In a world where staying single is a breach of acceptable social norms, single people are isolated in a hotel and forced to find a partner in 45 days otherwise they will be turned into an animal of their choosing. People who somehow manage to escape to the woods are called 'loners' and are occasionally hunted by the hotel dwellers. An incongruous story that must have made Kafka dance in his grave, not only because it breaks away from logic but because it takes the absurd to a new level of significance. The Lobster has all elements of absurdist fiction -' dark humor, irrationality, and cynicism, add to that a lurking social criticism that hits your mind and soul hard. The narrative is constructed in a way that lures you into giving up all your logical defenses after the first few minutes and totally surrender to the surreality of events. I truly envy writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos for having a mind that can come up with such twisted and brilliant stories.
If you have to choose between pretending to have feelings when you don't and pretending not to have feelings when you do, which would you prefer? This seems to be the kernel question of the film. The hotel dwellers are forced to pretend they have feelings for people in order to avoid being turned into animals. On the other hand, the loners are banned from showing feelings for each other even if they do. This absurd conundrum levels harsh criticism against a society that advocates binary opposition, an inherent concept that has become part and parcel of the human belief system of love and relationships as well. From the beginning of the film, it is made clear that there are no gray areas in this world; you're either heterosexual or homosexual, a size 44 or a size 45. It might not be that severe in the real world, but emotional extremism is just as bad. If you are in a relationship, you are expected to love to the fullest, and if you appreciate isolation and individuality, you are stigmatized as a heartless loner all the way through. Whatever you choose, you have to bend your personality or change something in yourself to fit in either group. In the film, this forced appropriation takes an emotional and a physical form, and it keeps you wondering which leaves more permanent scars, emotional or physical transformation? The story disparages a society that fails to acknowledge the paradoxical human condition -' humans need company, yet they are innately loners; they love other people, yet they love themselves more; they have feelings, yet feelings are not meant to last forever; they are spiritual, yet predominantly physical. A world that fails to recognize this complexity is a pathetic, oppressive place.
As usual, Lanthimos' script is funny, iaconic and strikingly smart; all the dialogues are meaningful despite their seeming absurdity, and the scenes are meticulously written to contribute to the intricate world of the story and its underlying intended significance. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when the hotel manager (Olivia Colman) visits David (Colin Farrell) in his room and tells him that he has to carefully choose the animal he wants to turn into because, as an animal, he won't be able to have a sexual relationship with an animal of a different species, something that he can't already do as a human being since he has to find a 'matching' partner. The whole conversation is very humorous and absurd, and the joke continues as we see how people strive hard to find matching qualities in their partners including nosebleeds, limps, good voice, shortsightedness and lack of emotions. An extremely elaborate and cunning joke that deconstructs the myth of soulmate.
I think the acting is great and one of the main sources of dark humor and irony in the film. Imagine a story about love and relationships where actors don't show a single hint of emotions and talk and walk like constipated corpses most of the time. Martin McDonagh has already rediscovered Colin Farrell as a comedian in In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths and it is always nice to see another director picking up on that streak. Ben Whishaw and Aggeliki Papoulia are notably spectacular.
As if it isn't enough for Lanthimos to subvert storytelling and acting norms, he seems to play with artistic trends too. If you are familiar with the Lars von Trier's cinematographic experimentation (Antichrist and Melancholia in particular), you will see how Lanthimos uses slow motion and classic music to create a grandiose effect that stands in a hilarious contrast with the event taking place on the screen.
The Lobster is another must-watch multilayered witty narrative from the impeccable imaginarium of Yorgos Lanthimos.
It went straight to my heart and to my all-time favorite films list.
Review by Manal Shalaby from the Internet Movie Database.