LOBSTER. Lanthimos is playing with absurdity

The Lobster should not pose problems for viewers who are not accustomed to absurd, surreal, or highly auteur cinema, or European cinema in general.

Filip Jalowski

2 September 2023

Yorgos Lanthimos broke into the broader public imagination with his controversial film Dogtooth. Since the story of a sick marriage that isolates its children for behavioral and linguistic experiments, the Greek director has only created Alps. These two productions were enough to antagonize the global audience because it’s hard to remain indifferent to Lanthimos’ cinema. He is undoubtedly a man with a unique vision. Some applaud it with a smile, while others would prefer to throw stones in his direction.

The Lobster is Lanthimos’ first film in English, featuring internationally recognized actors. However, linguistic and casting choices do not diminish the creator’s distinctive signature.

The story is set in the near future, where society has apparently rebelled against the corporate cult of singles and has decided to force people to form couples. Anyone who is unable or unwilling to conform to the new rules is sent to a special center dedicated to matching lonely hearts. Within forty-five days, the individual must find their other half, or else they are transformed into an animal of their choice and released into the nearby forest. Staying in this unusual sanatorium can be extended through regular hunts for hidden loners. Each captured specimen equals one extra day. David (Colin Farrell) is sent to this described institution, and in case of failure, he is to be transformed into the titular lobster.

the lobster photo 552faff39e28a Under the Shadow 3

Just reading the description is enough to recognize the spirit of Lanthimos’ previous films. Like Dogtooth and Alps, we are once again presented with a highly absurd concept aimed at commenting on the reality that surrounds us every day.

However, it should be noted that The Lobster is much more accessible cinema compared to Lanthimos’ previous works. This is not just about the linguistic aspect but also the storytelling approach. In his latest film, there are still many strange and not entirely comprehensible events, but the entire story progresses from point A to point Z in a fairly logical and orderly manner. The Lobster should not pose problems for viewers who are not accustomed to absurd, surreal, or highly auteur cinema, or European cinema in general.

The film carries hints of Lars von Trier’s cinema (the dry commentary delivered in a monotone voice is reminiscent of Dogville and Manderley), and it also features the spirit of Buñuel’s absurd humor and Kubrick‘s sterile set designs.

lobster Under the Shadow 1

All of this indicates that Lanthimos is aware of the work of his predecessors and does not attempt immature rebellion. His cinema is well thought out and, despite the label of subversiveness from critics, it fits into a long tradition of intelligent cinema that utilizes elements of grotesque and absurdity. Speaking of them, I would be delighted to see Lanthimos tackle the prose of Gombrowicz. If anyone could handle a text like “Ferdydurke” today, it’s him.

The Lobster is the least hermetic and, as a result, the most enjoyable film from the Greek director. The world created for the film quickly engrosses the viewer, the absurd humor amuses, and American actors feel perfectly at home in this strange reality where someone is constantly making another “mouth” for someone else. Dogtooth and Alps didn’t fully convince me, but after The Lobster – despite a slightly drawn-out ending (the main drawback) – I will certainly be following Lanthimos’ future endeavors.