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CHAMBRE CINEMA: Dystopian Societies

We have become conscious protagonists of the transformation process’s of our actual world. Our habits, our customs and our beliefs have taken an existential turn as we had never imagined. Our duty now implies a great challenge. What will our near future be like? How will we reconstruct ourselves? What will this new life be like as a society?

No doubt, it is fascinating to imagine new worlds and build fictional stories, since, although we do not have the certainty of the future, what we do have is the ability to imagine new realities that allows us redefine the life that we have now.

“THE LOBSTER”: The Burden of Individuality

Discovering the cinema of the Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos is a unique experience as it never ceases to surprise us. By masterfully dismantling the conventions, rules and even the beliefs of our thoughts in which we find ourselves immersed, and rarely question. His cinema has been awarded in the best circuits of world cinema with films such as Dogtooth (2009), Alps (2011) and The Favorite (2018), each of his creations reveals with subtlety, and scathing criticism, the normalized questions of our existence, our relationships and our society. Lanthimos explores the human question from a distant position in which he immerses us with an absolute indifference, it deepens us until it tears our entrails while posing the absurd as possible. His narrative is transgressive insofar as he challenges us with unusual stories and unimaginable situations within, where the thought of the common destroys the apparent logic to propose uncomfortable situations that become violently disturbing due to their sharpness and insensitivity.

The Lobster (2015) © Film4

The Lobster (2015) brings us a dystopian society whose social configuration seems quite simple, “you only have the right to live in the city if you have a partner", while that is the norm of society, you ought to be in a “relationship”, otherwise, if your status is single, divorced or widowed it is stated as criminal act whose consequence is the transfer to a Hotel. The Hotel operates as the “panopticon” of a totalitarian regime, with strict behavior guidelines and indoctrination of accepted social norms, where the only premises are obedience and punishment. During the stay, individuals have a period of 45 days to mate and choose someone to marry as the only condition to reincorporate them to the life within the city.

The Lobster (2015) © Film4

David (Colin Farrell) has been abandoned by his wife and is taken to the Hotel along with his “brother companion”, who is now a dog. The mandate is to find a partner with whom to share some apparent common characteristic (beautiful hair, eye color, etc.) or some similar defect (lameness, myopia, nosebleeds, cruelty, etc.) if they do not succeed, they will be turned into an animal of their choice, and then they will be released into the wild. David's choice, if he fails, is to be turned into a lobster: “Because lobsters live for over one hundred years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and stay fertile all their lives. I also like the sea very much”, David says.

David (Colin Farrell) in The Lobster (2015) © Film4

As the deadline approaches, David has not found a partner who shares similarities with him, he gets convinced by his friend the Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) to escape from the Hotel and flee to the Woods. At the Woods live a group of rebellious dissidents who called themselves "loners" who have managed to escape the normative system of the Hotel. However, that organization of people of the Woods self-govern under a regime of strict rules, in the order to staying alive, the most important rule to obey is that any type of romance or emotional relationship is forbidden, since cruel punishment is the price to be paid, they call it the “red kiss” that implies the mutilation of the lips of the transgressors and the subsequent forcing for kissing each other.

David (Colin Farrell) and The short sighted woman (Rachel Weisz) in The Lobster (2015) © Film4

The development of the film plot is fascinating, at The Lobster the spatial

configuration, the deconstructed narrative and the indifference of the characters

become a whole that integrates itself as a totality through the voice-over of a narrator

(Rachel Weisz).

The Lobster is a complex film full of metaphors, paradoxes and contradictions.

The first shock for the viewer does not rely in the story itself, but in the reflections that

saturate our perceptions and thoughts while we are watching it, making a "break"

from the violence aesthetics that dehumanizes with apathy, we find ourselves unable

to establish an affective bond with the characters, our temporality is affected to the

extent that each quasi-mechanical phrase and each foreseeable action deprives us of

the anticipation of the surprise factor we crave when we are watching mainstream


As the institutional framework is the City, the Hotel is the training center to get to

belong to it, meaning, alienation is the only way. The Hotel, is meant to be the

transition place for the normalized life answers the basic parameters of the primordial

society, the only purpose of it: is to become a couple; what is outside the legality is

individuality. Fearing to become animals, the institution will punish the truth in order

to maintain the lies, the only valid choice they have is the simulation to survive as

human beings, otherwise only animality will remain.

David (Colin Farrell) and The Maid (Ariane Labed) in The Lobster (2015) © Film4

With dark humor and cynical tinge, our first approach to this possible reality

seems incomprehensible, we could even describe it as shameless. The bitter scenes

that arouse in the film makes us feel embarrassed, it is a strange feeling trying to

laugh at them. While addressing the usual conventions of everyday relationships , the

Hotel guidelines lead to the passive conformity of the society norms, while facing the

absence of values and feelings of the meaningless actions that encourages the

“identical” choice of the artificial relationships, is then when we aware that the film is


The Forest’s scenes, in contrast, astonish as the opposite nonsense logic of the

Hotel, in this space the individuality's exacerbation is the guideline to follow. Facing

a rigidity dimension that condemns any emotional or sensitive expression.

Dramatizing the nature of social rules, the sexuality repression, the pleasure and the

spoken language are prohibited, since they represents the risk of becoming of a

couple, endangering the sense of community that they have built based on the only

common interest of the group, that is the survival as individuals.

The Lobster (2015) © Film4

We cannot watch The Lobster from a traditional point of view, the great

achievement of Lanthimos is to brings us a work of cinematographic fiction that is

governed by its own codes, its own scales and its own rhythms, where we will see

what he wants us to look at, we will listen to what the narrator has to tell us and we

will have to position ourselves in an absolute suspension of prejudices and

sensibilities, but above all, we have to put aside the moral burden of our cultural


The Lobster (2015) © Film4

The Lobster is a grotesque critique of what we call society, Lanthimos mercilessly bare passive obedience and the docile acceptance in which we find ourselves in, even though the film is ironical and cynical by using a bitter humor resource, we have no choice but to reflect ourselves within that dystopian world. As we face the difficulty of being able to decode Lanthimos's satirical language, we realize that his cinema opens up like a fan of options where everything, even the most absurd detail, can be possible, and that our true search is to find humanity within an inhuman society, meaning, to be oneself.

Words: Judith Sacal

Pictures: The Lobster (2015), Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos © Film4

We do not own the rights to any of the pictures in the article. All the rights go to the authors of the pictures.

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