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The Lobster at the 17th Mumbai Film Festival

Having a good time at a film festival really comes down to performing a balancing act. You can’t possibly watch all the movies you want to watch and even if you somehow did, you would then be missing out on the events that run alongside a festival.

We spent Sunday travelling across town to catch a panel discussion on digital video and then came back close to home to watch a movie. Rush-hour weekend traffic is no joke but on Sunday it was worth the trek to watch the award-winning film The Lobster starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz.

The film begins in a setting that looks very much like the present but whose reality is clearly more than a little different. Single people are sent to a Hotel where they have a certain amount of time to find a partner. If they succeed they are sent back to The City. If they fail, they will… be turned into animals. [Honestly, I don’t see how that is punishment because as of right now, animals are doing a lot better than humans at not messing up the world and each other. Anyway…] The idea is they must find someone because it is decreed that we do better as a pair than alone. The hotel – presumably sanctioned by society – has a strict set of rules and codes that must be followed.

I must admit I found it a little affected to begin with. But once the story really kicked in, I realised that the seemingly absurd premise was really nothing more than a reflection of how we already perceive people (except for the whole transforming into animals thing) . The supposed dystopian future in which the story is set is just a highly stylised representation of the present (and the past) and the rules which govern the hotel are those that people already follow even if only in their heads. So, strangely, as the plot added more characters and became even more layered, it began to feel more cohesive and all affect dropped away.

We enter the world through Farrell’s character David and along the way meet Lisping Man (John C. Reilly), The Limping Man (Ben Whishaw), Heartless Woman (Angeliki Papoulia), Biscuit Woman (Ashley Jensen), The Maid (Ariane Labed) and Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden). Outside the hotel is another group of people living by another set of rules, led by the terrifying Loner Leader (Léa Seydoux). For how this all comes together, you will have to watch the film. This is Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s first English language film and it is a beautifully executed work. The actors – all of them – are so good, there really isn’t a false note.

The screening was so packed we only got front row seats (plus mine was broken so I was almost lying down). This could have made the two hour run-time uncomfortable but the only time I was shifty was when the poor guy behind me moved his legs and kicked me in the head because my seat back was in the way.

It sounds pretentious to rave about The Lobster as being great because it is a dramatic reflection of how society perceives love, but what else can you do when you start to see parallels of real life in this seemingly over-the-top story being played out on screen. It’s reflecting something, and it is worth watching to figure out what.

[The Lobster will be screened again on Monday, 2nd November, 9:00 PM at PVR Juhu 2 ]