The Lobster30 Sep 2015
I had the chance to see The Lobster at the 2015 NY Film Festival. Yorgos Lanthimos was in attendance and during a Q&A afterward he mentioned that he moved to the UK about 4 years ago. He said he had an explicit goal to work on an English language project after Dogtooth and Alps. About 4 years ago is also when Greece (Lanthimos’ home) began to show serious signs of financial and political trouble. While watching The Lobster, this wasn’t front of mind for me, but after the screening ended, I did wonder: did the fall of the Greek economy, the rise of Syriza and the fundamental questions Greece has asked itself in the last few years affect Lanthimos’ work. Greece has had to rethink grand parts of its society and how they will move forward. The answer is most likely a yes, but the degree to which Lanthimos is aware of the effects is debatable.
The Lobster presented a fascinating exploration of the huge stake that society has in love, relationships and procreation. So many of our public policy decisions turn on the idea that society should encourage people to fall in love, pair off, procreate and grow families. In a world that has basically accepted that as fact, what happens to single people, to people uninterested or unable to find partners? In Europe where populations are declining, in Japan where cultural frictions between traditional courting and Western influence, in addition to declining economic prospects are causing young people to change sexual practices, how are these norms changing and evolving? This is something I, personally, have been thinking about a lot these days as a young, single, urban male. My interest in partnering is dwindling while my peers are getting engaged and married almost by the hour.
In The Lobster, Lanthimos explores these ideas in dark, comedic, often hilarious ways. The world he creates in a resort for single people and couples, a city, a forest, are all beautifully depicted. The main performances, especially by Colin Farrell, provide a great partnership for the story to unfold. My description so far makes the film sound far more heady and intellectual than it feels. Largely due to the choices in language, the pared down but engaging performances and the wise choice of both the director and the actors to not take themselves too seriously, the film flows well from beginning to end.
My only criticism, if I can level any, is that the end of the third act took a few unnecessary steps and got away from the central themes of the film. But it’s hard to make that argument too strongly given how many people in the theater were collectively holding their breaths as the credits began to roll.