The Lobster is a sci-fi project that Stanley Kubrick and Luis Buñuel might have dreamed up together while on a weekend break in a Marienbad hotel, in the Orwellian year Nineteen Eighty-Four.
As director Yorgos Lanthimos’s previous efforts Dogtooth and Alps are studies in emotional conflict and dictatorial control, so too is The Lobster. These are the Greek director’s pet themes, but now Lanthimos is working with movie stars and in the English language.
The artistic journey, from feted auteur of grim and emotionally punishing fare to the shores of mainstream territory, is smooth sailing.
In The Lobster, singletons are socially pressured into signing up to a dating programme with a twist. They are commanded to find a partner within 45 days, or else they’re transformed into an animal of their choosing.
For sure, the film is a few pickled herrings short of a smörgåsbord, but it’s also very beautiful and profound as an exploration of life’s dissatisfactions. Colin Farrell, piling on the pounds, is superb in the lead role, but Rachel Weisz steals the show.
Her character’s chipper attitude and sweet disposition brings much-needed warmth to the surrealist nightmare. Léa Seydoux also brings her A-game as the menacing chief of a group that have chosen to stay single, evading the authorities by living wild in the woods.
Credited only as ‘Loner Leader’, she functions very much how O’Brien does in Nineteen Eighty-Four. She’s just waiting for David (Farrell) and Short Sighted Woman (Weisz) to step out of line. Her subsequent method of punishment, when the forbidden lovers attempt to flee, makes Winston Smith’s cage mask filled with rats look like fun times at the petting zoo.
Beyond the cruel deadpan humour and icy, muted visuals is a thoughtful romantic tale set in a world where people are forbidden from marching to the beat of their own drum. The Lobster is a defiantly oddball take on the classic dystopian-future narrative.