Back to IndieWire

WATCH: Surreal, Macabre ‘The Lobster’ Has a Darkly Comic New Trailer (Review & Roundup)

WATCH: Surreal, Macabre 'The Lobster' Has a Darkly Comic New Trailer (Review & Roundup)

Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English-language effort, “The Lobster” (Alchemy, March 11), is entirely in tune with the film most of us have seen, the wittily high-concept taboo-buster “Dogtooth,” which was nominated for an Oscar. Working again with his co-screenwriter on his last three films, Efthimis Filippou, Lanthimos felt ready to expand his horizons beyond what was available to him in Greece, having moved to England four years ago.

WATCH: Rachel Weisz and Golden Globe Nominee Jane Fonda Talk Paolo Sorrentino’s ‘Youth’ (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

His multi-country cast ranges from Irishman Colin Farrell, Brits Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, and Olivia Coleman, Frenchwoman Lea Seydoux, American John C. Reilly, and Greek Angeliki Papoulia, who described the film as “funny, violent and sweet” at last year’s Cannes, where “The Lobster” debuted to positive notices and won the Jury Prize. Added Reilly, “It’s very subversive and funny and honest about relationships in a very stylized way. I like the absurd.” 

Where it could have gone very wrong, Lanthimos is in control of this movie. And his cast serves him well. “There are very powerful emotions happening inside,” said Weisz at the press conference. “Yorgos creates a world and a tone where nobody’s over the top in their acting style, in a world where everything is very internal. It’s the opposite of a melodrama, that’s the tone.”

“There is a lot of melodrama in the story,” argued Lanthimos, “but the juxtaposition is between various tones and music that is sentimental and dramatic: the voiceover and the elements create a lot of emotion, but it’s not like the actors need to do that in a certain way, it happens from within.”

The film starts out strong with overweight and nearsighted Colin Farrell playing a sullen, shut-down divorcee who arrives at a hotel for singles who — according to society — must be coupled in order to be allowed admission to the world of commerce and culture. They have a limited time to find a mate, or run away to join a band of outsiders foraging in the Irish forests nearby — hunted down by the hotel guests — or be turned into the animal of their choice. They wind up lying all the time to lure their match. It all sounds strange, but Lanthimos is able to create a believable world. We follow it. Because it’s a cruel exaggeration of our own. 

While he’s not hitting us over the head with his themes about the rules that govern and inhibit social mores, Lanthimos is taking a sharp skewer to modern society, suggesting that it’s more primitive and punitive than we may think. These characters are lonely and constrained, and we can all relate to that. 

“Cruelty is a truth,” he said. “It is necessary to show it. I don’t enjoy it but I don’t want to shy away from it. We show different groups; each group follows specific rules like we do in our society, they’re quite oppressed in different ways, that is something that comes out in every aspect of human life: friendship, sexuality, couples, relationships.” 

Lanthimos shoots fast, lean and mean, with natural light. What inspired him? “I watched a TV series, a reality show in England, ‘The Hotel.'”

Obviously this is strictly arthouse fare. It’s not for everyone. But I enjoyed myself, chuckling often, until the film ran out of energy in the final stretch. Read other reviews of “The Lobster” below. 

Eric Kohn, Indiewire
“David is a hapless anti-hero less interested in rebelling against the
system than unsure of what it wants from him — a brilliant encapsulation
of the romantic loner, and the ideal agent for setting Lanthimos’
allegory in motion.”

Guy Lodge, Variety
“Lanthimos’s confounding setup emerge as a brilliant allegory for the
increasingly superficial systems of contemporary courtship, including
the like-for-like algorithms of online dating sites and the hot-or-not
snap judgments of Tinder. If the unreasonable pressure on single people —
particularly those of a certain age — to find companionship has already
driven humanity to such soulless means, perhaps the scenario outlined
in ‘The Lobster’ isn’t so outlandish after all.”

Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter
“[T]he movie is boosted by the sort of eclectic acting line-up not often found outside the confines of a Woody Allen or Wes Anderson
film. The result is a richly rewarding but often very disturbing, even
harrowing work, and while the cast have clearly embraced the chance to
go dark, make-up free and explore a different sort of method, even
arthouse-friendly audiences may balk at this strange-flavored brew.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“It’s an adventure which begins by being bizarre and hilarious but
appears to run out of ideas at its mid-way point, and run out of
interest in what had at first seemed to be its central comic image:
humans turning into animals. ‘The Lobster’
is a satire on the subject of our universal obsession with
relationships, and our conviction that couplehood is the supreme
expression of human happiness, a civilised institution which
distinguishes us from the beasts.”

Oliver Lyttleton, The Playlist
“There is a vein of dark humour running through Lanthimos’ earlier films,
but ‘The Lobster’ embraces it wholeheartedly: the film’s a blend of the
works of Charlie Kaufman and Luis Buñuel, an uproarious
yet deadpan satire concerning societal constructs, dating mores and
power structures that also manages to be a surprisingly moving,
gloriously weird love story.”

This Article is related to: Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,