“The Lobster”

 

            “The Lobster” is an absurdist satire, which immediately disqualifies it for the average moviegoer who “just wants to be entertained.”  The premise is certainly unique:  a world where if you suddenly find yourself single, even if only because your wife just decided to leave you, then the authorities will round you up immediately and deposit you at the mysterious HOTEL, where you have exactly 45 days to find true love, or you will be turned into the animal of your choice.  David (Colin Ferrell) has selected a lobster, because of the promise of long life in splended isolation.  Which is exactly what the current society will not allow.

            So people who find themselves on HOTEL's countdown look for impossibly perfect match-ups; someone with nosebleeds must find someone else with the same condition (and beware of faking it;  that can get you sent to the “Transformation Room” early).  David, a quiet, introspective, loner by nature, finds the whole thing so oppressive that even discovering a fellow cynic doesn't result in a perfect “match,” because he isn't uncaring enough, and she tattles on him.  So he escapes to the woods, where he discovers a group of LONERS equally oppressive in their “no-contact” rules.  He finds himself attracted to another near-sighted person, Rachel Weisz, but when they attempt to secretly court and flirt, she is severely punished for daring to allow her affection to show, and poor David must then decide if he's going to join her disfugrement ouf of sheer solidarity—which, of course, reduces the end to sheer absurdity (reductio ad absurdum). 

            Director Yorgos Lanthimos indeed spins us a cautionary tale about a world both too morally restrictive and too scathingly casual, about both sexuality and human dignity.  Of course the trade-off between protecting societel mores and preserving personal freedom is always a balance.  Perhaps the real absurdity is the confidence of any well-meaning social institution, such as the church, to both invite cordial fellowship and proscribe acceptable behavior, which might be impossibly optimistic--- like a school system attempting universally-accepted educational standards.  But those of us who have not yet despaired about the potential good in humanity perhaps needs the reminder that there are no standards acceptable, or applicable, to all.  OK, granted, just as long as the alternative isn't “no standards for anyone,” which seems to be the moral of this farcical satire.  That would be a nightmare world even more chaotic and depressing than that envisioned in “The Lobster.”

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  Do you feel that our society discriminates against singles, or subtly infers that a single person is somehow incomplete without a mate?

2)                  The unwritten rules for social and sexual interaction among single adults have changed dramatically in one generation.  Do you think these changes are for the better?

3)                  Who decides what behavior is acceptable for you? And is that the same answer for everyone?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association