When Greek cinema’s leading sicko Yorgos Lanthimos sets up to make a film about the peer pressure, the shallowness and the compromises surrounding dating and relationships, you’d kind of expect to have your guts cut open with an unsterilized scalpel and no anaesthesic. Fortunately for some, unfortunately for others, this isn’t the case with The Lobster.
If you’d take away Lanthimos’ signature dry acting and matter-of-fact random acts of (self) violence, The Lobster could easily be a popcorn movie for singles who want to have a weekend laugh at the local mall cinema. Does it mean the best known author of the so-called Greek Weird Wave is going mainstream? Don’t know, don’t care, what interests me is this: does Lanthimos’ uncomfortably clever absurdity only work when inconspicuously infiltrated into this very reality, and turns into intellectual masturbation a cold, conceptual thesis when set in a hypothetical near future? Does clinical, rational cinema only work when it raises questions only to throw you back out in the cold to deal with them yourself, but not when it gives you the answers? Of course it does. As one of the film’s characters skilfully instructs us, it’s much more effective (and fun) to plant the seed of doubt than to use the gun yourself.
I still remember the open heart surgery that was Kynodontas (Dogtooth): this is real. This is happening. This is reality for some people. This is where evil exists in this world. Stylized, conceptualized, highlighted and all, it felt real. It stuck with me after leaving the cinema like dried out blood stains on white cotton.
Apart from the deliciously vicious Léa Seydoux and a brilliant scene where she leads a subversive hostage situation together with “the loners”, The Lobster remains a clever, pehaps even enjoyable a-to-b mathematical demonstration served with some humour and some violence. Fortunately for some, unfortunately for others.