“The Lobster”: a beautiful and bizarre work of art

Yorgos Lanthimos is a director who is good at making moments that affect you and stick with you. The Greek-born filmmaker’s previous film “Dogtooth,” about parents who keep their grown children within the confines of their home, was one of the strangest movies I’ve seen in my entire life, but it was a movie that stuck in my brain.

Lanthimos’ English-language debut “The Lobster” is the best film I’ve seen this year. It is deeply funny, somewhat depressing, and at times rather violent. It is not a film for everyone, but for those who are willing to embrace a movie that is different and eclectic, it is a rewarding experience.

The title comes from the kind of animal that David (a paunchy and quietly endearing Colin Farrell), our protagonist, would like to be. David’s wife has just left him for another man, and according to the rules of The City, David has to travel to “The Hotel.” At this hotel, David has 45 days to find another partner or be turned into an animal of his choosing. He chooses to be a lobster, because they live a long life and are always fertile. He attends joyless dances to meet potential partners and goes to seminars about the benefits of having a significant other. The batch of singles often go into the woods to hunt the rebel group called The Loners by shooting them with tranquilizer darts, and for each Loner they catch, they get an extra day at the hotel. These scenes in the woods are shot in lovely slow-motion, which captures moments of beauty and brutality.

It is at the hotel that “The Lobster” really shines. While at the hotel, David both makes friends and tries to find a relationship. His two near-constant companions are John (Ben Whishaw) and Robert (the always funny John C. Reilly), who are listed in the credits as just the Limping Man and the Lisping Man, respectively. Those are their defining characteristics, and the people in the world of “The Lobster” are paired with people who share a characteristic. David, for a time, wins the hand of the so-called Heartless Woman – played brilliantly and scathingly by Greek actress Angeliki Papoulia, who is Lanthimos’ de-facto muse, having starred in both “Dogtooth” and Lanthimos’ other film “Alps” – by pretending to not care when she feigns choking in a jacuzzi. It is in moments like the one in the hot tub that “The Lobster” neatly walks the line between cynicism and humor.

After a sudden turn of events, David goes into The Forest, and finds a place with The Loners, led by a redheaded, nameless woman (played by the great and charismatic French actress Lea Seydoux), who does not permit her followers to have romantic relationships with each other. David begins to break her rule when he meets, and soon falls in love with, a woman who is short sighted like himself, and who is played by Rachel Weisz, who gives a soulful and, at times, rather heartbreaking performance. Weisz, credited as the Short-Sighted Woman, also narrates the film in a monotone throughout, which brings many laughs but also moments of annoyance, such as when she repeats the entirety of a conversation after it just happened in front of us literally seconds before. It’s the only part of the film that falls flat.

Even though Lanthimos has purposefully made his actors talk in a deadpan, every member of the cast gives a distinct performance. Farrell, who put on 40 pounds for the role, is at times rather adorable, having taken out everything in his mannerisms and appearance that suggests the Irish heartthrob he is more commonly known as. As well, he and Weisz are often magical together. Greek-born French actress Ariane Labed shows much talent as a duplicitous maid who works in the hotel. Seydoux is often terrifying in a way I’ve never seen from her previous roles. Reilly and Whishaw shine in their scenes with Farrell. A woman whose defining characteristic is her pretty hair is charming (I could never find the actress’ name).

The film is often hilarious. This is probably one of the better comedies you’ll see this year. My favorite moment is when David is at a dance at the hotel, and when he walks across the room to ask a girl who has chronic nosebleeds to dance, it is shown in slow-motion with bombastic music playing in the background, like how a middle-schooler would feel in a similar situation. Another moment that brought big laughs was when the Loners are celebrating in the woods, and since no one dances together, they are all flailing around with their headphones on in the quiet of the forest. Exotic animals often walk in the background of the Forest, like camels or flamingos.

Alternatively, “The Lobster” features moments of sudden violence. A man bangs his face against a table in order to get a nosebleed. A woman lays on the concrete ground in her own blood, screaming in agony. A dog lies dead and bloody in a bathroom. The violence is few and far between, but when it happens, you are shocked and, depending on your tolerance for such things, disgusted. Lanthimos does not put these moments in for simple shock value. Moments like the man hurting his face and the dog are symbols for the extent people will go in order to impress someone that we like or someone we see as a potential partners.

For people who are fans of good cinematography (like myself), “The Lobster” is gorgeous to look at. Lanthimos puts purpose and care into each and every frame, coming up with brilliant images with his use of contrasting light and dark colors. Even the moments of brutality are composed so beautifully that you have to look at them.

“The Lobster” is a superb exploration of modern relationships that has moments of delicate beauty and stark cruelty in equal measure. It is a good love story in a time where good movie love stories are in short supply. I will see a lot of films this year, but no moment will stick in my brain more than David and the Short-Sighted Woman slow dancing in the woods, their radios synced up together. They hear the music, but all we see is them moving together in slow silence, locked in each other’s embrace.

Note: Don’t ask me about the opening scene. I haven’t really figured out what it’s supposed to mean either.

Final Verdict: 10 out of 10

Rated R for sexual content including dialogue, and some violence.

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Ariane Labed, Olivia Colman, Jessica Barden, Angeliki Papoulia, Ashley Jensen, Michael Smiley, Rosanna Hoult, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Ewen MacIntosh.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Black & White encourages the student body to comment on the issues covered by the newspaper. The Black & White believes that user feedback is beneficial to maintain a balanced journalistic perspective. However, we encourage all comments to remain respectful and constructive to the issue. We also encourage students to restrain from using profanity and making inappropriate comments. The Black & White editors review all online comments before being posted. The Black & White reserves the right to refuse to publish individual comments, remove previously published comments and to suspend the comment function on a story.
All The Black & White Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *