The Lobster, or the Struggle of the Unfit
Lanthimos' dystopic The Lobster offers an unconventional reflection upon society
Yorgos Lanthimos‘ dystopic The Lobster is a film that offers an unconventional reflection upon society, by following the story of an unfit individual who must survive, and, possibly, find love.
The story begins when David, dumped by his wife, checks into a hotel where he has 45 days to find a new partner amongst the other guests. Since being single is not allowed, by the end of this time period, anybody who hasn’t found a partner will be turned into an animal. The guests are brought into the woods where they can go on a hunt and capture “loners” – people who have escaped the system and live in the woods. In exchange for each one they capture, they earn one more day.
The struggle of the unfit
David must try to adapt in order to survive. However, the point is that he doesn’t fit into society’s frames and definitions.
David shows this right away when, in the first scenes, he is answering questions at the registration desk. He cannot make up his mind about whether he’d like a male or female companion, and ends up choosing women, just as he chooses a 45 shoe size over a smaller one, when he usually wears 44 1/2.
This inadequacy sets the tone of the drama by adding suspense to the story, along with the intense music score and gloomy landscapes. Thus, the spectator is propelled in a smothering, cruel world in which binary ratios, such as couples = society, loners = wilderness. It brings us back to a Victorian understanding of the couple as the fundamental and necessary nucleus of society. What cannot be catalogued is a flaw for the community and must immediately be disposed of, through the punishment of regression to an animal state. Is it a punishment, though? During the film we see many animals wandering in the woods, representing freedom at the purest stage: through blessed ignorance.
The duality of human nature
The film is split in two by a change in setting – the first part taking place in the hotel and the second in the woods.
One might think that the wilderness would be the place of liberation, after all the impositions and attempted brain-washing in the hotel, however, this is not the case. The “loners” have their own leader and their own rules, particularly the denial of any physical contact. Both environments can be seen as distorted societies representing two opposite desires of human nature. The hotel offers/imposes companionship, without which a man cannot live, while the woods offer independence. People need both, yet are allowed only one of them.
The answer to this opposition is given by the characters’ quest for affinity with one another; it truly comes natural to them and seems the only way to harmonize their contradictory human nature.
Writer: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, Léa Seydoux, Jessica Barden, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia