More really good ones from this year. I’d love to write about both of these in more detail with stills or clips, so just a short mention here.
I really loved Yorgos Lanthimos’ Alps, and I like Dogtooth a good bit here. It’s funny to say that The Lobster is an accessible film. I think it is. I’m not sure that the theater I saw it in agrees. But it’s definitely Lanthimos’ most accessible. It’s metaphorical and microcosmic, still, but it’s got a much more obvious narrative.
The story – about a group of people at some resort forced to find a romantic partner, lest they be turned into animals, and of the wild woods-people who anarchically (sort of – they’re structure is just as harsh, it turns out) try to disrupt the rules of the game – is ostensibly again about bucking the system. It’s also about the falseness and extremes of human love. In that way it’s oddly sweet. The ending is one of the most dissonant endings I’ve seen in its ability to achieve both of those seemingly disparate feelings simultaneously.
This is a post I’d like to spend time with dissecting scenes, but alas I have no stills. Lanthimos somehow gets away with this crazy affected acting style. It’s beyond deadpan, maybe close to Kaurismaki’s preferred style. Like the earlier films, this one’s got some intense violence, often delivered with a cold, casualness that verges on humor.
Actually, The Lobster is a comedy. It’s dark as hell, but it’s really funny.
One of my favorite things about The Lobster is the slow-motion that Lanthimos uses. It’s operatic, pretty, and also a bit absurd. I like slo-mo as punctuation. Lanthimos doesn’t use it as such. He seems to use it as a way to watch the chaos that he watches from a calculated distance unfold, and thereby to laugh at the effort that we’re able to see in minutiae.
Under the Shadow
It’s a pretty easy comparison to make, putting Babak Anvari’s great horror film Under the Shadow alongside The Babadook. It’s not wrong. Both are female-centric, stay in a pretty contained home environment, throw a child into the mix, and bring a literary monster of sorts into the house.
Under the Shadow takes its metaphor beyond, say, the mental illness or isolation in The Babadook. The result is a sharp analogy for oppression in Iran, for the struggle of the single mother, and for the psychological effects of war.
Under the Shadow is straight-up scary at times. The mood is fantastic and Anvari gets a lot of mileage out of the hijab in particular. It becomes a nice technique of hiding – in typical horror fashion at times – while concurrently furthering the aforementioned metaphor. Anvari uses other, similar material smartly: curtains, bedsheets, etc. They all gradually become places of danger thanks to the head-scarf.
The film has a really crisp image. It’s a video feel. I wonder what this would look like on 35. That crispness has the hyper-real effect, which sometimes adds to the unease in here, and other times just feels a bit too far from film.
That said, the movie is beautiful. The production design is worn, the palette earth-toned and eerie, and the shadows menacing.