The Lobster

Name:  “The Lobster“

Director, writer:              Yorgos Lanthimos with Ethymis Filippou

Released:           2016

Format: 1.85:1 film

When and how viewed: Angelika Mosaic, Fairfax VA, Sat PM, 2016/5/21, moderate audience

Companies:       A24

Link:      Official site

“The Lobster” is vicious satire, of on the basic tenets of most authoritarian cultures: every adult should be married and raise kids, or else he (especially) becomes a dangerous parasite on “the people.”

The title is about as symbolic as “Grapes of Wrath” (in an “I Love Lucy” episode).  When asked what kind of animal he wants to become if he fails to find a romantic partner in the 45 days allowed at this luxury hotel, David, the protagonist, says, indeed, that crustacean, because it has blue blood and lives a century – hope it doesn’t wind up in a supermarket to be boiled alive.

Now David, plays by Colin Farrell, looks uncouth enough.  He has a moderate pot belly, hanging over the belt, kept in place by a padlock.

You get the picture.  The “patients” have been swept off the streets in a dystopian future (ok, “Hunger Games”), set in Ireland, were fascism has recaptured the entire West. Men wandering in public are confronted by police to prove they are married, just like women in Muslim countries must be covered. Chronic delinquents are sent to the hotel.

We learn about how this works “on the outside” in the 118-minute film’s second act, set in the woods, run by the rebels, who, while providing relief from the 45-day rule, enforce their own brutal kind of discipline.  OK, choose between fascism and communism.  The irony is, of course, is that Dave finds love, of sorts, with the “Short Sighted Woman” (Rachel Weisz), and the movie tells us its backstory with their clandestine trips to the “city”.  To cement their love, in the end, David must mutilate himself in one of the most unthinkable, grating ways imaginable (and it’s not what you first expect).

The Spa rules are a bit mixed.  Homosexual couples are actually allowed (but bisexuality and transgender is not). Masturbation is forbidden.  When a relatively attractive straight couple (both tend to have nosebleeds) marries, the Hotel will supervise them to make sure they consummate the marriage.  If they don’t make it, then an “OPC” (one of “other people’s children”) will be assigned to them as an adoptee.

Throughout the movie, the dialogue is cleverly worded, perhaps tastelessly, as it tries to anticipate how an autistic person (or someone with Asperger’s) would say something.  From a “mental health” viewpoint, the film mixes up the ideas of Asperger’s with schizoid personality.

The film has other odd effects, with tranquilizer guns, as if to make political statements about weapons, and sometimes seems to be recreating Stephen King ideas (like in “The Shining”, 1981).  You have to applaud Olivia Colman for her chilling performance as the hotel manager.

The music score uses string quartet music by Beethoven (#7), Scnittke, Britten (#1), and Shostakovich (#8, with the famous three-chord motive) very chillingly.

The official site claims that it determines “your second chance animal”.  I’m rather reminded of the afterlife promised in Michael Anderson’s “Logan’s Run” (1976).

The movie certainly caused me to recreate my own days at NIH as a patient at NIH in 1962, and of my expulsion from William and Mary in 1961, when the Dean learned that, as an only child, I would probably not carry on the family lineage, and he had to tell my parents.  That pretty much explains Vladimir Putin’s attitude in underpopulated dystopian Russia today.

The distributor, A24, is getting a reputation for releasing edgy sci-fi films and social experiments.

Wikipedia attribution link for Irish scenery typical of the movie by Joebater, under CCSA 3.0.

I have a brief review on imdb of the movie here.

This is a good place to mention “The Bachelor” (1999, New Line), directed by Gary Senyor and Roy Cooper Mengure, based on the 1925 play “Seven Chances” by Jean Havez.  The comedy film plays on the idea of the “dead hand”, an idea from Victorian English novels that doesn’t have much currency now.  Chris O’Donnell plays the heir who will lose his unearned fortune if he doesn’t get married by age 30, as I remember.  Though the subject of cash cow comedy, the idea really isn’t funny in real life.

(Originally Published: Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 8:45 PM EDT)