Premise: This dystopian tale follows a desperate man who breaks with the rules of a hotel where single people are obliged to find a matching mate within 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into the woods.
About: (did this research after I read the script) Yorgos Lanthinmos’s most well-known film, Dogtooth, is… different, to say the least. “The Times” in London called it “One of the darkest, most unsettling, weirdest films of the year,” which was apparently a badge of honor to the producers, so much so that they included the quote in the trailer for the film. Yorgos’s most recent film has a trailer that got 90% dislikes on Youtube, though it did win the Osella Award for Best Screenplay at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. I’ve never heard of the Osella Award for Best Screenplay but Venice is definitely a well-known festival. The Lobster will be Yorgos’s first English language film, and will star Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz.
Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthimis Filippou
Details: 87 pages – April 30, 2013 draft
It’s never a good sign when I receive a script in the mail with the obviously sarcastic remark, “Have fun.”
Indeed, The Lobster sounds like a potential disaster in the making the further into the logline you go, but these out-there ideas are also the ones with the biggest upside. It’s kind of like when you heard about Being John Malkovich for the first time. A movie that’s going to star John Malkovich as himself? And someone’s going to go into his head? That could be awful. But it could also be revolutionary. It turned out much closer to the latter.
I, for one, am hopeful that this script will be awesome. As you can see, it’s got a solid cast, and while casts can come together for reasons other than a good script (most actors just follow the money), I’d like to hope that that’s the reason they came to The Lobster. Let’s find out.
I’m assuming we’re living in the future in The Lobster, but I don’t know how far forward and couldn’t even tell you for sure since the year is not noted. This is one of many unknown factors in The Lobster. What we do know is that David is our hero, although I must admit I deduced this in that nobody else in the script has an actual name.
David’s wife leaves him for another man, and in this (possible) future, under these rules, if you’re alone you’re sent off to the “Hotel,” where you stay for a certain amount of time (it wasn’t clear from the script, but I’ll go with 45 days, since it was in the official press logline) with the hope of finding a new mate. If you can’t find a mate by that time, they turn you into an animal of your choosing. David, of course, has chosen a lobster (because they live to be 100 years old and they’re fertile all their lives).
But wait! There’s more! Every day, you get to go into the woods and hunt humans (called “Loners”). The more loners you kill, the longer you get to stay at the hotel. How ’bout that!
So, wait, Carson, you say. How can there be no character names? Well, because everyone’s got names like, “Nosebleed Man” and “Limping Man” and “Shortsighted Woman.” Oh, Shortsighted Woman is an important one actually, as she’s the woman David falls in love with. But not at the hotel. No, David actually leaves the hotel after killing Heartless Woman, who killed his dog, who actually was his brother, who had been turned into a dog.
Anyway, after David defects to the Loners, he has to abide by a whole new set of rules, namely that you can’t have sex or kiss or even flirt, which is ironic since there are more blowjobs and anal sex encounters in this script than there are in your average porn search.
So these two fall in love and have to find a place where there are no more rules, no more laws, no more people turning other people into animals – basically all the things keeping them from having sex ‘n stuff. But when the Loner Leader (no really, that’s her name!) finds out David and Shortsighted Woman are in love, she does something so horrible to Shortsighted Woman that it will test her and David’s love to the core!
(…….… sorry, I need a moment to process what I just read….. and what I just wrote)
Okay. Yeah. Right. Here we go.
Ummm, to put in mildly, this script felt like it was written by a disturbed sixth grader. Now I get that there are “lost in translation” barriers at play. Our two writers are Greek and this is their first English-language film. I get that. Also, these guys make a different kind of movie. I looked at the trailer for Dogtooth above and, clearly, they embrace the hardcore indie storytelling approach of: little has to make sense as long as there’s something bizarre going on.
We also have to keep in mind that there isn’t a screenwriting industry in Europe (or the large majority of Europe, I should say). A lot of the directors write their own scripts and they write them to shoot – looking for weird shots or shocking moments as opposed to creating a well-thought out story.
Partly because of that lack of infrastructure. But also out of laziness. It’s much easier to write a bunch of nonsense than do the hard work and write something that moves audiences and, well, makes sense.
I think that’s the thing I get angriest about when I read European screenplays – is that the writers don’t look like they’re putting any effort into the craft at all. If they’re only going to make movies in their respective countries, where story requirements are a lot less stringent, that’s fine. But if you hope to break into the wider American market, you have to realize just how many people are over here trying to learn this stuff, and therefore have a leg up on you.
If you’re from another country, you have to put MORE effort in than your American counterparts, not the same, and definitely not less. Because they have a huge advantage over you in that there’s an entire screenwriting industry over here teaching people how to tell stories. If you put NO effort into screenwriting, then you’re going to get a story that reads like you put nothing into it. I mean, I guess there’s a progression in The Lobster here. But there are way too many things that happen that make zero sense. Why do you have to go to The Hotel if you’re single? Beats me! Why do they turn you into an animal if you don’t find a mate in this world? Your guess is as good as mine!
The Europeans do have one big advantage over us, however, and it’s why these guys are making a movie with Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, and you’re not. The only way they’re able to make movies over there is to make them themselves. They don’t have a spec market. So they have to get their hands dirty and figure out how to make a film. These two have now made three feature films, and that’s enough to prove to a financier that they know what they’re doing. So I’ll give them that.
But man, the downside is no grasp of story and the script really reflects that. Here’s a description line from early on in the script: “David is crying. The woman is not.” That’s how the entire script reads. Yeah, you want screenwriting to be short and to the point, but you still want to add style. You still want to add some garnish. It’s hard to enjoy even a good story if the writing is THAT bland.
And while I understand it’s part of the writers’ voice, it was confusing to read a sequence where David fucks a woman, then wakes up the next day to hear her say, matter-of-factly, “I killed your brother. I left him to die very slowly. He may not be dead yet, even as we speak. I was kicking him for ages.” Why did she kill his brother/dog? No idea. Never explained.
I don’t know, this all seems like it’s just trying to get a rise out of you, and to me that’s gimmicky. Anyone can string together a series of shocks with little to no skill. There’s no substance in these moments, unless there’s a larger theme that I’m not grasping. Whichever way you look at it, this was not a good reading experience. And that makes me sad. I was hoping for something brilliant.
[x] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: If I see a 10-line description within the first 10 pages of a script (or really anywhere in the script), it is a 100% guarantee that the script will be bad. After reading 6000 scripts, this equation has never failed.