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Romance and The Lobster

August 4th, 2020

What is love? Do we know it when we see it? The Lobster is a satire that explores these questions and their roots. It answers with two additional questions which end up easier to process but more difficult to admit answers to. Firstly, how much of love and our way of processing and expressing it is defined by society?

In the present day we see that an amount of love is characterized by what we see in Hallmark advertisements during the February month. We’re told it’s buying chocolates or candle-lit dinners, or, as social media and the Twitter herd is defining it as -- just unconditional acceptance of authenticity. What about our way of expressing love? Is it the hugs and the smiles? Is it really just the feeling and our way of naturally expressing it? How much of our way of naturally expressing it is limited by our desire to fit in with the herd? To act in accordance with what society is telling us to when we feel these feelings? But isn’t any expression on the basis of love nonetheless an expression of romance? The Lobster demonstrates with its very different take on human culture that love can be expressed differently and still feel true.

The events of the film follow a man named David, who has recently been split from his partner, on his journey to find a new companion. He is put into a hotel where he has about 2 months to find a partner before he is turned into an animal of his choice. "Love" in the film is specifically depicted as a connection on the basis of similarity (one couple bonding over the fact that they both receive chronic nosebleed). David makes some attempts at finding someone similar to him, but eventually escapes and finds himself living with “The Loners” -- who live with the opposite mentality. To them, love and sexual interaction is outlawed and punishments are severe. Notably, a pair who were caught kissing had their mouths sewn shut. This is where David meets his love interest, the narrator. They bond over their nearsightedness but, as the film progresses, the couple does find a more unwritable connection. When the Loners find out about this, the woman is blinded -- thus making their relationship’s validity be called into question. The film ends with them escaping and David preparing to blind himself.

Of course, he has a few options here that represent different mentalities. On one hand, David could blind himself -- thus salvaging his relationship in accordance with society and, in some sense, to her. Though our present culture may call this action extreme and unnecessary, his decision would take an amount of self-sacrifice that few would oppose to calling “love.” Now does romance really require one to gouge their eyes out? Maybe not.

David could take an alternate route and simply try to let his relationship transcend social boundaries; try to achieve something true that isn’t defined by his culture. Commendable, sure, but is David forcing his partner to adopt the same mentality for the sake of him keeping something that she cannot possess really all that romantic?

Solution 3: don’t gouge out the eyes and lie. She would never find out. It’s the best of both worlds; his philosophy about his love can change while she has the ability to keep her own. Though, does lying to your partner in order to compliment your desires really all that romantic? Is it at all selfless?

Solution 4: do nothing and run away. Yes, this may hurt her as much as it hurts him, but realizing that he cannot pull his weight in this relationship may just be selfless. Acknowledgement of one’s own shortcomings is surely a romantic gesture. Though wouldn’t this also be fear out of selfishness? Circle back to solution 2.

The second (and arguably the more important) question asked by the film is this: should we even define romance? Of all the choices David could make, wouldn’t whichever he chooses become the true choice, as long as he chose it authentically? There is no right answer so, arguably, yes. If gouging out his own eyes for love means something to David as it does for the narrator, then surely it is a romantic gesture. If running away does the same, then surely it is also a romantic gesture as long as the parties are being true to themselves and each other.

Love remains the only consistent metaphor for life as, in order to be successful in finding it, one must remain true and curious. As David loves the narrator, any authentic choice he makes to truthfully serve both him and herself, is the right choice. If David’s love rejects the definition provided by society and, as a result, he must fashion his own. Who would we be to judge?

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