The Lobster's according to Wikipedia: In a dystopian society, single people must find a mate within 45 days or be transformed into an animal of their choice.
OK that's it! No, I'm committing to writing this. I was reminded of The Lobster when listening to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Throwing Shade, a few months ago. The movie is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and stars *big name* actors like Collin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reily, and Ariane Labed. I was hesitant to watch it because sometimes you just don't want to watch movies where you feel like you need to read a CliffNotes summary of the plot and characters just to understand the main concepts. Ya know? But there's something about books and movies that take place in dystopian societies that get me all riled up (!!!) and that counteracted my first set of concerns. So I decided to watch The Lobster, while on an 8-hour flight sitting between my mom and a stranger. Needless to say I didn't sleep a wink.
Lanthimos is known for making, for the lack of a better word, weird movies. I have to confess, this is the first film of his that I've seen. Dogtooth is next on my list. From what I've read, The Lobster is different than Dogtooth - maybe I'll write a response to the Dogtooth once I've watched it.
The first character we are introduced to in The Lobster is David, played by Collin Farrell, who is also coincidentally one of the only characters' whose names we actually know. Almost everyone else is admiringly referred to by descriptors like Nosebleed Woman, Nearsighted Woman, Limping Man, Bald Man, Biscuit Woman, Loner Leader, etc. David checks into The Hotel (that's literally what it's called) because he is newly single. Hotel guests are given 45 days to find a partner or else they turn into an animal of their choice. Most people choose dogs, David is told. David's brother actually turned into a dog; he accompanies him during his stay. But David chooses a lobster, hence the title of the movie.
The guests aren't allowed to carry any physical belongings from their lives pre-Hotel into their stay at the Hotel. Everyone dresses the same. They eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. They attend dances where the guests sit at rectangular tables that are optimal for people watching. They listen to the hotel owners when they tell them, "if you encounter any problems you cannot resolve yourselves, you will be assigned children, that usually helps." They watch reenactments of scenes of everyday life that demonstrate how much man needs woman (and vice versa and also applicable to non-heterosexual relationships). For example: eating alone and choking = death. But eating with a partner and choking = not death.
With only 45 days for the guests to meet, fall in 'love' with, and choose their partners, there's not much they can... how do you say this? Build their relationships on. One of the film's themes is that the characters are united and defined by their flaws. But the characters' flaws, in the case of Nosebleed woman, are overly simplified as they are brought to surface level. If my film and literature analysis skills are leading me to the correct-ish conclusion, I'm going to say that the recurrent occurrence (checks Thesaurus) of couples being matched with one another according to their flaws is representative of something greater. This has to be a statement on how we view companionship. Limping Man's flaw is that he has a limp, but he likes Nosebleed Woman and feels like he can only connect with her if he too, can become someone who suffers from frequent nosebleeds. Their relationship is built off of a lie. But he doesn’t seem to care because homeboy doesn’t want to turn into an animal. So he inflicts nosebleeds upon himself to keep the lie going and soon the couple’s relationship turns so sour that they’re assigned a child.
Meanwhile there are the Loners, a group of people who said, “fuck off” to their society’s laws regarding partnership. The Loners live in the forest because their lifestyle is prohibited in the city. The guests of the hotel are frequently sent to the forest to hunt the Loners; remember, single people = bad, but eventually David finds himself part of the Loners. When they travel into the city they pretend to be in relationships with one another but are still asked for their ‘papers’ when out in public spaces like a shopping mall. It’s almost as though people in this society don’t have the option to the single. It’s better to be in a shitty relationship than to be single. It’s better to be an animal than to be a single human. Lanthimos’ humor is almost sadistic at times. The scenes he sets for us take place in a world that is close enough to our own to make us easily realize the flaws of our society. For the lack of a more eloquent phrasing: it’s pretty fucked up that we, maybe without realizing it, become conditioned to value ourselves and others when they’re in relationships.