The Lobster review: ‘Far too pleased with itself’

17:42 15 October 2015

The Lobster. Picture: Despina Spyrou

The Lobster. Picture: Despina Spyrou

Archant

Yorgos Lanthimos’ story about a world where singletons turn into animals is so aloof that it just comes off as smug, writes Michael Joyce.

In The Lobster world all couples live in a city and all singles live in the woods. If you become single you are sent to a hotel where you have 45 days to find a partner. If you don’t you are turned into an animal. You choose the animal.

Why? I don’t bloody know, do I? It’s an allegory, innit? Or maybe it’s surreal black comedy. Or knockabout absurdism. There is certainly a pervading sense of nihilist deadpan running through it. You may laugh at certain points, though I suspect a tone of sustained frozen hysterics might be more appropriate.

Greek director Lanthimos has form when it comes to the bleakly oblique. His trademark is to dream up the weirdest scenario possible and then play it with a glum straight face. He made his name with the much-admired Dogtooth, kept it with the less-seen Alps and has now been given the chance to do his thing in English with a prestigious international cast.

You can’t deny the startling originality of his concept and the certainty and confidence of his filmmaking. But two of his directorial choices made it impossible for me to engage with the film. Firstly he has all the cast deliver their lines in the flattest, least expressive way possible, so they are effectively acting with one arm tied behind their back. They all sound like children in a school play, but a school play in a very progressive, experimental school.

He also has this incredibly irritating musical choice which is to interject a harsh burst of classical music at a painful loud volume at random moments. Ugh, that music, so self-righteous arty. It’s the kind of distancing trick Godard would use at his most obstreperous and every time you hear it makes you not want to give the film the benefit of the doubt; to choose to be irritated rather than intrigued by its ambiguities.

I don’t mind the narrative cold shoulder, but I do object to the aloof brush off. The Lobster comes off as a bit too pleased with itself. It is like certain Soho members clubs that would rather die than allow the hoi polloi in and are, as a result, something close to hell.

Rating: 2/5 stars

For a review of Crimson Peak go to halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com

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