If you thought that good things come to those who wait, according to Yorgos Lanthimos’ surrealist comedy drama The Lobster, you’d be wrong. And likely transformed into a Weasel.
The Lobster tells the story of David, a man made recently single due to his wife running off with another man. He is then packed off to a Hotel in which he is given 45 days to find a romantic partner, or else be turned into an animal of his choice and released into the forest.
This film is narrated beautifully, through both Colin Ferrell’s internal monologue of David but also from the absent voice of Rachel Weisz. The way that information and characters are introduced using playful narration is a useful tool in this film. For example, David tells us details about a character before the camera cuts to them, foreshadowing the subsequent shot. As it foreshadows action, it is also used to foreshadow character – as shown by Rachel Weisz as a narrator suddenly being drawn into the story as a physical Weisz manifests herself later on as the main love interest.
The characters created within this film are the special ingredient. The Lobster‘s dark undertone is sliced up into bitesize chunks due to the films’ humorous nature, which expresses itself through the thoughts and behaviours of the characters. Starring Ferrell as a chunky, middle aged, walrus-moustached man (who is very different from the roles that Ferrell usually adopts). Alongside him are his unnamed Hotel BFFs – played by John C Reilly and Ben Whishaw as ‘The Lisping Man’ and ‘The Limping Man’, respectively.
These ailments become important due to the fact that every person in the hotel seems to have a quirky ‘trait’ that makes them stand out. Whether it be lisps, limps, nose bleeds or an intense adoration of butter biscuits, each client is individual and odd in their own way – which is used to comical effect in the film. To top it all off, The Hotel Manager, played by Olivia Coleman, serves as the cold and stern rule enforcement that keeps the establishment running smoothly.
These characters, though thoughtful and each different in their own way, are so detached that we cannot empathise or identify with any of them, including David. The hotel’s strict rules and schedule forces conformity over human emotion, and each character goes along with these rules whilst trying to find their perfect mates, devoid of emotion or sexual attraction.
The films’ snappy and comical dialogue is inhuman and unnatural, and this, combined with clean cuts and repetitive soundtrack is a constant reminder of The Lobster’s style and genre – littered with Jean-Luc Goddard and Luis Bunuel influences. In its’ most blatant nod back to surrealism is, of course, the title – with the lobster being well recognised as a mascot of the surrealist movement since Salvador Dali’s work in the 1930s.
It would be impossible to review this film without mentioning the mise-en-scene and locations. There are three major locations in the film – The Forest, The Hotel and The City. The film is split into two halves, the first takes place in the hotel. Although the film is set in the future, the Hotel has a distinct 1970s feel, and this coupled with the staff demeanour gives off an oppressive air – perfect for the rigidity of the rules in place.
The second half of the film takes place in the Forest, which is beautifully shot, structured well in between colourful trees and undergrowth next to a vast lake. This connotes the freedom that the escapees (or ‘Loners’) have out of the grasp of the Hotel’s oppression. The way that animals appear in the film is shown best through the unnatural animals that walk through this woodland, for example a Camel strides through one shot, clearly not an animal you would find in common woodland, emphasising the characters’ potential fates.
The City is presented to us almost as an unknown, frightening place – even though it is the most natural and human of the three locations. Just a regular city, not unlike London, however the buildings seem to leer down threateningly at the characters and law enforcement are obsessed with arresting potential Single members of society.
As the plot becomes more and more complicated and wickedly strange, we are lead through the action with ease and therefore don’t get lost in the films’ complexity, which is always a danger with this type of movie. An unusual take on a love story with frighteningly accurate societal view on loneliness, The Lobster is informative and stunningly intricate, weaving together both the light and the dark in such a way that leaves you thoughtful and satisfied at the films’ devastating close.