A Thought on Art and Entertainment
The last two movies I saw were Captain America: Civil War and The Lobster. If you were to ask me to describe the movies, I would say that Captain America: Civil War is a movie that I largely forgot upon exiting the theatre but would agree to see it again if asked. The Lobster is a movie that I am still processing and thinking about for days, but have very little desire to see it again.
The Lobster is the English language debut film by Greek auteur Yorgos Lathimos. The world of the movie is one where people are required to be in romantic couples as soon as they turn 18. There are no alternatives. Colin Farrell plays a sad-sack architecture professor named David. His wife leaves him for another man. Ruefully but dutifully he packs himself into a bus with his dog and heads to the Hotel. At the Hotel, we learn that guests have 45 days to find a mate. You can be heterosexual or homosexual. The bisexual option has been cancelled because of complications. Guests who fail to find a mate in the requisite amount of time are turned into animals. We learn that the dog traveling with David is his brother. David chooses to become a lobster because they live to be over 100 and are blue-blooded like aristocrats and he likes the sea. David thinks this is a good idea until another guests reminds him of the likelihood of being boiled alive and served with butter.
Another iron-clad rule of the universe in The Lobster is that people have a defining characteristic and couples need to have an identical defining characteristic. The characteristic can be neutral or positive but the overwhelming majority choose a negative characteristic. David has back-pain and his short sighted. Another guest at the hotel suffers from chronic and unexpected nosebleeds.
The only dissenters are a renegade group known as the Loners who live in the woods. Loners are hunted and captured by guests at the Hotel. Bagging a Loner gets a hotel guest an extra day to find a mate. The Loners have their own adamant rules against anything that could lead to human affection including an iron-clad rule of only listening to electronic music on discmen because electronic music is the only music suitable for solo dancing. This leads to what might be one of the best visual gags ever made on silent discos.
Yorgos Lathimos creates a total and complete world to serve his movie. The film is shot in muted and cold colors. Even the bright sundresses that women are required to wear at the hotels look cold and unappealing. The dialogue is purposefully delivered in a flat affectation and always sounds like formal yet desperate first-date talk. Even married couples living in the City can’t seem to get over their formal dialogue. Everyone wears business clothing at all times.
The Lobster raises deep questions about society’s need to make everyone feel compelled to be in a romantic relationship by taking the compelling to a natural conclusion of making it law with consequences. There are also deep questions on the notions of sincerity. No one is allowed to fake a relationship in The Lobster. You have to have a sincere relationship or be turned into an animal. Despite the oppressiveness of both official society and the strong rejection by the Loners, attraction cannot be stopped. David’s wife leaves him for a man she loves and is attracted to more. The Loners flirt with each other despite the significant and painful punishments that they can be subjected to if caught. You would think that in a universe where not being in a couple had serious consequences, people would find ways to fake it.
The complete and bleak worldview of The Lobster is what makes the film so compelling and successful as a piece of art but also makes it hard to watch multiple times. There are funny side gags like seeing random animals stroll on and off screen (presumably former humans). But overall the film is dark, uncomfortable, and largely filled with unsympathetic characters.
Captain America‘s plot does not leave men thinking about the nature of love or anything else for days except that it is seemingly setting up a trillion more franchise movies filled with CGI and spectacle. But it was overall more entertaining and Tony Stark at his most stubborn and arrogant is probably better company than the characters in The Lobster – even if The Lobster‘s characters were representing human desperation at its worst.
What is a movie, TV show, book, painting, etc. that you recognized as a great work of art but did not want to see again? What is a piece of fluff that left your head as soon as it was finished but you could watch again?