One of the most exciting voices of contemporary cinema has hit that point in his career where he needs to make his first English language feature. Thankfully, unlike countless others before him, Yorgos Lanthimos managed to avoid the usual pitfalls of the “first English feature” and results in The Lobster, a film as weird and brilliant as his previous features Dogtooth and ALPS.
Unlike his much more personal and confined earlier films, this film is an exercise in world building with Lanthimos’ usual touches clearly visible from the very first sequence which portrays a woman we never see again driving to a field in order to murder one specific donkey. The film looks at a society where being single has been essentially outlawed. Anyone who suddenly finds themselves single is forced to report to a hotel where they will either find a new mate or be turned into an animal of their choice.
This system, supported by the powers that be, is in constant struggle with a rebel group who fight them from the forests around the hotel and who oppose them so deeply that they have outlawed love and sex altogether (to a point where they only listen to techno music as it encourages dancing by oneself). This may sound extremely odd to the casual viewer, and it is, but this is Lanthimos’ version of a love story.
This film may take some getting used to for people not familiar with Lanthimos: there are a lot of long – occasionally static – takes, strange use of music and the most unusual acting philosophy this side of Eugene Green, but anyone who sticks with it will realize just how masterful his filmmaking style is. My biggest worry about this film was the fact that Lanthimos would be working with actors outside of his usual suspects, people who may be unable to deal with his directing style, but the superb performances from the likes of Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly and others truly put my mind at ease. And, that is before we even get to the true star of the Lanthimos filmography – the Greek actor Angeliki Papoulia – who has appeared in his last three films and knows his style to a T and allows her to give unquestionable performances in the filmmaker’s work.
This website’s regulars may be aware that this film was a part of my top ten of 2015, after I had the opportunity to catch a screening in London late last year. My enthusiasm for it has not abated. The Lobster is a work of genius!
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