Research Post 2: The Lobster

For my second research post I have decided to continue on with what I started doing in my first research post by writing about the films I have been watching in cinema and how I may apply particular filmic techniques into my own work.

I have recently been reflecting on how working at a cinema has been one of the best educational tools I could have wished for. Even though this is just my ‘crappy’ part time job I am doing while studying at university, it has taught me so much about how the cinema industry works: how filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors make their money from films, why money is so important in the industry and why target audiences matter, as well as learning about films simply through watching and listening to them.

Interestingly, in this post I am going to talk about a film that did not even get shown at the cinema I work at; most likely because it is labelled by most as a ‘foreign’ film. It is called The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015, United Kingodm) and did surprisingly well on a very small, 4 million dollar, budget.

The film is set in a dystopian future where everyone must find a life partner, otherwise they will be turned into an animal. The main character David (Colin Farrell) goes to a ‘match-making’ resort where he hopes to find his life partner. The lighting design for this film is (in my opinion) absolutely stunning. There are a couple of scenes within The Hotel which are warmly-lit with low tungsten and candle-like illumination, thus making the settings feel romantic and cozy. Ironically all of the lighting is completely artificial (you can see the lamps placed around the rooms), which seems to suggest that this ‘warmness’ is a cover for the very clinical/artificial match-making process (with a dark ending for most involved).

What also struck me about this film is how everything is a little bit ‘off’. All of the characters are odd: there’s something ‘wrong’ with almost all of them. For instance, there is a man with a lisp, a girl who always gets nosebleeds and a man with a limp. The quirkiness of the characters and the dystopian story are reflected in Lanthimos’ use of framing. The positioning of the characters and objects in the mise-en-scene often feels imbalanced and slightly disorienting. For example, Lanthimos will position a character on the left side of frame while they’re having a conversation with characters on the left side of frame (but offscreen). Usually directors would place the onscreen character on the right side of frame when they are talking to characters on the left, because there is something that feels spatially ‘correct’ about that ‘complementary’ kind of formula. Whether this is just because we as an audience have become accustomed to this way of framing from watching other films or because there is something ingrained in us that understands how space works between edits, I’m not sure, but there is something off-putting about ‘breaking’ the rule of thirds in this manner that works so well with this film.

Amongst a million other things I could say about The Lobster, it has inspired me to really think about the meaning behind my lighting design, as well as encouraging me to break the rule of thirds once in a while (only if it is for a motivated reason of course).

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