Throughout Dogtooth and Alps runs a fascination with nonsense societies and invented social rituals. This is no less at play than here in The Lobster where Yorgos Lanthimos invents a future where people are engaged in bizarre mating rituals and dominated by bafflingly alien rules you are constantly wondering what on earth is going on as we see things like Colin Farrell having to sleep and change with one hand tied behind his back or the maid coming in and giving him a lap dance of sorts. This, it eventually becomes apparent, is Yorgos Lanthimoss satirical version of the modern Tinder, OK Cupid and speed dating-based society where ones match compatibility is stripped down to a few similarities such as nosebleeds or short-sightedness (even all of the characters except Colin Farrell are known only by their attributes).
The Lobster took longer to strike me with its deadpan blackness than Dogtooth did, although remains a far more polished and conceptually coherent film than Alps ended up being. The actors all deliver their parts in a deliberate monotone that has been desaturated of any emotional colouring. Lanthimos delivers the blackest of black comedy in pitch-perfect deadpan to quite hysterical effect Angeliki Papoulias pretend attempts to choke on an olive in a jacuzzi; the attraction between Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz and their secret coded language of body signals and their unrestrained outburst of passion in front of Lea Seydouxs parents; Farrells irritation at a suicide having interrupted his nap; and the considerable shock scene where Angeliki Papoulia blankly announces that she has kicked the dog to death. John C. Reilly is discovered having been masturbating over a picture of a naked woman on a horse and is admonished: If I were you, Id be crying over the horse not the woman. The horse was probably just another man like you.
This is kind of take-no-prisoners black humour. The Lobster is not going to be a film that gets any easy multiplex play it comes without any easy handholds for us to know what is going on, or even cues as to whether one should be laughing out loud at any given moment. Most of the audiences I was watching the film with left giving a collective huh of puzzlement. It takes a certain hardied dedication to non-multiplex fare to get it; even then, I left not even sure whether I liked the film or not. All of that said, by the time it came to writing it up a couple of days later, the blackly deadpan wit had sunken in with a bite that was much funnier in the remembering.
(Screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival)