On lobsters, dystopias and mathematical cinema

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.

Interior, wilderness

A cryptic mystique finds its way inbetween the folds of slow-paced, seemingly stark films of Lithuanian director Šarūnas Bartas. Souls transcend bodies and take hold of a whole room, be it as mist or, perhaps, as indoor gardens – a recurring theme of his work from the ’90s. Souls that cry for something higher in The Corridor and Few of Us, souls that take over in the absurd, baroque fable that is The House. The outer world drenched in the inner. Thou shalt not try to understand, but only experience.

Stills from the films:
KoridoriusThe Corridor – 1994 (top)
Mūsų nedaugFew of Us – 1996 (middle)
NamaiThe House – 1997 (bottom)

About a peanut

vlcsnap-2015-09-25-15h57m32s68

Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power. 
– Oscar Wilde

Long before his 2014 Palme d’Or, Nuri Bilge Ceylan was already a savvy puppeteer of interhuman intricacies. And nothing shows it better than a teeny tiny peanut falling on the floor in his 2006 film İklimler (Climates)

In stale shades of brown and yellow and familiar flesh, edible props unleash a subtle menagerie of silent demons, as a man whose life has lost both control and passion rummages through said life’s trash bin in search for some last scraps of any of the two. Does he find any? Are we supposed to dislike this man for what he is doing? Are we supposed to “empathize” and feel sorry for him?

Does it even matter?

I guess sometimes it’s not the grand outbursts of on-screen emotion that drill into your soul and make you lie awake at 3 a.m. examining and overanalyzing everything as you wonder how the hell did your life get where it is, but the small, seemingly meaningless details – you know, the kind of stuff when, were it a cheap sitcom on tv, you’d take the chance to check your phone for any new emails. Just as much as sometimes it’s not gravity that makes peanuts fall on the floor, but raw, calculated mastery.