The Lobster : JIO MAMI Mumbai Film Festival Review
We had to be very careful in the beginning not to mix up “I love you more than anything in the world” with “watch out, we’re in danger”.
What if a world existed where being with someone is the only thing essential? The Lobster picks apart ritualized human emotions and asks questions like: What do we get from relationships? What do we get from Love? What does society require from other people’s relationships? Set in near future, its now obligatory to be in a partnership or to be in a relationship. The film opens with David (Colin Farrell) who is now single and is sent to a hotel where he has been assigned 45 days to find a perfect partner with similar defining character traits or he will be turned into an animal of his own choice.
On the surface The Lobster feels like a strange, bizarre, absurd & slightly sci-fi comedy, but once you let the tone of the film set in, you realize what the film is doing to you. It doesn’t take long to realize that you aren’t watching a sci-fi adventure but a satire on relationships and the world which we are about to be a part of. The first leg of the movie, which would have made this the best film of the year is a study of the part of a society that has been forced to participate and indulge with the superior society because its just the way things work. Where people are losing their sanity as we are forced to participate in the rituals and aesthetics of the society or else the ticking bomb will explode.
We see damaged losers who go to an extent of hurting themselves and others just to pave a way to fit in. There’s a character called The Limping Man (Ben Winshaw) who fakes nose-bleeds hitting his head to something or the other, just so he could be with a girl of a similar kind. There’s also The Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) who gets punished for masturbating while the rules allow them to dry hump. David on the other hand, tries shedding his own self to become emotion-less but finds himself unable to flirt or even connect to the opposite sex and hence forms a formidable trio with the other two.
The second leg of the film moves us to the fragments of The Loners who connect through electronic music, loathe the people who are trying to become couples and are constantly chased around like preys. These outlaws are headed by The Loner Leader (Léa Seydoux) who have their own strange ethics and rules. They are now allowed to masturbate, but having a physical relation with a communicating mate can lead to strange results. The Loner Leader makes them dig their own graves and visits her parents in the city because that’s the way life is. Yorgos Lanthimos very cleverly satires over the group of people in our world who believe being perpetually single is right and everyone else is a moron. In his satirical jib, he also shows how these people who wear dirty clothes that look like garbage-bags can camouflage themselves into suit wearing stunners when needed to fit into the real world.
The third leg of the film introduces us to The Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) who has been acting as a narrator for this bizarre tale. As we see her in the flesh, we get to know how similar she is to our protagonist. As we see them fall in love, the weird and bizarre tone of the film gets a slight shift and the absurdism is replaced by an oddly touching and sincere love story whose vision and melancholic aroma is perfectly balanced with Yorgos Lanthimos’ vision of singularity and loneliness.
I can’t praise Yorgas Lanthimos enough for this film. His vision has transcended all my expectations even though the last half of the film doesn’t quite land well with its absence of stinging laughter. Yorgas manages to make his work sound profound and strange at the same time. Metaphors and subtexts make way for a subtler, more real setting that is somewhere a strange mix of Wes Anderson and Luis Buñuel and yet its 100% unique and original. At the heart of the film is a very subtle message of happiness when together & the selfish nature which we all have.
There are tons of examples in the film that show that Yorgos Lanthimos is a brilliant film-maker. Be it the brilliantly shot slow-mo scenes or the tragicness which has been references with the sad single stretched violin score. When I look back at the first and last shot of the film, I realize how strangely similar and dissimilar they are to each other. His work shows that he is not scared to experiment with the runaways, nor is he scared to let go-off of any of his characters even though they are not really like-able in the first place.
The film is a cross-breed between a tragic comedy and a satire which stick and floats, breeds and grows on you. Its the kind of film that gets better and better with each viewing. And in spite of all the strangeness its astonishing to see how grounded and similar it is to reality. While its basically about loneliness and relationships there are very minute accounts of humans who are so accustomed to following the crowd, that they are bewildered when a state of choosing between right and wrong comes. They take knives out of the shelves and are unable to decide whether it should be used to chop up vegetables or to cut-off their wrists or maybe kill the person who told them to make a choice. I was amused to see how immortal things like the act of seduction & sex are overpowered by biscuits and blood. While loving gestures like bringing flowers to your beloved are no more valuable and killing rabbits for the short-sighted better-half is the greatest achievement ever.
Only Colin Farrell’s character has been given a real identity so the sense of uncertainty substantiates throughout the film. Talking about Farrel’s performance. Its the kind of performance you needed from him after the let-down in HBO’s True Detective. Ben Winshaw is amazing in his short role while Léa Seydoux does what she is sorted out to do. The vulnerability and strength in Rachel Weisz’s character is seen quite evidently in the last part of the film where she manages to shine even with a limited screen-time.
The Lobster is a fantastic piece of magical-realism where the dead pan humor and the conditions of the narrative world should be accepted to truly invest in the film as a whole. Its funny, captivating and both honest and ambiguous in its perspective of love and happiness. Because, even when you find what you are looking for, you are not really sure how long it will last.