In a world where fatalism and duty are the ideological approach most subscribe to about relationships it is unbelievable how rarely a film comes along which looks straight at that bleak closed way of thinking and gives us an honest diagnosis of the disease. Yorgos Lanthimos interrogates modern relationships in The Lobster with pointed brilliance as equally dark as it is hilarious. To laugh with such completeness while being intellectually challenged makes this film on par with the best of Woody Allen’s work only with more depth in the way of social construct criticism and far less whimsical. If you imagine the overall ethos of Manhattan (Jack Rollins-Charles H. Joffe Production 1979) existing in the Never Let Me Go (DNA Films/Film4 2010) universe then you’ve got a fairly spot on idea of what The Lobster is.
We would all like to believe the world is evolving, that women no longer feel the social expectation of finding a partner as being a higher priority in life over gaining knowledge and discovering themselves in deep meaningful ways, we should all find it offensive to tell a man he needs to augment and silence every non-conforming personality trait he possesses, to never step away from the path which leads to a house, yard, and two point five kids yet both are key gender principles of our social dogma. We should in theory have already reached the pivotal point where all are equally free to experience life as reactionists to the soft winds stirring our souls, unfortunately as anyone who has bravely slipped on the John Nada glasses even for a brief moment can attest to; things are not changing for the better, now more than ever this belief for one to be alone must be solely the individual’s fault hangs dense over our daily experiences we might otherwise enjoy if not for being suffocated by our compatibility charts and matchmaking algorithms. We go on infinitum perpetuating the idea we should not experience each other as individuals, believing sterility is the only honest approach on our quest for a partner, we were born to be cogs in a bleak machine,that we will never exist peacefully without accepting such a destiny with open arms. If anything we are making things worse with our online dating and please swipe left mindsets which has devastating effects two-fold; those who successfully stand on the compatible/desired side are trapped in a defined box they must at all cost protect and fight to sustain out of the villainous perpetuated belief of being alone as the worst social stigma, filled by loneliness and absolute depression, while on the other side, the outside, the without anyone side, time spent there typically breeds vehement jaded cynicism founded by the onslaught of social attacks and marketing, a perpetual reminder they are malignant tumors in an otherwise perfectly structured and ideally beautiful world. Some might want to interpret The Lobster as some dystopian take on the potential of meaningless relationships based around meaningless societies, I firmly argue this film is as true and honest as an outside look on how the vast majority of existence conducts their lives could ever be.
I would love to talk about this film in a straightforward buy-your-ticket take-the-ride sort of way or tell you this is a movie of the sort where the actors make or break the experience, that the ups and downs of the plot could be taken in the usual shallow two-hours-to-kill sort of way but as with all other Lanthimos films it would be impossible. I like to believe that existing on the fringes of our A-typical world allows me to experience the film with some unique way of digesting it yet I suspect we all exist on the fringes, I believe you, as much as I, end up at the mall once a year completely appalled by what is considered “average,” coming within fingers length of the sort of world we have been told our entire lives we should, and one day shall, belong to, and rather than merely passing judgment in some juvenile uneducated way on the difference between them and us find yourself paralyzed in contemplation of HOW. How does one end up a generic archetype of a very generic existence in an unfeeling dead relationship where the very thread holding two people together gets called love when it would be better expressed as a floating buoy in the middle of the ocean with two people who believe they have forgotten how to swim frantically doing all they can to never let go of it? How does one end up with generic friends based around shallow common interests and generic conversations? How does one die inside completely and keep going through the motions for the rest of one’s life? And that right there is the catch-22 of The Lobster because rather than resigning to one-directional attacks, an important portion of the film is dealt with the outsider where the rules are different yet equally ridiculous and condemningly brutal. Frost can romanticize into eternity over our choice between two paths, the harsh truth is we either sell ourselves to one side or the other, be it subscribing to a lifetime of generically expressed love and companionship or by existing in the frantic cold-blooded realm of the “individual.” Both seem terrifyingly awful and ultimately both seem equally inevitable on the path towards an end where we lose all sense of who we are and all ability to share a connection with the world around us. There is so much I need to discuss about The Lobster, I feel pressed to go at length about a letter read by a friend which sounds like every god awful Maid of Honor speech we have sat through, I want to discuss how rape is more often than not taught as the fault of the victim rather than the perpetrator, I want to dive into how many times we have seen people pretend to be what they are not just to fool someone else into loving them, even writing that is too much and I fear I will take slightly away from an absolutely incredible experience of a film. The context of such topics is dark and heartless yet through perfection of directing we get to walk around in them filled with complete laughter the entire way.
If things were truly on the surface the way they already subconsciously exist I would probably choose to be an otter, at least they hold hands, what animal would you choose?
Jay Armstrong is one of our regular contributors at ANON Magazine. He writes with an honest and knowledgeable voice and runs Heycoolkid!, a means of changing and highlighting good dudes creating unpretentious incredible art that perpetually go unnoticed.