If you’ve ever felt that marriage is a Western instrument of social control, and that even love itself is just a nice name for what biologists call a symbiotic relationship, then “The Lobster” is your kind of comedy. Bleak, bitter, mordantly funny and sometimes violently bizarre, it takes place in a world where single people are doomed to be transformed into animals of their choice — a final, needlessly humiliating step before death.
The only people worse off, perhaps, are the couples.
“The Lobster” begins in a large, remote, relentlessly midmarket hotel. This is where the recently dumped David (Colin Farrell) has been sent for a 45-day stay with other “loners” who must either pair up or be taken to the dreaded Transformation Room. You can buy a little time by hunting down others with dart guns — you get an extra day for each victim — but in the end you’re only stalling.
The people at the hotel are clearly unhappy. Then again, so are the rebellious loners who live in the woods and patrol each other for signs of forbidden romance (Lea Seydoux plays their merciless leader). Love is poorly understood by all. Ben Whishaw plays a man with a limp who is convinced his mate should have one also; David, who is nearsighted, falls for another nearsighted woman (Rachel Weisz). These notions are foolish but raise a serious question: Why do we choose our mates, anyway? Those rebels in the woods infiltrate The City on a terrorist mission to prove that no two people can be truly in love.
Directed by the Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, who wrote the script with Efthymis Filippou, “The Lobster” brims with originality and wickedly weird details. Rarely has a fictional world been mapped out so thoroughly and logically. It might also make you see your own world a little differently, as when the hotel’s humorless manager (Olivia Colman) commends David on his idea to become a lobster. “The first thing most people think of is a dog,” she says. “This is why the world is so full of dogs.”