"How do people see solitude?"
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2015: In competition at Cannes for the first time, Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos breaks down his highly original English-language movie The Lobster Cannes 2015 - Jury Prize
Having won the Un Certain Regard Award on the Croisette with Dogtooth [+see also:
interview: Yorgos Lanthimos
film profile] in 2009, followed by the Osella for Best Screenplay at Venice in 2011 with Alps [+see also:
film profile], Yorgos Lanthimos has taken a gamble and had a stab at a big, conceptual science-fiction film with The Lobster [+see also:
Q&A: Yorgos Lanthimos
film profile] (read the review), revealed in competition at the 68th Cannes Film Festival. He gave the international press a few hints as to how to interpret the film.
Where did the idea for the subject of The Lobster come from, as well as that of assembling such an international cast?
Yorgos Lanthimos: I wrote my last three films with Efthymis Filippou, and right from the end of each movie, we start talking about the next one. We talk about everything that comes to mind, about the various themes we want to explore, the stories that come up. This time, we wanted to talk about human relations. It's a little bit of a recurring theme in my films, but we wanted to tackle it in something of a more romantic way. As for the actors, that's linked to the decision to shoot the movie in English. After three films in Greece, the time had come to make something different, to make progress, as it were. It's a little restrictive making films solely in Greece. So, four years ago, I went to live in England with the intention of making English-language movies. And when I've had the chance to do so, especially with this film, which didn't need to be set in any particular country, I told myself that I could choose actors of any nationality. I was lucky because all of the people I wanted to work with liked the script and said yes.
In the film, "birds of a feather flock together", and that's a very hot topic in our societies. Did you want to thumb your nose at stereotypes and assert the need to be different?
I don't mean to express any particular message. I don't mean to say that human beings are this way or that way. I want to explore certain aspects, but I'm not making fun. I'm not making a mockery of the rules that we are governed by, or the pressures that are exerted on us when we are single or in a couple, and so on. I'm trying to take advantage of the theme of the film: how do people see solitude? The movie is structured in such a way that one can actually ask oneself questions – the film pushes us to ask ourselves those questions. For instance, why are those pressures exerted? In reality, it's an open debate, and the movie is aimed at triggering questions, rather than providing answers. I try to see the way in which our ways of life are organised. Should we rebel? Do we have to strike up new relationships?
Did you rehearse with the actors before the shoot?
No, as we weren't able to get them all together in the same location soon enough. I simply ensured that we had enough time during the shoot so that we could think carefully about the scenes. Something I don't like is using a lot of lighting or over-elaborate sets. On the contrary, I prefer to devote a lot of time, together with the actors, to trying to approach each scene in such and such a way.
What are the influences underpinning the film? It brings Fahrenheit 451 to mind from time to time
I've seen that film, but there isn't any specific reference to it, although I will admit that the British series The Hotel was an influence. I also watched a lot of reality TV. But as far as possible, I tried to put aside the possible influences that could have come from other movies, of course, because I've seen and I admire so many films... I'm more influenced by the philosophy and the ethics of certain directors. What I do is try to gather together small details so that they form a whole. I don't try too hard to control things; we control them anyway through the choices we make. For example, there is no description of the characters in the screenplay, and when I asked myself who could play this or that role, that could have been different to what I had been thinking to begin with. It's just instinctive.
(Translated from French)