The Lobster (2015)
What drew me to The Lobster (2015) was a concept that a part of me existed, a small part of me mind you. A society that forced you into having a relationship, something that has so far evaded me. If only I could stay at the country hotel. Of course I’m not too sure about the threat that awaits me if I fail, transformation into an animal of my choosing. I’m having trouble even thinking about what I would become, living out my life as an animal that is out in the open, vulnerable to others who could easily cut short my life. Hmmm might stick my current position and see what happens, feels a lot safer. The same can’t be said for David (Colin Farrell) who we meet as he is forced out of his marriage, instead of trying to live on his own he’s rounded up on a bus that takes him to a country retreat like an addict, or someone suffering from mental breakdown, where they would be able to rebuild and recover. This is a hotel where you potentially have on 45 days left as a human.
I’m new to the work of director Yorgos Lanthimos who delivers his first English language film, which has a strong British sensibility. Instead of setting his future in the very distant is feels much closer so more real. This could happen 20 years down the line. I think gone are the days are silver jump-suits, that future never happened so it needs to be forgotten. It’s more realistic with hints of what could be on-screen. It’s also refreshing to see a mix of actors both well and unknown working together, looking more at Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly who are known better for their bigger films with actors who are very much on the face of British television and film. Depicting a more realistic view, not a glossy image of the future, its bleaker and equal. We are seeing them for once not looking their best, its a refreshing change. I’ve seen a more real Farrell with a belly, not the abs of the last decade or so, is he growing old or growing into becoming a better actor. At the centre of this bleak science fiction comedy he doesn’t really so much own the film, it just happens to centre on him which makes it better too.
I’ve already read reviews that thought that the hotel half of the film was far stronger than the second half out in the woods. The way I see it, they are opposites of the same idea. When I go to family doo’s I’m practically the only single one there, no ones forcing me to meet someone, it’s just the way it is. It could be so different, by now I’d probably be an animal or even dead. What if as much as we fight to want someone, to be with someone it can’t be forced, it has to happen naturally. Given a set time to make something happen produces pressure on you to feel, to perform and produce results, which happens with the men and women at this hotel. We meet new guests who are stripped of all their belongings making for a level playing field in which you’re supposed to meet someone, pair off and stay together.
What if you rebel against that idea, all of the conformity, wanting to live alone, living the single life, being a loner really. Its all about conformity in society, the possibility of enforcing the ideal way of life, having a partner looks nicer when you look in from the outside, the happy faces, the moments, the kisses etc. But we all know they are also dam hard work. My parents have been married for nearly 30 years and get fed up with each on an almost daily basis, doesn’t mean they’re going to split up. Its just how it is. However to enforce a way of life on all of society when you think about it has scary draw-backs. Where do you draw the line? At what age does it become the law for you to be in a relationship? What happens when your partner dies and your not far off yourself, are you forced back into the area to attract another mate? All these questions are left unanswered, the audiences goes away full of thought of what could be.
I think that is what you have to gauge from the film, the two extremes of this future, they would of course play out differently. There is a strong sense of symmetry in the film, not just the obvious hotel of partners and the outcast loners but in the mise-en-scene. It’s very formal like the world they all inhabit, beautiful but formal to an extreme. Even in the woods you still have luxuries in this resistance movement that allows you to live the life of a loner. I think critics are missing the point, its more about the idea, it can’t all be in one tone. Starting off with as a bleak comedy, there are some nice moments of awkwardness which work. When you move out to the wood it becomes more natural, life is able to occur, even when it’s restricted in reverse.
There also two very strong women in the film, Olivia Colman‘s Hotel manager and Loner Leader Léa Seydoux both polar opposites of each other. Able to lead a group of people, their men are passive towards them. Another step in the direction of seeing better roles for women on-screen. Even in this hyper reality of forced relationship’s they work well in. The men in the film play a lesser role which makes for an interesting change, even for Farrell who’s usually the hero. Both he and Short-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) are used more as objects to manipulate in this world where they cannot lead the life they choose, pursued by whichever society they are in.
Weisz is also the narrator of the film, acting more as a diary entries than an observer of the story. She’s not a strong woman in the same sense as the other two. She becomes blinded by her love, which leads awkwardly into my conclusion which could have easily been avoided. I was discussing how they could have lived together after the film finished. Instead they resorted to desperate measures to ensure they are together. Its a bleak and hard ending. There are bleak moments that I noticed got laughs which I felt were induced by the build-up of the world we were witnessing, morality seems to get screwed around here. Which for me works to a point, leaving more questions than when I came in, it was unresolved, which for better or worse is how I left the film. The Lobster is a thought provoking piece that is grounded more in the ideas than the comedy, there’s little build-up here, things just happen, drifting almost which works at times, others you feel cold. There are moments which feel redundant which do detract from the flow of the film, going into something much greater.