The Lobster: A shocking, engaging fantasy

Hana Afifi , Sunday 29 Nov 2015

The film captures in a surreal fashion how love finds expression in the context of controlled human interactions, humorously and shockingly depicted. Two more screenings will take place, in Cairo and Alexandria

The Lobster
Still from The Lobster

Murmurs, exchanged looks, laughter of disbelief, and a uniting air of excitement and awe reigned over the audience that watched the first screening of The Lobster on Saturday, 28 November, as part of the 8th Panorama of the European Film.

The Greek/British/Dutch/Irish/French 2015 production will be screened again Friday, 4 December, at Cinema Karim and Saturday, 5 December, in Alexandria.

The Lobster is a shocking drama/comedy embedded in surreal contexts. It is set in two controlled communities governed by rules for human interaction: one assigned to single people who have to live in a hotel, and another for loners who choose to live in the woods.

Humans are degraded to their animalistic state and act upon their instincts, including hunting one another, having their sexual needs fulfilled emotionlessly, and even turning into an animal if they do not find a partner at the hotel.

All these shocking elements spurred collective reactions from the audience.

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos does not shy away from using sadism in punishments by managers of such conditioned communities: a man who masturbated has his hand inserted into a bread toaster, which is the least of all punishments in the film.

The tone used by the characters is cold, the voice coupled with a narration that explains the thoughts of the main character, played by Colin Farrell.

This unchanging tone of the characters, who are outspoken in expressing their thoughts and needs, creates a comic effect that allows the audience to receive the obscenity humorously, but with utter disbelief at how far the director takes it.

You cannot be emotionless while watching this succession of unpredictable scenes.

Stripped decorum

The film holds up a mirror to the audience on societal pressure when it comes to finding a partner by using sarcasm in scenes that confronts the audience with the absurd dynamics of relationships.

A “heartless” lady is the best “hunter,” people get married because they studied social sciences together, have nosebleeds often, or love to ski  all sorts of nonsensical reasons why people claim they are together.

In one scene, the audience is offered a shower about why it is better to have a partner. “Man eats alone,” utters the host, after which we see a man choking to death. “Man eats with woman,” the host says, and when the man starts choking, the woman sharing the meal saves him.

In another scene where some of the loners visit the city, two people pretend to be happily married and the husband talks about how he works at a great company but has no time for his wife and children because of work. He then starts talking about their Mediterranean vacation plans.

The humour here is stirred by identification; the audience recognises such words, but they come out in a sarcastic way because they are uttered by people who are destined to live as loners in the woods.

Forbidden romance

In the middle of the sadism, the cold tone of the voice, and controlled societies, a love story is born.

The space that was neatly defined between the hotel, the woods and the city is now opening up to a scenery where hills and lakes merge into a beautiful painting that contrasts with the communities where people are conditioned to act according to the rules.

This scenery illustrates by contrast the nature of closed communities that live by strict rules.

Even as the cold tone of the voice remains the same, the audience can empathise with the couple who struggle to have a forbidden relationship, without forgetting the humour and the shock effect.

The movie closes on a tough decision to be made by the main character, the thought of which one cringes at, which found its expression in mass whispers of disbelief in the audience.

Even though the audience expressed mixed reactions about the movie  “I had so much fun,” “It is psychotic,” “It is amazing,” “It is depressing,” “I have no opinion and no thoughts,” — the movie is undeniably engaging and transports the viewed to a dystopic near-future world.

The Lobster will be screened three more times:

Tuesday, 1 December at 6:45 at Point 90 Cinema, Point 90 Mall, Street 90 (Opposite AUC Gate 5), Fifth Settlement, New Cairo
Friday, 4 December at 9.45pm at Cinema Karim, 15 Emad El-Din Street, Downtown Cairo
Saturday, 5 December at Cinema Amir, Corner of Fouad Street and Safeya Zaghloul Street, Raml Station, Alexandria

Check Panorama's programme here and Ahram Online recommendations here.

Ahram Online is the main media sponsor of The Panorama of the European Film and of Zawya.


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