Yesterday, I spoke about this seemingly promising movie I wanted to see called The Lobster, which ended up turning me off due to the troubling taste decisions of its filmmakers. (Yorgos Lanthimos and Elthymis Fillipou.)
The Lobster involves single people forced to find mates by a prescribed deadline, or they would be turned into animals. Which seems like an unenviable fate, although the director of the hotel they are confined to explains,
“The fact that you’ll turn into an animal if you fail to fall in love with someone during your stay here is not something that should upset you or get you down. Just think, as an animal you’ll have a second chance to find a companion.”
Anyway, desperate to remain human, some “Singles” deliberately feign characteristics, allowing them to connect with “Singles” bearing similar characteristics. The lead character (played by Colin Farrell), for example, tries to attract a woman who is congenitally cold-hearted by behaving equally cold-hearted. Testing his sincerity, the humanly-embodied Cruella De Vil dispatches Farrell’s pet Border collie, who is also the reincarnated version of his brother.
Introducing a dead dog into the movie. (Lying lifeless, in a pool of its own blood.)
Later, the Farrell character joins a group of renegade loners, whose rules, by contrast, restrict all interpersonal relationships, punishing miscreants engaged in romantic activities with “the red kiss” – they slice up your lips with a razor. (We get to see the agonized victims of this atrocity.)
I mean, there are also funny parts in The Lobster. Like when the hotel director explains that newly connected couples having difficulty getting along “are provided with children. It seems to help.”)
Funny and insightful.
The filmmakers make their artistic choices, imaginably elicited from their personal reservoir of taste. They’d have to be. Where else would they come from?
“What should the character do at this juncture? I know. Let’s ask a stranger.”
No. You ask yourself. In every movie – or book, or whatever – there are hundreds of creative decisions to be made, each of them reflecting – because they can reflect nothing else – who you are, and what you prefer.
The question is…
What if you’re wrong?
Lanthimos and Fillipou: “We’re writing a satirical comedy. In the course of it, we murder a Border collie (and, incidentally, a donkey) and show characters with lacerated lips covered with bandages.”
What can I tell you? They lost me. And who knows how many others? Which can’t possibly be good for business.
What the heck were they thinking?
THE TIME: 1729
THE PLACE: DUBLIN, IRELAND.
INT. SWIFT’S HOUSE - DAY
MRS. SWIFT IS TIDYING UP. HER HUSBAND JONATHAN ENTERS, BRIMMING WITH CREATIVE EXUBERANCE.
JONATHAN SWIFT: “Honey, are you busy?”
MRS. JONATHAN SWIFT: “What is it, Jonathan? I’ve got a lot of tidying up to do.”
“I have this idea for an essay. Tell me what you think of it.”
“All right. But make it snappy.”
“Well, you know how we have this terrible famine in Ireland? And we also have this pernicious problem with overpopulation? Well, I thought… what if we killed two birds with one stone?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, there is nothing to eat, and there are too many babies. So I say… (UNABLE TO SUPPRESS HIS BEMUSEMENT)… what if we polished off both difficulties at the same time?”
“By eating the babies.”
MRS. SWIFT STARES AT HIM.
“So what do you think?”
“What is the matter with you?”
“What do you mean?“
“‘Eating the babies.’ They’re going to boil you in oil, Jonathan. And you’ll deserve it!”
“Hold on, there’s more. I’ve concocted various recipes for preparing the babies…”
“The poor can sell their babies to the rich, acquiring money for themselves while providing tasty morsels for the aristocracy.”
“Another word and I’ll scream!”
“I call it ‘A Modest Proposal’. Don’t you just love the understatement?”
“This is disgusting!”
“No, it’s satirical.”
“Listen to me. You must talk to Father O’Donoghue immediately. The Devil has taken over your brain!”
A Modest Proposal is a perennial classic. Who ever saw that coming? Certainly not Mrs. Jonathan Swift.
So I guess I don’t know. (Are you getting used to that?)
What “wrong” and what’s “right”. What’s “Poor taste” and what’s not.
Where’s the line?
And how do you know it?
You got me. Though I do know one thing.
I pitch eating babies and I’m out of the house!