2015. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Have you ever experienced a soul crushing break up? How about the endless sea of despair in its wake?
That's the basic premise of Yorgos Lanthimos' midnight black comedy set in a clorox bleached dystopian future. One can't begin to talk about this film without first paying tribute to some of the works that influenced it.
There's a touch of Bunuel's Exterminating Angel, with people trapped in a building they can't leave, but are really trapped in the monotony of their lives. There's Lynch's constant reminder that Love itself is the most terrifying thing in existence. Finally, Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron's influence can be felt weaving through the narrative about society becoming obsessed with conforming to a coupled relationship status.
Colin Farrell delivers the performance of his career (dethroning Tigerland and In Bruges) by embracing the extreme awkwardness and vulnerability of the film's protagonist David. A man's who's wife has left him, thus dooming him to The Hotel, where if he does not find companionship in 45 days he will be turned into an animal of his choice and released into the wild.
The Hotel itself is perhaps the most important entity in Lanthimos tale. Equal parts romantic concentration camp and Kubrick's haunted Overlook. I won't spoil with overt examples, but they're there if you look.
The film's soundtrack is filled with classical strings that are used to evoke emotional response with precision. In one of the films best sequences, the viewer is treated to the horrors of being in the wrong relationship simply to avoid being alone and it's the music that puts it over the edge from comedy in one breath to outright terror in the next.
Shot with a perfect minimal eye by Thimois Bakatakis, The Lobster puts the relationship on display, keeping virtually every other detail in the background, as nothing else but companionship matters in the world of the film...or is it our world? That's is the film's dark intent.
In an age where our lives are on electronic display for anyone to see, The Lobster challenges the viewer to look inward and examine how relationships, the need to be wanted and not alone,take precedence over true love and companionship.
One of the nastier tricks that Lanthimos employs is a juxtaposition of the "sexy maid" trope (played by a wonderful Ariane Labed) set along side an older male counterpart to display the importance of being a pair and not a solo. It's almost horrifying how the difference in age is meant to suggest that stability of one of the partners is inherent to the relationship's success. That if you are alone, you are helpless. Another shot at the relationship crazed trend this film is trying to dissect.
Furthermore, perhaps the film's greatest strength is that sex itself takes a complete backseat. When it is brought up, always vulgar and primal and human which is precisely the contradiction that this wonderfully human film is trying to explore.
Some of my colleagues have felt the film falls off in the final act. For me, it's where the film comes into its own, by showing no matter where you go, life itself is a scary experience and it's human nature to not want to weather the storm in solitude.
I watched this with my wife in an almost empty theater, that was even emptier when it's final, wonderfully ambiguous scene had concluded. This is not a film for anyone not willing to endure an experience that makes you uncomfortable and confronts your deepest flaws.
My wife and I laughed hard and often and held hands, because I think, seeing this with the one I love helped affirm what the film was trying to say all along. Love is everywhere. Everyone is deeply flawed, but finding someone to work with these flaws is what is important, more so than changing your relationship status on social media.
In theaters currently.