner/relationship within 45 days or you get transformed into an animal of your choosing and are later set free into the woods. That’s pretty much the gist of it.
It shines a light on the intricacies of finding love even in it’s shallow and hollow splendor such as today’s one-stop-romance in dating apps. The first half of the film sets up the premise of the world which takes place in a hotel. This leaves a sweet spot in my heart because I have a background working in the hospitality industry and seeing the scene where they escort the recently sedated loners back to their rooms via bell hop cart had me laughing hysterically. Hotel humor. As we enter the second half of the film, David flees the hotel to the woods where the recently transformed animal-people run about sporadically and also where a society of renegade loners reside. The leader of the loners is played by Lea Seydiux who’s actually quite terrifying in her performance as she’s adamant in disallowing relationships of any kind. You can do whatever you like as a single person but flirting and a relationship of any kind is prohibited. Consequently, David proceeds to meet a shortsighted woman (Rachel Weisz) and the two appear to be a match but must conceal their romance in order to survive the loner society. There’s seriously no winning in this world.
What left me intrigued was the pairing of people based on their specific flaws such as the limping man, nosebleed girl, lisp man, cold hearted woman, and the list goes on of the method of dysfunctional matchmaking but also the theme of being transformed into an animal. I feel like there’s a major analogy here. Noah’s Ark and the pairing of animals? It’s an enormous, outlandish stretch but the thought did cross my mind at some point with no approach in pinpointing the significance.
THE LOBSTER is bleak but even in its bleakness underlines droplets of humor that drives the story forward mocking how absurd it is to play by the rules in order to fit within a society. Gross. Sound vaguely familiar? It’s absurd and even on the spectrum of absurdity as a society we haven’t hit this kind of low. YET. Or have we? Given the context of prescribing to our own filtered bubbles. I’ll forego that tangent for another time. But, alas this is only entertainment.
Consequently, there’s a thematic thread at play here, hinting at survival all of which kind of teeters in how a society discards people. Remember SOYLENT GREEN or Shirley Jackson’s short story THE LOTTERY? There’s a funny pattern of what happens to people. We either turn you into food, stone you to death or you transform into an animal. Pick your poison.
This film entails an ingenuity of stoic performances, exquisite Irish landscapes, with a heart of unsettling darkness extracting and blinding us to the horror of existentialism all accompanied by a steady pulse of a dramatic violin playing what seems like every five minutes. What’s not to love about this formalistic delight of a film with its devious mise-en-scene and glorious opened ended ending all of which feels like a purgatory of deplorable souls. I favor this film and if you have a dark sense of humor you will too.