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Film / The Lobster

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Just hope you won't get caught and eaten with butter.

Hotel Manager: Now have you thought of what animal you'd like to be if you end up alone?
David: Yes. A lobster.
Hotel Manager: Why a lobster?
David: 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.

The Lobster is a 2015 absurdist romantic dystopian black comedy film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos in his English-language debut. It tells the story of a dystopian world where single people (known as 'Loners') are given 45 days to find a romantic partner before they are forcibly turned into an animal of their choice.

When David's wife leaves him for another man, he has to go to the Hotel, a place where single people are gathered together in the hope of finding a partner within their 45 days of stay. Usually, guests do this by finding someone with one shared attribute. During his stay, he attends dances, watches propaganda of how great a life of partnership would be, and socializes with a cast of troubled and somewhat eccentric characters who are looking for partners themselves. Occasionally, they all go into the woods and hunt for stray Loners with tranquilizer guns, as each captured Loner adds one extra day at the Hotel.

This film contains examples of

  • Ambiguously Gay: The blond girl appears to be in love with her best friend, the Nosebleed Woman, as she outright rejects any attempts to form a relationship after the Nosebleed Woman pairs up, and sits there silently crying at the ceremony.
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Assimilation Academy: The Hotel, while not actually a school, still functions as one quite nicely.
  • Ax-Crazy: The heartless woman can very easily turn into this, as evidenced by her kicking Bob to death.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Couples who have fights they can't settle are assigned children. This, apparently, "usually works". Played for Laughs as a part of the dystopian setting.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Or better to die than be transformed into an animal.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: In the Hotel, they'll know if you do anything to break the rules.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: At first, the Loner Leader appears like a reasonable figure (at least, in comparison to the hotel staff), especially in her friendship with the maid. She later is revealed to be rather cruel and vindictive, blinding the short-sighted woman for forming a relationship with David. When the short-sighted woman tries to blindly stab her in revenge, the Loner Leader uses the maid as a human shield.
  • Black-and-White Insanity: The entire setting. There are no gray areas. In the film's setting, having a partner is good and being single is evil. Among the Loners, any sort of romantic interaction is evil and must be punished. The Hotel goes as far as applying these black-and-white issues to such things as No Bisexuals and no shoe sizes with fractions in them.
  • Black Comedy Rape: One of the hotel skits pantomimes a rape scene.
  • Body Horror: If you can't find a romantic partner, prepare to get your organs removed, your blood donated, and the rest of your body warped to become an animal.
  • Breakfast Club: The Loners form a loose society that is essentially the inverse of the civilized world. They live in rural squalor and do whatever they want except form romantic attachments to each other. They spend a lot of their time masturbating.
  • Brick Joke: When John gets married, he and his wife are told that if they encounter problems which they cannot resolve themselves, they will be provided with children, which usually helps. The next time we see them, they do indeed have a child.
  • Bungled Suicide: If you jump from the wrong floor, your suicide may not succeed as in the movies and you end up dying a slow and painful death.
  • Butt-Monkey: Robert, the lisping man. His lisp makes it hard to find a compatible companion, he tries awkwardly dancing with the sociopathic heartless woman, the hotel staff burns his hand in a toaster when it's discovered that he's been masturbating. Finally, he confronts David during the loner hunt, who mocks his lisp, distracting him long enough for the short-sighted woman to ambush him from behind. He gets stabbed in the leg, shot with his own tranquilizer gun, stripped of his clothes and left in the woods.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Enforced by the Loners, making them the inverse of City folk.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: The staging of Heimlich maneuver. It's because David 'didn't' try this to the emotionless girl that she believed they were a match.
  • Chekhov's Gun: After discovering his relationship with the short-sighted woman, the Loner Leader takes David to a secluded part of the forest and has him dig his own grave and practice covering himself in soil. She orders him to cover his face too, or it'll be eaten by wild dogs. Later, before David and the short-sighted woman escape after the latter is blinded by the Loner Leader, David knocks out the Loner Leader and leaves her tied up and uncovered in an open grave. She is awoken by the arrival of a pair of wild dogs.
