Romantic science fiction meets creepy creatures in new dystopian satire The Lobster, Cannes premiere and English-language debut from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (who picked up a best foreign film Oscar nomination for his award-winning 2009 film Dogtooth).
In inimitable style Lanthimos comments on our conflicting drive as humans to both pair off and be single. Rife with deadpan surrealism, his characters seem to exist in a humourless world, a parallel, dystopian universe, where the only law is that people be coupled with a partner (preferably with a mutual 'defining characteristic').
Once a couple becomes separated, they are sent from The City to The Hotel – part rehabilitation centre, part prison – where this mandate is enforced in various ways. But if they can't find a new mate after 45 days, the 'Loners' are turned into animals and released into The Woods.
Lanthimos' world is cruel and unforgiving. Everything is held up to scrutiny. If singletons lack sufficient attributes to win a mate, then they have no choice but to undergo the painful metamorphosis and be turned into an animal (be it dog, camel, shetland pony – they can, at least, choose).
But it's their inability to see the funny side, the deadpan language in which they speak, that makes Lanthimos' characters so wickedly funny. These awkward, gawkish people are unable to hide their true selves: their behaviour ranges from politeness, to rage, pain, love, but all under a glaze of a seemingly autistic lack of self-awareness coupled with an extreme fear of the world around them. They are like children learning how to lie for the first time.
Early on the inscrutable David (Farrell), is asked upon arrival at The Hotel whether he's attracted to women or men. He answers, after some thought, 'heterosexual' – though follows up by asking if bisexual is option, to which the concierge responds that as a result of 'organisational issues' they can no longer register people in this category. 'You have to decide right now whether you want to be registered as homosexual or heterosexual,' she says, officiously.
Lanthimos' film is littered with witty observations about society's unwritten codes. Perpetually nuanced, the film lapses from utterly surreal to so near-naturalistic that we constantly find ourselves re-evaluating this world; its rules; these people, their capacity for emotion.
Shot on location in Ireland with a cast that includes the Oscar-winning Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener), 3-time BAFTA winner Olivia Colman (Broadchurch), Colin Farrell (In Bruges), Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, Lilting), Léa Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour, Inglourious Basterds) and John C. Reilly (Chicago), the names on board pay testament to Lanthimos' originality: the Dogtooth director is already betraying himself as an auteur of the most peculiar kind.
Unconventional is hardly the word for it. A film that must be seen to be believed, The Lobster will make you laugh, wince, be moved and disturbed, all in the flash of a lumbering camel.
|The Lobster film review
|Various Locations | MAP
|Leicester Square (underground)
16 Oct 15 – 30 Nov 15, Screening times vary
|£determined by cinema
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