Human identity is never a concrete absolute in the deeply strange cinema of Yorgos Lanthimos. Rather, identity is something to be emulated, bent out of proportion, twisted and finally, perverted beyond all reason. All four of Lanthimos’ distinctive and hilarious films – that would be his debut “Kinetta,” the troubling “Dogtooth,” “Alps” and this year’s Cannes favorite “The Lobster” – are fundamentally about the flimsiness of forging your own sense of self, and the often-surreal pitfalls that come with such a pursuit. He’s one of the more psychologically adroit directors making movies today, and in a new video essay title from Fandor, narrator Conor Bateman attempts to dig into the knotty mess of contradictions and the deep well of nuttiness that makes up Lanthimos’s work.
Role-playing is something that figures into Lanthimos’ films fairly rather heavily. Whether it’s the cadre of actors tasked with impersonating other people’s deceased loved ones in “Alps” or, in “Dogtooth,” a family closed off from the outside world whose only means of imitating human behavior comes from popular cinema (a conceit that was revisited in this year’s “The Wolfpack”), Lanthimos takes great pleasure in dissecting his finicky human specimens and watching them squirm under the glass of his all-seeing cinematic eye. These are films that ask penetrating, fundamental questions. What does it mean to be human? Why do we take such drastic measures to estrange ourselves from basic means of emotional connection? How far will we go in our pursuit of love and acceptance? The answers aren’t all here in the video, but the questions being raised are most certainly worthy of discussion. Fans of Lanthimos’ special brand of oddball social satire will no doubt be tickled, and it’s worth taking a look back at his excellent body of work before we all get a chance to feast our eyes on “The Lobster”.
Watch the video below. “The Lobster” does not currently have a U.S. release date, but it will screen next month at the Toronto International Film Festival.