Blog Directory CineVerse: No crustaceans were hurt during the discussion of this movie

No crustaceans were hurt during the discussion of this movie

Monday, November 16, 2020

How can one begin to describe The Lobster, director Yorgos Lanthimos’ absurdist fantastical or futuristic take on romantic coupling in a world gone animal crackers? This is truly a film that has to be seen to be believed – and better understood, for that matter. Our CineVerse group took a stab (away from the eyeballs, rest assured) at appreciating and deciphering this cinematic text last week and came to the following conclusions (to listen to the recording of our group discussion, click here):

What did you find startling, unexpected, or memorable about The Lobster?

  • This depicts a strange dystopian future in which couplehood is valued and even required over being single, which is punished. In this dystopia, human beings hide their emotions and emphasize like-mindedness and similar character traits.
  • This bleak future society offers binary, black-and-white choices without much differentiation or diversity. Everyone wears the same kinds of clothes, practices the same rituals and routines, and strives for normality in a paired or group setting.
  • Yorgos Lanthimos said the movie was influenced by his ruminations on the ways society views romantic couplings as a default state and considers single persons to be questionable or defective. He foresees a dystopia where values, customs, and trivial rules are required at the expense of emotions and individual liberties.
  • “The Lobster deals with extremes of human emotion by factoring most of the emotion out of the equation. Lanthimos wants to isolate human behavior from the feelings that drive it, the better to analyze people’s choices… His aggressively flat performances and spell-it-all-out scripts are distancing, but he operates as though the only way to see a situation’s absurdity is from a distance… This is the stuff of traditional fairytales: magical transformations, arbitrary rules, brought allegory, and the redemptive power of true love. But Lanthimos subverts the entire idea by turning love into a petty, complicated construct, and magic into a grotesque practicality,” wrote The Verge writer Tasha Robinson.
  • This movie seems to be espousing Albert Camus’ three means of coping with life’s absurdities: suicide, which we see one hotel occupant pursue; submission, which David chooses when he decides to pair up with the short-haired woman at the hotel; and rebellion, which is depicted by David running off to join the group of wild loners and, later, breaking free of the loners with the short-sighted woman.

  • · Interestingly, even the loners – who aren’t required to abide by the government’s rules – seem as cold, cruel, and emotionless as the Establishment. This suggests that human beings have been programmed to abide by sociocultural norms of this society, even if they are not enforced.

  • · The film’s conclusion is quite interesting. It is unresolved if David chooses to destroy his eyes or not. But arguably that’s not even the important point here. Of more significance, has David really learned what it truly means to love, and how love involves accepting your partner’s differences and not trying to conform to society’s expectations or rules for romance or love? Would he even be standing in front of the bathroom mirror with a knife if he truly embraced Camus’ idea of rebellion and the freeing notion of nonconformity?

Themes on display and The Lobster

  • Conformity versus nonconformity and the extent to which human beings are willing to surrender feelings, freedom, and personal choice in exchange for social acceptance.
  • What is true love? And is true love even possible in a society that values congruence and discourages isolation?
  • The ridiculous burden society places on us to date and find a significant other or soulmate can result in unhappy and disastrous outcomes.

Other movies and works that The Lobster reminds us of

  • Writings by Franz Kafka, including The Metamorphosis
  • Writings by Albert Camus, including The Stranger
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which depicts an emotionless dystopia in which free will and choice is illusionary and our destinies are decided prior to birth.
  • Brazil
  • Advocates of “theater of the absurd,” a term first coined by Martin Esslin, a Hungarian dramatist. The theater of the absurd “attacks the comfortable certainties of religious or political orthodoxy… It aims to shock its audience out of complacency, to bring it face-to-face with the harsh facts of the human situation as these writers see it,” wrote Esslin.

Other films by Yorgos Lanthimos

  • Dogtooth
  • Alps
  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer 
  • The Favourite

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