The Lobster

How to not have ‘How to kill a dog’ in the title

You may hate it, but one of those films other people will bug you about not seeing. Beat them to it!
Reported on 3rd of April, 2016

When one puts a name to the character of the year, one could focus on the bad. Certainly I have a good name for it (2015 is the most forgettable year in the history of…uh…). Very, very few studio films were able to rise to bad or sink to good, in our increasing attempts to risk manage the fun that can’t physically hurt us.

The Lobster

2 October 2015 @ The Salle Stephan Bouttet

$18.00 or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

§  §  §


I’m keeping the tag, but the real character of the year was defined by the good and sometimes exceptional indie horror. To the films discussed previously (It Follows, Unfriended) I would also add the baroquely written and disturbing Bone Tomahawk and the pretty damned scary creatures of We Are Still Here. Nevertheless, the horror film of the year has got to be The Lobster.

Yes, I know. It’s a comedy. A lot of horror films are. You know it’s a comedy, and this is why it’s a horror film, because the experience of actually watching it is true, creeping and inescapable dread.

You could count on one finger the number of films on the compulsive desperation of coupling.

You in the states will be getting this film in May, so I also have the duty of making a show of acting like a movie reviewer. So: the film takes an alternate reality where single people are taken to a hotel and given 60 days to find a mate. If they fail, they are turned into an animal.

My stars! A synopsis! Who does that?

Everyone. I’m the only one who doesn’t. Everyone does that.

The Lobster is a film, and here’s a strange follow up to the synopsis in question, which needed to be made. You could count on one finger the number of films on the compulsive desperation of coupling. Considering that we all hate and participate in Valentine’s day, I’m surprised it took this long. Should I have called it A Valentine to Santa’s Football Wedding? Or just written it better?

We’ll never know.

Re: the things that are the meat of comedy, we have a long list of supposed-to’s from the society-bots on high: have kids, get married, have a job, be productive, not die, not risk a slightly unpleasant film. Just as films like Postal and Mutant Chronicles exist to make me happy, these proscriptions function only to be the subject of comedy. And make a comedy k. Yorgos Lanthimos has. A horror comedy. That’s not funny at all.

Though the film is worth seeing based solely the subject matter, it’s the treatment that really sings. Like all great horror, watching The Lobster continually invokes dread, and like We Need to Talk About Kevin, it captures, precisely, a feeling, the shame of singledom, coupled, so to speak, with the smug-satisfaction of the together.

That it does so in an environment of the deliberately surreal is no less an accomplishment. Like all great surrealism, it’s the details. Once the premise is accepted, the mechanics of the world unfold logically: the darts that are used to catch those who run away from the hotel, the single hand-cuffed to represent the importance of coupling, ‘It’s no coincidence that the targets are shaped like single people and not couples’ and so on.

I’m inspired to write this now – php code months later (that’s not php code; I’m making a php code joke) – not just because of its imminent release where you are. It’s really having just seen that ugly failure of a film 10 Cloverfield Lane. In a bit of writing time travel (see below, which is itself a bit of time travel), I’ve actually just completed the piece, all 1500 words in a single sitting.

There are many trite details in 10cl, but it did put me immediately in mind of The Lobster. In 10cl, like so many films, there can never be a character detail or moment that is not a set-up for something that happens later. Got a problem? Just journey back to the beginning of the film and give the character a fear of hockey sticks.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away. There’s nothing about hockey sticks in 10 Cloverfield Lane. It only that both Mr. John Goodman is a bad guy and that there really are aliens.

That’s giving it away.

I fucking hate that film; I’d ruin it in a 2003 article of Journal of European Politics if I could. But they didn’t start doing Kantian globalism until 2005.

How on earth was this not showing at the inflatable theater? Maybe that would have been too much.

How on earth was this not showing at the inflatable theater? Maybe that would have been too much.

The details of The Lobster, in contrast, are bursts of ideas from people who have so many they can’t seem to fit them into a single film. His one hand is not cuffed for that scene where he needs not to be handcuffed, nor does the cologne turn out to be a flamethrower and so on. It’s an intense inversion of A-scene-where-ism – instead of coming with random bland ideas that all mush together unrelatedly in our summer blockbusters, there’s an exciting kind of desperation here. Oh wait, what if, oh my God, we have to put that in.

