Yorgos Lanthimos is ready for something more pop. And deep. And romantic. And emotionally disarming.
“The Lobster” begins with a close-up of a woman at the wheel driving in the countryside on a rainy day. She stops by a field and gets out of the car. The camera stays in the car following her behind the windscreen. She takes out a gun, approaches two donkeys in the field, shoots and kills one of them. An unexpected scene, thrilling, a little shocking and at the same time oddly funny. Adjectives that could accurately describe the type of cinema Lanthimos does as well as the style of the stories he and his permanent co-screenwriter Efthymis Filippou undertake.
His new film has all that: the strange humour, the deconstruction of the daily life in order to discover the absurd, the tender cynicism, the insistence on small details and on recording human peculiarities, the picking aside of our characteristics and behaviours and blowing them up to the height of a tragic comedy and to the the point of a parable.
If there is something new in “The Lobster”, beyond the opportunity to further explore the bizarre zoo we call society, then this is nothing other than a feeling of a deep, disarming romanticism, which permeates the film and ends up in lifting it up.
If Lanthimos’ cinema has in its entirety been concerned with the points where our organised social behaviour breaks down, “The Lobster” goes further and speaks to the nature of close relationships, to the closest forms of social interaction, the smallest social group, friendship and most importantly, what lies in the centre of it all: the couple.
Interpreting what the film has to say is up to you, depending on how you see yourself and others, or better yet, on the way you see yourself with the other. Whatever you end up seeing in this once again captivating and intelligent film, you cannot fail but recognise the wealth of its ideas and its emotionally mature observations. Even if Lanthimos and Filippou tells us nothing new – provided that we can see beyond the mere reflection of ourselves and the person’s who holds our hand in the mirror – the way they say it is still fascinating.
The plot is more or less known: a dystopian society, which looks pretty contemporary, has space only for couples. If a couple breaks up, the individual partners are given a second chance at a hotel where in 45 days they need to find their match, with whom they should at least share a common trait. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choice and in this guise, gain a greater opportunity to find a matching partner in nature.
Colin Farrell is such a case: although he tries his best, he fails and, before he is transformed into a lobster, the animal he chose, he decides to run away into the forest, where the Lonely leave. Yet, they also have their own rulesimposing a single life, which Farrell finds difficult to follow when he meets a short-sighted woman. Because, he too wears glasses. Their weak vision is not the only thing that brings them together, however.
Like with the opening scene, “The Lobster” is full of such small or bigger bursts of the unexpected and the absurd, full of characters you would like to see being explored further: the “woman without heart”, for instance, played by (the wonderful) Aggeliki Papoulia, would deserve a movie of her own or her own episode in a television series, which we would faithfully watch week after week. Characters, in short, who are full of pervasive truth, even if they often portray something surreal or funny.
Lanthimos further fortifies his cinematic universe, elevating it into something quite distinct and wholly impressive, transforming all those elements that could seem to be obstacles -the language, the stars, the place- into clear, indisputable assets.
This film, which brings a cinematic “genre”, that he clearly defined, at its peak, makes us look forward even more to the next. Even more impatiently if this turns out to be, as it seems likely, a period film since it is obvious that for a director like Lanthimos there is a need for an always increasing scope to explore and other, different rules for him to defy.