‘The Lobster’ (2015) makes the perfect date or anti-date film

by Diego Moreno | 6/30/16 5:00pm

“The Lobster” (2015) is the latest effort from renowned Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, who received the Jury Prize at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival for this film. Fans of Lanthimos’ previous work such as “Dogtooth” (2009) and “Alps” (2011) will likewise enjoy the tone of his most recent masterpiece, which borders on the verge of experimental while still effectively utilizing techniques common in mainstream cinema.

“The Lobster” is hard to place in a specific genre: it manages to intertwine romance, drama and comedy while touching upon the human psyche.

Like many of today’s dystopian movies with their thematic warnings about our impending futures, the film is set in a near future in which, the government controls human behavior. In this case, it is illegal for humans to be single. Sure, that may not seem so bad if you’re thinking you have years to do so. But the catch in Lanthimos’s world? Those who are single are taken to a hotel where they are given 45 days to find a suitable partner or else they will be turned into an animal and cast off into the wilderness.

“The Lobster” focuses on David (Colin Farrell), who realizes he has no other choice but to check into the hotel after his wife leaves him to begin a relationship with another man. Accompanied by his brother, who transformed into a dog several years earlier because of his inability to find a partner within the allotted time, David, upon checking in, decides he will turn into a lobster should he similarly fail. His reasoning? Lobsters have lengthy lifespans and live in the sea, which he loves.

During his “stay,” David befriends the two runts of the litter, “the lisping man” (John C. Reilly) and “the limping man” (Ben Whishaw), who provide much of the comic relief throughout the film but also highlight the low quality of the guests’ lives.

After a heated discussion with the limping man forces David to consider the possibility of being boiled and eaten, he decides to try to seduce the most heartless woman at the hotel by pretending to be heartless himself. David is soon found out, however, and forced to flee to the woods. There, he encounters “the loners,” a group of singles who have embraced their single lifestyle and created their own kind of authoritarian society.

When David first arrives there, the leader of the loners (Léa Seydoux) welcomes him with two bizarre rules with horrific consequences. The first is that loners are forbidden from relationships with one another. The second is that based on the ideology that people live and die alone, all loners must dig their own graves. Throughout this exile from the hotel, David realizes the effects of these rules. He encounters a couple who had their lips sewn shut for kissing and flirting. Later, when a fellow loner steps into a bear trap, the group abandons him to his death.

The film leaves the audience in the dark about the identity of the sporadic narrator until David meets a short-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz). Enamored by this woman who shares the same subtle disability as himself, David strikes up a dangerous, secret relationship with her. The last act of the film focuses entirely on this forbidden relationship and its physical and psychological consequences. The leader of the loners has the pair re-enter society pretending to be a couple on covert missions on behalf of the loners’ leader, who does not know that the pair are together. Deception and tragedy fill the remainder of the film, which sees David questioning his existence.

Contradictions make up much of the film’s audio-visual production and its conceptual backbone. Walking flamingos interrupt beautiful shots of the Irish countryside. Fast-paced classical music accompanies transitions that violently pull the audience from one scene to the next. The characters seem to be the epitome of human sadness, yet they are still able to make the audience laugh hysterically. The film pokes fun at the institution of marriage while simultaneously pointing out the flaws of a single life. The characters, sad and despondent, still possess the uncompromising, unflinching human spirit.

Lanthimos and his co-writer Efthymis Filippou grapple with some fundamental questions about human interaction and the need for relationships with “The Lobster.” What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be alone? What does it mean to love? While the film does not answer any of these questions in its two-hour running time, it forces you to consider and confront these questions after you’ve left the theater.

Deeply moving yet surprisingly unsentimental, “The Lobster” is one of last year’s most intriguing and enthralling films, thanks largely to Farrell’s genuinely human performance and Reilly’s unexpectedly superb mastery of his role.

Funny, smart, troubling and sad, the film is perfect for dates, anti-dates and single lovers of cinema alike.

Rating: 8/10

“The Lobster” will play on Saturday, August 6 at 7 p.m. in the Loew Auditorium as part of he Hopkins Center’s summer film series.