Anticipated Cannes Competition entry The Lobster marks Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ English-language debut after acclaimed 2009 Un Certain Regard title Dogtooth and 2011 drama Alps.
The Lobster is set in a dystopian near future where single people must find a matching mate in 45 days or are transformed into animals. The film premieres Friday and Protagonist handles sales.
How did you come to this idea?
Efthyimis [Flilippou, frequent writing collaborator] and I just started discussing. We built it in increments. It was more of a process than a vision. We started with relationships and couples and single people and that led to The Lobster. I knew that I wanted to make a film in English after moving to London four years ago.
The film seems to explore humans’ desire for intimacy, which is also important in your previous films…
We’re exploring the need for people to be in couples and the pressures associated with conforming to that standard. But we go to an extreme. It’s about love and whether love is real. Is it a need? Do you love someone because you really do or because you feel you need to? These were some of the questions we thought about.
Are you interested in the absurd?
Not per se. I find situations absurd and I try to reveal them or I just find situations interesting and they turn out to be thought of as absurd. By exploring something in an exaggerated way it makes it seem absurd, or reveals the absurdity of the truth of it. There’s no search for absurdity, it’s just part of what we observe and find. It’s the way we ask questions and entertain ourselves.
What was the biggest challenge?
Working in a different country where there are very different structures and practises from what I’m used to. In Greece we were just friends making films. The more professional structure was a hard adjustment. There are many rules. This film’s budget [around $4m] was 10 times what I was used to.
Your lead character decides to become a lobster when he is given the film’s ultimatum. Which animal would you choose?
A bird of some kind. I’d like to fly. I often dream of flying. An eagle, perhaps.
Efthymis is writing a new English-language film, a psychological thriller with a supernatural element. We also have a period film about British monarch Queen Anne, written by Tony McNamara. Both films are with Element.