“The Lobster” is clearly a dystopian satire and a dark comedy, even if the characters in the film aren’t laughing about their predicaments.
But it’s often uncomfortable humor, which is the intention of Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos.
Prior to this, he’d made “Dog Tooth” and “The Alps” both were in his native language. The Lobster is not only in English but it also takes place and was shot in and around a hotel on the grey coast of Ireland. When Lanthimos came to The Frame studios I had him give his elevator pitch for what The Lobster is about:
This film is about a world that doesn't tolerate single people. They're incarcerated into a hotel where they have to find a mate in 45 days and if they don't succeed they are turned into an animal of their choosing.
What were the things that you were observing in the world that were the original seeds of this idea?
It does start by wondering about love and if there's real love and how do you find it? What happens when you're single and how people view you when you're single and what kind of pressure there is on you by society or yourself when you're single. So thinking about these things and trying to make something that would explore it in an extreme situation so we can reveal the absurdity of things that we encounter in our every day lives and consider normal or just accept or we're born into...So that's the starting point.
So Jonathan Swift, who is the father of modern satire, would say that within satire is the germ of truth. That satire, when it works, it reacting to things that are present all around us. Obviously The Lobster is an extreme situation of the penalty that somebody faces for not finding a partner, but you're also talking about a modern society that puts a huge premium on that.
Yeah, it's an enhancement of reality. It's our way of being able to create a structure, which allows us to explore those kinds of themes with a different point of view and hopefully tap into something more substantial and elemental.
This is your first English Language film, do you think this story itself was especially well suited to be told in English?
It was that I am just going to start making English-language films and this happened to be the first one that we came up with. I think it's more contemporary because you have actors speaking in English with their own accents. Not necessarily more universal, but I think the story is universal anyway. It was probably reach a bigger audience, that's because it's in English.
Something that is very noticeable in this film is the tone in which humor is delivered and in which characters speak. This is a movie that is darkly funny, but the characters in the film don't themselves laugh.
I think that's the funniest part. First of all, in order for the audience to believe in the world we're creating you have to really believe in it and you have to take it very seriously. Taking something so seriously might appear to be absurd to an observer, I think that's what creates a comedy and makes it very funny. Otherwise it just wouldn't work.
One of the hallmarks of dystopian literature is that within the dystopia there is often a parallel utopia...yet once you escape one for the other, the rules are not dramatically different in terms of the authoritarian nature of their set up. Are you consciously thinking about that? That they're just different versions of authoritarian rule?
Yeah, I love the irony of that. That you escape from one world and you enter into another just because you think you're able to be more free, but this other world or society is created with very similar rules. They appear antithetical but they end up being as oppressive...the irony of that and wondering whether you are actually ever free to make up your mind and be your own person is something we were interested in asking.