Up front (this is technically the end, but we’re time travelers, man!) the dog dies. Reviews should include this, especially because it’s bloody. The dog’s body is shown after the fact, but still. I can handle this, and this actually is a spoiler, because The Road Warrior Rule is fulfilled.

That’s only a spoiler if you read this site with any frequency, so I’ll just tell you. Both as the single example of how the film works, and because if a dog dies, I need to know it will be revenged while watching the film. I like to impact my infinitesimal readership with the same preparation, especially if they don’t actually see the film.

Huh. Now, I see why risk management cinema works. If I cared about any other species but dogs, watching movies could be a real problem.

Anyway, the woman who kills the dog is caught by Mr. Farrell and sent, unseen by the audience, into the chamber where the people are transformed into their animal. We never find out what she’s been turned into (this is especially satisfying), but we also never see the chamber or the process itself.

And while there are many exceptional points to the film, let’s just consider this one, as you promise to totally see it. The Lobster specifies the details, but leaves vague its major points (this is despite the fact that it’s very detailed and complete plot as well – also common in good surrealism). It’s interested not so much in what happens, but in its world. And this is a damned complete world, which so very few filmmakers attain.

I don’t think it’s a perfect film, I don’t even think it was the best of 2015, especially since it’s coming out in 2016. But it is an exceptional one. To explain, I recommended to a new acquaintance here in Dinard, and she hated it. She did take her 15 year old daughter.

Don’t do that.

You may hate it too. But as much as I dislike Forrest Gump or The Gladiator, or even 2001, not so stupid to think that they’re not films that touch something, films to which we forever refer. Hate it if you must, but I think The Lobster may be one of those films.

The Take

This sucks because I can’t give anything away. Godammit. Fine. Here’s one to savor after the fact: the earned and delightful narrative surprise: ‘I think we are a match.’ When you see it, you’ll know. After the fact. Now? I’m not sure. Time travel!
I’ve been thinking a lot about Mr. Colin Farrell’s performance. I love that his catholic taste in rôles to be sure, but it’s off-putting to say the least. I’m fairly sure he was playing someone who must be tentative to survive, and it’s something else.
Total Profits
Ms. Olivia Colman is fine, I guess. Just being in Peep Show should be enough for me to love her, but I don’t, and certainly not as much as the British press. She is the weak park of the film here, the only actor seemingly out of her depth. I’d say she ruins some lines, but the lines are that good.
Total Losses


Thoughts on The Lobster

  1. dina says:

    The only thing I’m doing from the list of supposed-to’s from the society-bots on high is not dying. YET!

    1. Scott Scott says:

      Life – that’s how they get you. But much more important than our invisible slavery to a heartless mass of ideological interests…I made a ticket appear next to your name! PHP code!

      I deleted this and added it again because who knew: I have nested comments! I have nested comments!!!!

  2. Papineau says:

    I watched the trailer, and I want to see the movie. But I can’t now because you told us about the dog. Since I will never see this movie, can you tell me which character kills the dog, so it will be possible to boycott all future films of the actor who portrays the killer?

    1. Scott Scott says:

      How is it they have warnings for ‘threat’ but not for killing doggies? I agree with your boycott, but being that it came out on DVD here about three months ago, get a copy, have someone cut out the scene and insert a title card: ‘Nothing happened here. Nope’, and you’re all set.

      The actress is question is amazing, and it was nearly impossible not to give away all her good lines. But I understand. You have have to boycott all her films.

      Her name is Jessica Chastain.

  3. Dina says:

    I saw it. The only thing you were wrong about is that it is actually funny. I laughed out loud many, many times. And miraculously, my date laughed at all the same times, which leads me to believe we might be a match, even though he is not short sighted and I am.
    Of course, the killing of the dog was horrific, but somehow, so many of the horrors became tolerable because they were symbols in a surreal world. And also because he avenged the poor pup’s death. And the pup was not really a pup.
    Anyway, thank you for the urging. I’ve been to nearly zero movies in the theater lately, and I’m damn glad I made it to this one.

  4. Scott Scott says:

    You took a date to the Lobster??? You rule!!!!

    The dog killing was not great, but 1) Avenged!, and 2) unlike pretty much any other film, it’s totally congruent. It’s not a way to create a cheap shock and not kill a man character. You can’t get mad. As much. You can’t get mad as much.

    Okay, it’s funny, fine. The French audience did not agree and it confused me.

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