  • Chick Magnet: Ruined marriage aside, David manages to get the attention of the woman who likes butter cookies, the heartless woman, and the short-sighted woman, with some implication that the leader of the Loners also has some attraction to him. Possibly subverted with the first two, however, as the former might have just been desperate to find someone before her due date and the latter really only "agrees" to be matched with him once he pretends to be heartless like her.
  • Commonality Connection: Exaggerated for satire. Residents of the hotel announce their "distinguishing characteristic" and usually pair up with someone who shares it. Some relationships seem to be exclusively based on partners sharing some trivial detail. John is prepared to repeatedly hit himself on the nose to maintain the charade of sharing his wife's nosebleeds.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy:
    • David gets paranoid when he sees the short-sighted woman laughing at something one of the other male loners said. He interrogates the man on whether he is also shortsighted — and thus a potential rival for the woman's affection. The man says that he isn't, but David, not believing him, holds him down and inspects his eye to ensure he isn't wearing contact lenses.
    • This is subtly implied to be the case with the Loner Leader as well. Although, it isn't entirely clear if she has feelings for David or the short-sighted woman.
  • Dig Your Own Grave: Employed by the Loners at the Woods, so they won't have to go through the trouble of digging them when their members get shot down.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The punishment for masturbation is having your hand burned with a toaster.
    • Any romantic interaction between Loners is punished with the "red kiss," which involves giving both parties a Glasgow Grin and forcing them to kiss each other. Sexual interaction is punished by the "red intercourse".
  • Driven to Suicide: The woman who liked butter cookies, when it's apparent that her days are running out and David isn't interested in starting a relationship with her, vocally plans to jump out of a high-enough window. We later find out that she did go through with it, but survived due to choosing a window on a lower floor.
  • Due to the Dead: The Loners don't practice funeral rites. You have to Dig Your Own Grave, as no one else would in case of your death. All they would do is throw some dirt on your face so animals won't eat it.
  • Dull Surprise: The film takes place in a world of dull surprise. Everyone speaks with very little inflection and odd, stilted, overly-formal sentence structure.
  • Dystopia: People in the City must stay in shallow relationships based on sharing a single trivial trait with their partners. Loners must live in the Woods like fugitives in enforced romantic solitude. There's no middle ground.
  • Emotionless Girl: The heartless woman kills people and has sex without changing expression.
  • Eye Scream: The story ends with David about to gouge out his eyes with a steak knife. The scene cuts back to his love interest waiting for him to return, and the film cuts to black there.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • We get a few shots of middle-aged people in unflattering underwear.
    • Early in the film, David is..."teased" by a female staff member as a means of creating sexual frustration. It's completely robotic and unfeeling.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: The protagonist is David, but the narrator is the short-sighted woman, who only appears in the second act of the film.
  • Forced Transformation: Loners who can't find partners are turned into animals using science. It's explained that this isn't intended to be a punishment, and Loners get to choose which animal they'll become. Most people choose dogs, and species near extinction are those unpopular as choices. David's dog is actually his brother Bob.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: While romantic and sexual relationships are specifically forbidden by the Loners, the Leader of the Loners' animosity and efforts to blind the Short-Sighted Woman could be interpreted as her response to being attracted to David and being unable to act on it.
  • He Went That Way: The maid sends the Heartless Woman down the corridor so that David can shoot her In the Back.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: At one point, the Loner Leader has David dig his own grave for unspecified future use, forcing him to lie in it and cover his face with dirt so as to protect it from wild dogs. Guess where he leaves her, Bound and Gagged and surrounded by wild dogs, once he and the Short-Sighted Woman make their great escape?
  • Industrialized Evil: The dark way of life is supported by a hotel with its own management, staff, facilities, and daily programs.
  • Instant Sedation: People hit by a Tranquillizer Dart pass out instantly.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: The Loners stage a Secret Test of Character for the hotel owner, giving him the choice to shoot his wife and live which he accepts without much consideration. Too bad there were no bullets in his gun and now he has to face the consequences of his action.
  • Kick the Dog: In a quite literal example, when the heartless woman kicks Bob to death to test David's honesty, showing just how committed she is to heartlessness.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: It's hard to feel bad when David takes revenge on the heartless woman and the Loner Leader, considering what they did to him. Or, more specifically, what they did to his loved ones.
