Masturbation is Punishable by Toaster
I’m serious. In Yorgos Lanthimos’s new film The Lobster, those that are caught masturbating are forced to place their hand into a toaster for an indefinite period of time as punishment. Still want to know more about this beautiful and heartbreaking film that’s funny, unapologetic as hell, and played as straight as any drama you’d find on the Sundance Channel?
Good, because it’s worth your time.
The premise: A recently divorced man is required by law to find a significant other within 45 days or he’ll be turned into an animal.
The film opens with a shot of David (Colin Farrell) asking his wife about the man she’s leaving him for. “Does he wear glasses,” David asks, as if the only thing he cares about is whether or not the man she’s leaving him for has better eyesight.
This small interaction sets the tone for the majority of the movie and it posits the belief that even the slightest imperfection makes you less desirable to the opposite sex and therefore hinders your ability to contribute appropriately to society—neither of which are far-fetched ideas when you think about it—Lanthimos just takes these principles to the extreme in order to create a sad world that is built on fear, and uses love and partnership as a means for survival rather than a real connection.
There’s a brilliant and ludicrous moment where two hotel staff (a man and a woman) act out different scenarios in order to prove the value of being in a relationship. In one, the woman saves a man from choking to death and in the other, the woman isn’t assaulted because the man is with her. What’s hilarious and sad about these two scenarios is that these are fear tactics, and not actually valid reasons for being with someone.
Single people are annoying and people in relationships are annoying. Why? Because people are annoying and everyone thinks their way is the best way. So, I loved that neither party was safe in The Lobster. The government-sanctioned relationships are presented as unfair, binding agreements, while the single people (or “Unwanteds” as they’re referred to in the film) are driven by their need to prove that they can live on their own without the help of a romantic partner—and both are quick to enact horrific punishment on those acting against the rules.
Real romance doesn’t come until David meets the Short-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) in the Unwanted camp. It starts off as a con to be able to enter the city, but slowly and through an organic progression the two develop feelings for each other. However, in order to survive, they have to develop their own language and play up their romance when in the city to absurd levels, by being overtly affectionate.
Anthony Trevino is the author of the New Bizarro Author Series 2015-16 novella King Space Void published by Eraserhead Press, the horror comic Fruition, and also made an appearance in the True Detective tribute anthology Walk Hand in Hand into Extinction from CLASH books.