Tag Archives: greek

The Lobster – Review

21 Jun

Let’s go back to September of 2014 when I reviewed one of the oddest movies I’ve ever seen, Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth. I remember feeling like I just saw a genuine work of art and also one of the most frustrating movies ever. That frustration came from the film’s desire to make the movie make the audience think for themselves’ and interpret the story in a way that would make them feel fulfilled. Now, here we are in 2016 and Lanthimos has brought us another puzzle of a movie with The Lobster. This is a two hour long movie with a thin plot and an overabundance of symbolism and themes and motifs that would keep anyone busy for a good long while. What’s also important is the use of pure and unfiltered imagination that comes along with it.

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In the not too distant future, more stock is put into relationships than ever before. In fact, it’s illegal not to be paired with someone and the punishment is absolutely absurd. This is the situation David (Colin Farrell) faces when his wife leaves him and he is forced to go to the Hotel. This is a place where all of the single people go where they have 45 days to find a partner, and if they fail to do so, they will be turned into an animal of their own choosing and be released into the Forest. As time passes for David, he finds his situation to be hopeless and escapes into the Forest where he meets the Loners, a group of single people hunted by the people at the Hotel. One of these Loners is a short sighted woman (Rachel Weisz) that immediately is taken with David, and the two begin an affair that is forbidden amongst the Loners and that can be met with another punishment most severe.

First and foremost, I have to bring the imagination of Yorgos Lanthimos to attention. Between what I witnessed in Dogtooth and now The Lobster, it’s clear to me that this guy has a lot going on inside his head and isn’t afraid to put his outlandish thoughts into action. This film at times felt like I was reading some odd, classic science fiction story written by someone who admired Kafka with an overwhelming passion. This is a really strange movie, but Lanthimos also made the future he created somewhat believable. At first everything seemed completely absurd, but as the rules of this world were iterated and reiterated, I started to give myself up to these guidelines and went along with everything that was being said. Considering the absurdist nature of The Lobster, it’s impressive that I got on board with things so quickly.

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It’s almost an impossible task to put this movie into any sort of genre, and part of that is because there are so many components to consider. The whole idea of changing people into animals using some kind of medical procedure is textbook science fiction. What’s interesting is that they decided to leave how it happens out of the story and instead just leave it a mystery. The important thing is that it happens, not how it happens. There’s also a pretty touching, if not slightly twisted, love story at the center of the movie. Just because the movie is completely outlandish doesn’t mean that there isn’t strong, touching moments of romance. What The Lobster really is for me, though, is a darkly funny satire. It takes modern society’s need for acceptance and love and looks at the worst qualities of it. The Hotel is like Tinder from hell. I also got a huge kick out of the hollow way people talked to each other, almost like they were reading from a script of socially acceptable things to say. That just adds to the sharp satire.

I do have to point out that while The Lobster is extremely creative and full of pitch black humor, it can sometimes feel like a chore to watch. I felt the same way with Dogtooth, so it must be the deliberate slow pace that Lanthimos uses in his movies. I won’t say that I was ever bored watching this movie, but it did tire me out. The plot moves at a snail’s pace over the two hour running time, which made it feel even longer than it actually was. The first half of the movie is significantly more entertaining than the second half, but the second half introduces a lot of new themes and ways of looking at the situation. While I wasn’t having as much fun in the second hour, there was a lot of new things to think about which kept everything interesting.

The Lobster is certainly one of the strangest movies I’ve seen in a long time, and after anticipating it for so long I had very high expectations for it. It certainly did not disappoint in any department. It was funny, kind of sad, intelligent, and also full of imagination and originality. That being said, this movie is certainly not for everyone and if someone told me that they hated it, I would understand. It’s definitely something different, but it asks a lot of good questions and succeeds at immersing the viewer into a dystopian world of absurdity.

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Dogtooth – Review

25 Sep

I, personally, have not seen a whole lot of movies from Greece. I know they exist, but we just never seem to cross paths. That is until I saw Yorgos Lanthimos’ film Dogtooth. I got wind of this movie from hearing and reading from different sources and people about how weird it is, but also how well crafted it was also. Then upon learning that it was the first Greek film in years to be nominated for the Best Foreign Film award at the Oscars, I figured that I’d better quick add it to my list of movies to see. Well, I’ve finally gotten around to it and…well…wow…

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In an unspecified time at an unspecified place somewhere in Greece, a father (Christos Stergioglou) and mother (Michelle Valley) work hard to keep their three children (Aggeliki Papoulia, Christos Passalis, and Mary Tsoni) safe from the dangers of the outside world. Of course, this is the job of every parent, but it becomes strange when the children are fully grown and have never stepped foot beyond the gates that surround the house. The parents spend their days teaching the children a bunch of misinformation and scaring them away from wanting to go anywhere outside the gates. The children, knowing only what their parents tell them, are in fact afraid, but their curiosities start to get the better of them when their father starts bringing home a woman, Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou) for his son.

Let me start by saying that this movie is absolutely not what I expected. I went into Dogtooth thinking that it was going to be so weird and surreal that I would pretty much have to shut off that part of my brain that knows what it does about movies and just hold on for the ride. This really isn’t true. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end with actual character development and a story that is as concrete as it needs to be. Without looking at all the symbolism and other jazz like that, this is simply a movie about parents who are holding their children away from ever really learning anything constructive. Of course, that’s not the kind of cinephile that I am. I love looking for what a movie may possibly mean other than the obvious, and let me tell you, there’s quite a message to be had.

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What I really love about this movie is how loudly Lanthimos is yelling his point. What I, and many other people, have taken from Dogtooth is an idea of anti-censorship, and not just on a bug level. Sure, the movie can definitely speak about censorship of art and the stupidity behind the reasoning of not allowing someone to say or create what they want. I’d much rather read this as a satire behind family and the obsessive nature of some parents to protect their children. While this movie is over the top in how the parents and sheltered children are represented, I think everyone can attest that they have met someone that has been overly sheltered by whoever their guardians were. Keeping your children away from experiencing the negative sides of the world can do more harm than good, and that’s what Lanthimos is trying to say with Dogtooth, which i think is a brilliant and altogether unique message.

Going back to the story, this is a classic example of less is more. Lanthimos and co-writer Efthymis Filippou tell the story of one of the most twisted families in film history by not giving the audience a whole lot of information. We know the father works at a factory, but what kind of factory. There are many instances of technology from the past 20 years, but we never really know what time period it is. The children are taught wrong definitions to words, but we don’t really know why. There’s also a mysterious older brother on the other side of the fence that the children believe exist, but where did that lie ever come from? This is a strange way to tell the story, but it made me as a viewer feel just as disconnected with reality as the children did. That along with camera angles that would make a film textbook self destruct.

Dogtooth is one of those movies that you’re going to want to think about for a few days before you can make a decision on whether or not you like it. Me, personally, it wasn’t a perfect film and it kind of wore on me after a little bit, but it was definitely interested to hold my attention until the end. This isn’t a traditional film with a traditional story, but a story is there and the message is unique and necessary, even if you don’t quite agree with it. This film isn’t for people who are looking for a straightforward film that explains everything clearly, which is totally an ok thing. Dogtooth forced me to put the pieces together and made me feel isolated at the same time, and for that I say it was a good film.