Review by ltcomdata

The Lobster 2015

It is difficult to categorize this movie. It is at once a surreal farce, a tragic dystopia, and a romantic tale. How good the movie depends on how one characterizes the movie.

As a farce, the movie criticizes the perceived pressure people feel from society in general to couple with each other. In the movie's dystopian future an uncoupled person must go to The Hotel in order to be paired off. If they are unable to do it, they are transformed into an animal of their choice and released into the forest, to hopefully find a mate as an animal, since they weren't able to do so as humans. Needless to say, there are couples (or members of coupes) who attempt to game the system and fake a romantic connection where there is none. Those who refuse to go along with the system are hunted down. All of which explains The Resistance: those who refuse to go along with the system, live in the forest, alone, and who, in rebellion to the system punish each other if they get into relationships with people among the group. Thus, as a farce, the movie also criticizes those unhappy people in society who deep down want a true and fulfilling relationship, but who have committed themselves to singleness because they resent society's perceived pressure to couple. Frankly, while the premise of the movie is intriguing, as a farce, the movie magnifies a minor annoyance out of proportion. If the movie is seen entirely as a farce, then the movie is easily dismissed once watched, because the problem that it points is relatively minor --- if existent at all.

And yet, the movie is not as easily dismissed. There is something deeper there than a laughable premise. Which means that the movie cannot be only a farce. Because the movie, in fact, talks about our need to couple. Ironic that. A movie which at first glance seems to make fun of coupling ends up treating our need to couple much too seriously to dismiss the issue. After all, there is a romantic tale here, even in the surreal context of a dystopian tragedy. For, while society forces people to couple, the main protagonists of the movie seek each other out to couple, even when society (a different one now) tries to keep them apart. And while the part of the movie which tries to force the male protagonist to couple is comedic farce, the part of the movie which shows him seeking his love is poignant, full of heart-warming and heart-breaking moments --- and thus affecting the viewer much more strongly.

I think the perspective of the female leader of The Resistance reveals the true nature of the movie. Her uncompromising stance against coupling --- and her insistence in leading a solitary, self-reliant life where you dig your own grave and your only hope is that your comrades will throw some dirt on it once you crawl to it to die --- leads her to blind the female protagonist. This same woman will occasionally visit The City for supplies and seems almost wistful of the life she has renounced, especially when visiting her parents, who are shown as relatively happy. It is almost as if her resolve to singleness stems more from a romantic disappointment that soured all relationships for her rather than from a philosophical belief. And therefore she endeavors to destroy all coupling --- excepting her parents' (perhaps because, like all children everywhere, she doesn't see their parents as romantic partners?). It is her jealousy that drives her to blind the main female protagonist --- so that she will no longer see the hand signs of love that she has developed with the male protagonist (because unnecessary talking is also forbidden, going against the singleness ethic). It is her jealousy that drives her to sabotage the relationships that form in The Hotel, by showing each person the deep flaws of their romantic partner: showing them that the love they profess for each other is inauthentic and easily destroyed.

The movie, as a farce, then has a great deal in common with the leader of The Rebellion. If it is a farce, then its goal is to sabotage couplings. But, like the leader of The Resistance, in the very act of sabotage it reveals the value that --- out of spite? --- wishes were not there. For the movie fails as a farce, showing us instead two people who are drawn towards each other romantically.

The end of the movie is a farcical question. Does he love her enough to share her darkness, as the circumstances of their surreal world seem to demand? The answer to that question is left up to each viewer. Is the male protagonist courageous enough, or will he continue to display the lack of virtue he has displayed throughout the film? Is the love that he feels for her real or not? After all, doesn't true love mean that no (morally licit) sacrifice is too small for the beloved?

I generally do not like surreal films. Despite this, I liked this movie.

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