In The Lobster1, director Yorgos Lanthimos presents an surreal futuristic dystopia2 where the division in human unity runs through coupledom & singlehood. To be single is to be destined for beasthood. Marriage is an obligation enforced by the security forces, and those who become single due to death or divorce, spend a month at a seaside resort during which they must find a partner. Failure to do so results in transformation into the animal of one’s choice, and the search for a mate of the same species can begin anew (a lobster is the choice of the male protagonist, played by Colin Farrell).
Unfortunately, the film loses interest in this animal-transformation premiss (as is well-known, animals exist because of human failings in both the universe of Plato’s demiurge in the Timaeaus3, as well as in religious systems which include all samsaric beings within one system of rebirth).
Narrative impetus is provided by the ‘loners’, fundamentalist singletons who live feral in the hotel grounds, and are hunted by the other guests at night. They indulge in guerrilla warfare and are opposed to sexual regulation and tyrannical monogamy. However, the avenues of rebellion are just as regimented as those of conformity, and this community has its own rigid rules.
In this, as well as in the flat performances of the spell-it-all-out scripts, there is a distancing technique, and one that practitioners of posthuman theory might well want to take to heart. For in striking at the belly of the (humanist) beast, we are often merely engaged in stroking it.
- A surrealist mascot ever since Dalí plonked it on a telephone.
- The futuristic setting is not evident in flashy cyborgs or enhanced humans, but merely in the storyline where animal transformation is a routine punishment. The actual procedure is never shown. The ‘challenge to human unity’ can take root anywhere, it need not be an unnecessarily contrived disunity.
- “Human beings ‘create’ in turn all the other animals – those that fly, swim, and go by land – through becoming morally corrupt: the less rational a human being manages to make his soul, the more morally corrupted it is; such a soul then requires, for its next incarnation, the sort of body which mirrors the corruption of his soul: greedy, lustful men, for example, become bulls or tigers; flighty, superficial men become birds, and so on.…”