  • Kids Are Cruel: When David breaks into the nosebleed couple's yacht, their daughter hands a knife to her mother and pushes her to kill him.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • The Heartless Woman gets turned into a horrific animal against her will.
    • The leader of the Loners insists that people dig their own graves. She ends up in hers.
  • Limited Wardrobe: When people move into the hotel, their personal belongings are removed, and they are given new clothes and underwear. Men get grey trousers, blue and white shirts, and a blazer. Women get a halter neck dress. The Loners, on the other hand, all wear navy blue or hunter green raincoats.
  • Love at First Sight: The Short-Sighted Woman is immediately attracted to David.
  • Make It Look Like a Struggle: David tranquilizes the maid to cover up her collaboration.
  • Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration:
    • Masturbation is forbidden in the hotel. Guests are kept in a constant state of sexual frustration by this rule and regular sexual teasing by the staff. Punishment at the hotel involves getting your hand burned in a toaster.
    • In contrast, masturbation is encouraged by the Loners, who are committed to a life of romantic solitude.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Various incongruous animals are seen walking by in the Woods—single people who have been transformed. Such animals include a peacock, a flamingo, a pony, and a camel.
  • The Mole: The maid is working for the Loners. She eventually defects to the Loners entirely.
  • Morphic Resonance: Nosebleed Woman's best friend is proud of her long blond hair. She doesn't say what she wants to become, but when we see a pony with a long blond mane, it's probably her.
  • Narration Echo: The narrator repeats the sentences of the Biscuit Woman to David in the coach.
  • No Bisexuals: Apparently you're not allowed to be bisexual. When David is informed of this, he has to contemplate the matter for a very long time before deciding to register as heterosexual. This serves as something of an Establishing Series Moment to display just how absolute life is in this world.
  • No Ending: The last scene shows the Short-Sighted Woman waiting at the diner for David to return from the bathroom. Then the film cuts to black. We never learn if David went through with the self-mutilation and if they both made it to the city.
  • No Name Given: Most of the cast, with the exception of protagonist David. Even those characters whose names are given, such as John, are still referred to mostly by their defining trait. John, for instance, is "limping man".
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • David does not reveal what sort of animal he turned the heartless woman into. It's possibly "the animal no one wants to be," which the woman earlier states is what people who lie about compatibility turn into but is also not revealed.
    • We are not given any details about "The Red Intercourse," but from what we know of The Red Kiss, it can't be good.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The film's soundtrack is mainly built around recurring Classical pieces.
  • Refuge in Audacity: At the mall, when the police officer asks for David's marriage certificate, the Short-Sighted Woman digs in her pocket and asks if she should present hers as well. It's believable enough for the officer to stop bothering.
  • Revenge: Before he and the short-sighted woman flee the Loners, David knocks out the Loner Leader, ties her up and leaves her to die in an open grave.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The inexplicable opening scene of a woman shooting a donkey in a field makes sense when you rewatch the movie.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: The Leader of the Loners is implied to have this going on.
  • The Sociopath:
    • The Heartless Woman lives up to her name. She does not feel anything, ever, and she kills Bob, with absolutely no remorse, just to test David's reaction to see if they were compatible.
    • The leader of the Loners calmly orders brutal punishments to people who show romantic or sexual feelings for each other.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Butter cookies for one woman at the hotel and cooked rabbits for the shortsighted girl.
  • Trial-Period Dating: A major part of the dystopian society of the film, in which every adult must be married. Singles are sent to a hotel where they must find a partner in 45 days or be turned into an animal of their choosing. Every guest at the hotel goes on a series of trial dates during their stay in order to find a "matching" mate.
  • Trivial Title: The film title refers to David's animal of choice, which is only mentioned in passing.
  • The Un-Reveal:
    • The animal nobody wants to be is never named.
    • It's left uncertain whether David blinded himself or not.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee
    • The plan to break up the couples goes off more or less without a hitch, though the outcome remains unseen.
    • David's plan to escape from the Loners *is* technically spoken out loud, but it's said in code, so the audience doesn't understand a bit.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The country where the story takes place is never stated, but it's an English-speaking country where people drive on the left and think about visiting Italy and Greece, so that narrows it down a bit. Inhabitants of the place speak in a seemingly-equal mix of English, American, and French accents, except for the protagonist, who is Irish.
  • Would Hurt a Child: David kicks the little girl in the knee as part of his mean front.