Yorgos Lanthimos discusses his approach to shooting The Lobster, designing the sound, and blocking the action. Actress Ariane Labed explains how she prepared for the part and how training as a dancer influenced her performance.
A year after taking home the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Yorgos Lanthimos’ bizarre and romantic English-language debut, The Lobster, is finally hitting American cinemas. Featuring a cast of A-list actors, including Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, and Lea Seydoux, the film is delightfully offbeat, and one of the best of the year.
Colin Farrell stars as a David, whose wife recently dumped him, forcing him to take up house in a state-operated luxury hotel designed to help him find a mate in thirty days. If he fails, he’ll be turned into an animal of his choice. Days at the hotel are spent doing regimented leisure activities, with the hope of discovering a unique connection with someone else, like a shared propensity for nosebleeds or a permanent limp. The film is a biting satire about the cultural pressure to conform — couple push others into coupledom, while singles abhor romance — but finds a sweet, character-driven story beneath the artifice.
When the film screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival earlier this month, I sat down with Lanthimos and actress Ariane Labed, who plays a maid at the hotel that becomes David’s unexpected ally. We talked about Lanthimos’ approach to shooting the film, designing the sound, and blocking the action, as well as how Labed’s training as a dancer influenced her performance.
Seventh Row (7R): How did you frame the shots to create enough distance so that we could laugh at what’s going on?
Yorgos Lanthimos (YL): One of the main things I thought was necessary was to have a certain kind of distance. We never came too close to the actors, which both helps with their performances and the whole feel of the scene but also creates a certain kind of visual language.
I watched the reality series “The Hotel,” the first season. I was interested to see how observational you can get and what kind of feeling that gave. It influenced our choice of camera setups, not to make it look like a reality show but to have a certain kind of voyeuristic feel for the film.