I am sure that everyone remembers Phoebe in friends telling Ross that Rachel was his lobster… In some romantic notion that lobsters mate for life. Actually lobsters don’t mate for life… dominant male lobsters fertilise a harem of female lobsters in a series of flings which last about 2 weeks with some complex mating rituals. Undoubtedly lobster was used rather than any avian creature – the obvious being a swan, in the analogy that love never dies.
So what happens when your swan or lobster leaves you? Well Yorgos Lanthimos along with a series of co-writers, producers and directors came up with a theory that solved all of the troubles of having single people in society.
Colin Farrell plays David, a man whose wife has left him, and the film starts with him being delivered to a hotel, where it is revealed that everyone has 45 days to find a match or they will be transformed into an animal. David is accompanied by a dog, who is in actual fact his brother, who has already been through the process and was unsuccessful at finding a life partner therefore became his chosen animal. David decides, that he would like to become a lobster, due to their longevity in life and his love of the sea. David quickly makes friends with Robert (John C. Reilly) a man with a lisp and John (Ben Whishaw) a man with a limp, who got his limp from trying to reconnect with his mother, who has been transformed into a wolf.
The hotel has strict rules, no masturbation, but the guests have to be sexual stimulated by the chamber maids, guests must also attend dances and watch films or plays which are propaganda promoting the advantages of being in a relationship.
It is never truly explained why people need to be in a relationship, but residents can extend their stay by tranquilising the single people who live in the forest. Each captured “loner” earns the resident an extra day.
Robert is caught masturbating one day, which ends with him having his hand burnt in a toaster at the breakfast table to act as a warning to the others in the hotel.
One day while out on a “hunt” for “loners” a woman with a fondness for biscuits offers David sexual favours, when he declines them she confides in him that if she doesn’t find a match she will throw herself out the window to kill herself.
John orchestrates a match with a women who has constant nose bleeds, by secrets smashing his face so that he has nose bleeds too, and they are moved to the couples quarters. Here they will undertake a month trial to see if they are really compatible.
David takes up with an extraordinarily cruel woman (Angeliki Papoulia) who is notorious as she has captured more “loners” in the forest than anyone else. Their initial conversation is interrupted when the biscuit loving woman throws herself out of the first floor window. As she lays there screaming David displays no emotion to the cruel woman and this earns him her affections (if you can call her reaction affection). Their relationship is sealed when, while in a hot tub together, she feigns choking and David ignores her. They move to the couples suite and they start their months trial of what appears to be a joyless relationship, where sex is a silent affair and reactions to anything are not taken well. The relationship falls into disarray when David wakes up one morning finding the cruel woman has kicked his brother (the dog) to death. David starts to cry and the cruel woman decides that their relationship is a lie. David, with the help of a sympathetic chamber maid forces an escape from the hotel after changing the cruel woman into an undisclosed animal.
Leaving the hotel, David joins the loners, where relationships are forbidden, and mutilation is punishment for any form of romance. It transpires that the maid that helped David escape is a mole for the “loners”. As they plan a mini raid on the hotel to sabotage their work, the leader of the “loners” takes some of them into the city for supplies.
During the raid David reveals to the nosebleed woman that John has been faking. John forces David to leave. Other “loners” hold the hotel manager and her husband at gunpoint, tricking him into shooting his wife to save himself, but the gun is not loaded, leaving the couple to face each other, at the realisation that their relationship is in tatters.
Soon David, who is shortsighted, begins a secret relationship with another shortsighted “loner” (Rachel Weisz). They develop hand signals for communication, displaying a oneness in their relationship. They plan to escape together, but the mole, who is now with the camp, finds the shortsighted woman’s journal and discovers her plan. She reveals the plan to the leader, who takes the woman to the city, ostensibly to have an operation to cure her short sightedness, but blinds her instead. In anger, the woman kills the hotel maid, thinking she is killing the leader.
She tells David about her blindness. They try to find something else that they have in common, to no avail. He says that they’ll figure it out and tells her to continue with their plan. Early the next morning, David overpowers the leader, leaving her tied up in a grave to be eaten by wild dogs. He and the blind woman escape to the city, stopping at a restaurant. Seeking to reestablish sameness, David goes to the restroom and prepares to blind himself with a steak knife while his partner awaits his return, but he hesitates twice and his decision is left unshown.
This film, is the darkest of dark comedies. Which is why I like Lanthimos’s films so much. They shine a light on the absurdity of what society considers the norm. Much like his other film “The Killing of a Sacred Deer“, he uses stilted relationships and subtle symbolism to highlight how societies norm is nothing like you expect behind closed doors.
As an ongoing theme in Lanthimos’s films relationship, loving or sexual are less than affectionate, intimate relationships don’t feel intimate and almost farcical, particularly in “The Lobster” as people are given a time limit to find a match and it is seemingly based on flimsy likenesses.
If you can get on board with the dark humour of this piece, and you can forget everything you know about biology and logic, this is a fantastically elegant and eccentric film which keeps you wondering what will come next.
If you are wondering what I would be should I ever find myself having to be changed in to an animal…In Lanthimos logic, I would be a penguin. Want to know what you would be? Take the quiz here.
Have you seen “The Lobster”? Why not tell me what you thought in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?