The Lobster (2016) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).

June 8, 2016 | By | Reply More

[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD: This review tells some of the rules of the strange world the story is set in.]

This is an absurdist comedy drama that drops the viewer in a world where people who are single have a limited time to find a mate or they have to be turned into an animal, but at least into a species of their choice. I know. Tthat makes no sense. But the freedom to not make sense is the core of the story’s style. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz star in the intriguing look at the importance of having a spouse in our society. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

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‘Being John Malkovich’ (1999) was a very original film. In the first half hour or so the Charlie Kaufman’s script introduced three or so really off-the-wall changes to reality and then the film just played out with those strange ideas. At the time, it seemed odd that these weird ideas could unapologetically be presented without being explained or justified. ‘The Lobster’ takes the same approach of throwing in absurdist premises but they never stop raining down. While the world setting looks deceptively like our world, the viewer is never allowed to feel he/she really understands what is going on. Strange ideas just keep being added to the mix.

David, a nebbish (played by Colin Ferrell) is facing the trial of his life. He has gone to a hotel where single adults are sent to find a mate among the other people searching. If a person fails to find a life-partner by a fixed deadline, he is turned into an animal, but an animal of his choice. The person who finds a partner must show that the partner will have something enough in common with the chosen mate, even if the similarity is something like that each has frequent nosebleeds. Some of this may be speculation, since the rules are mostly communicated by viewer deduction. These are people depersonalized by the entire situation. Most are given no names but a characteristic they have. Leading characters include the limping man (Ben Whishaw, best-known as Q), the lisping man (John C. Reilly) and the heartless woman (Angeliki Papoulia). There is some hope. Out in the forest, there is a counter-movement of Loners who have banded together, contrary to their name. There the narrator of the first half of the film incarnates as the near-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz).

This may sound strange but many of the rules of dating and finding a mate are very recognisable. Every day, we see people desperate to find a mate. This film of a foreign yet occasionally familiar world was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos based on a script he co- wrote with Efthymis Filippou. This is their first English language film.

One obvious problem is the camerawork. Perhaps it is intended to be disorienting, but shots are incorrectly framed. People appear in the frame only up to the shoulders or only one side of the body. Somehow the film loses some of its initial joy of discovery when the novelty of new strange concepts wears off a little. I hope we hear more from Lanthimos. I rate ‘The Lobster’ a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

(c) Mark R. Leeper 2016

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Category: Fantasy, Films, MEDIA

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