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You always get nervous when an acclaimed filmmaker prepares to make his English-language debut. With such an endeavor comes English language producers, who may have their own financially-conservative creative ideas they want to implement. And if you get a big star involved in the project, well, you’re going to have a lot of input from people with deep pockets who have absolutely no film credits or background to their name. With The Lobster, the hope is that Greece’s Yorgos Lanthimos has the stones to stick to his vision, because he’s got big names already attached.
THR reports that Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz will be the lead lovers in The Lobster, a highly unconventional romance. They’ll join previously-announced cast members Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux, Olivia Colman, Ariane Labed and Aggeliki Papoulia. The striking Labed, who had a bit part in Before Midnight, is a veteran of Lanthimos’ Alps, while Papoulia returns from his breakout film Dogtooth. Curiously, this report has no reference to the previously-mentioned Jason Clarke, and it is assumed Farrell will be taking Clarke’s place in the lead role.
Re-teaming with his Dogtooth and Alps writer Efthymis Filippou, The Lobster once again visits the idea of social roles and hierarchies, interrogating the idea of accepted social norms, in this case romance and marriage. In the future, single people are arrested and taken to The Hotel, where they are given 45 days to find the ideal mate. If this doesn’t happen, they are transformed into the animal of their choosing and let loose into the woods. This system goes according to plan until one man breaks free and heads into the woods himself with "The Loners," where he finds himself falling in love. Except falling in love is against their rules as well! Oh, rules!
Dogtooth surprised most by garnering a Best Foreign Film nomination at the Oscars, unusual considering the Academy tends to shy away from more radical foreign language offerings. It’s a fairly unclassifiable film where we witness the slow dissolution of a family, home-schooling and home-educating their children by twisting language and accepted social behavior in a manner that keeps them incurious and home-bound. Naturally, things do not go very well, as each member of the clan redefines the nature of deviant or aberrant behavior. While it seems dark -- and it is -- it’s also memorably funny and twistedly absurd.
Alps goes even farther off the deep end, imagining a service where actors are hired to recreate the behaviors of the recently deceased for the benefit of their loved ones. Naturally, there are rules to be followed, and those rules are broken, leading to… well, the pleasure in Lanthimos films is the perverse directions that they go, and to say Character X has a nervous breakdown or Gentleman Y does something surprisingly violent blunts their psychological depth. These are pitch-black films, but Lanthimos makes sure they’re pretty hysterical.
It’s also exciting to see Farrell work with someone so off-the-radar. Farrell has been making loads of dubious career decisions, and this sounds a lot like a more peculiar version of the world-hopping romance at the heart of his Winter’s Tale. It’s also a pressure-free independent film that should lessen the load on his dubious box office reputation, particularly considering some of the films unlikely to be hits on his upcoming slate include Winter’s Tale and the silly-sounding Solace. The movie starts shooting March 24th in Ireland.