Colin Farrell talks The Lobster and Criterion Collection’s release of The New World
Without question one of this year’s most singular, unique comedies is The Lobster, the new film from writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) that dissects the modern conception of relationships via an alternate world where people are forced to couple up or they’re transformed into an animal. After his wife leaves him, lead character David (Colin Farrell) is brought to a mysterious hotel while he searches vainly for a new partner before ultimately deciding to flee and join a secret society of loners who live in the woods.
Co-starring Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux and Ben Whishaw, The Lobster is full of absurdist ideas and emotional curveballs, all presented in a satirical light that is as insightful as it is darkly funny. Star Colin Farrell took time out to talk to us 1-on-1 about the film in the exclusive interview below, where he also discusses the forthcoming Criterion Edition of Terrence Malick’s 2005 masterpiece The New World, which you can pre-order at this link.
ComingSoon.net: So the main thing “The Lobster” reminded me of is internet dating, the way everything is sort of built on these very shallow connections. “Oh, they like that. I like that.”
Colin Farrell: Sure, sure.
CS: What other real world touchstones did you ground your role in?
Farrell: It’s weird. I feel like my role was grounded by the writers, genuinely. I feel like the script was kind of there to be ruined, but I was never going to make it any better than it was, you know? In a way, there was such a particular set of conventions and rules that this society lived within and everything had a really clinical kind of logic to it. The lack of emotional awareness all the characters lived within was so astonishing to me. That’s why I think a lot of the performances seem like there’s this flat delivery, because nobody’s really emotionally connected to their lives. If they were, they’d realize the preposterousness of what they were living in.
Farrell: But I can see that the film in so many different ways can be seen as allegorical, you know? The point that you mentioned, the idea that we all have a lot more choice than we probably realize, that a lot of us live in patriarchal societies, where we’re told what we can and can’t do, without realizing the extent to which that is taken, and what we will do to stave off our loneliness in life, how we will sell ourselves short. And yeah, the contemporary online dating is for certain something that is not too hard to transpose as a hidden meaning, not well hidden in this film, but I don’t think that was the intention of the writers and of the director. I don’t think that they’re poking fun at it. I think they just find humor in observing what is going on in the world around them at any particular time.
CS: Honestly, “The Lobster” was a breath of fresh air. I’d seen another film this week that was also an allegorical satire. Not going to name it, but it didn’t work at all and this one did. What do you think is the key to making satire accessible and not let it get too intellectual or abstract?
Farrell: I think if the behaviors that have been observed, whatever they may be, by the writers and the filmmaker are truly honored — even if they’re presented in a more heightened fashion, as they are in this film — well then it’ll be relatable. I think if a filmmaker and the writers try to be clever for the sake of being clever, which I don’t feel Yorgos or Efthymis are guilty of… It’s a very clever script, but I don’t think they’re patting each other on the back and going, “Oh, wouldn’t it be funny if we do this?” They’re just following a train of absurdist logic, but it is logic. And I think ideally, the story will be relatable. But I have friends who’ve seen it, and some of them loved it and some of them are like, “F*ck, when are you doing S.W.A.T 2?” Seriously. And I respect that, and you know, I don’t think any more or less of anyone because they like it or don’t or get it or don’t.
CS: Well, I imagine it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
Farrell: No, it’s quite a divisive film, in a way.
CS: Yeah, but it does have an internal logic to it, and each scene sort of builds on the next. It doesn’t feel like something that was just improvised.
Farrell: Yeah, no, not at all. Yorgos is a very, very meticulous filmmaker and there are very little accidents or happenstance, which I don’t mean that in a way that it’s an oppressive creative environment at all. I mean, we had absolute freedom and his direction was spare, was specific, but spare, but he’s very, very meticulous in how he frames everything, and he’s averse to convention, you know? You don’t get a master and then a two shot and a close-up, you know?
CS: Yeah, it almost felt Kubrick-ian.
Farrell: Yeah, same here, you know? Same here. The hotel as well.
CS: The dim lighting, yeah, and the hotel, and the way everything was framed.
Farrell: And the way you feel something is happening that the camera’s not picking up. The camera’s picking up enough to let you know that there’s other things that are happening that it’s not picking up.
CS: Absolutely. And the title font as well.
Farrell: Is it?
CS: Futura Bold, that’s his font. Not to get too nerdy.
Farrell: Yeah. Good call, though.
CS: One of the fun parts about being an actor must be getting to inhabit people who you’re not in real life. Not to speculate too much about what the public perception of you is, but I imagine this character is the opposite of that.
Farrell: Of what the public perception of me has been in stages? Yeah, absolutely, I would imagine, yeah, yeah. He’s probably a lot more closer to me, David, than a lot of the characters I’ve played. (Laughs)
CS: But was it fun to let loose and lean into the pathos of this guy?
Farrell: Yeah, there’s a certain strange freedom that can come with – I’m not too strictly enforced, but a certain degree of containment that a lot of my characters haven’t had. A lot of the characters I’ve played have moved faster or been quicker talkers or thinkers. This guy was very – there’s a kind of subtlety to him, a lack of self-awareness to him that I found really lovely, and a complete lack of guile, a complete lack of the subterfuge that sometimes comes with more contemporary characters, you know?
CS: And I imagine there was no need for a personal trainer or any of that?
Farrell: No, that was Haagen-Dazs. That was my personal trainer.
CS: No B.S., one of the most transcendent filmgoing experiences I’ve ever had was seeing the original, uncut “The New World” at an early press screening. Now that Criterion is coming out with their edition of it, does it feel as if it’s finally being properly recognized?
Farrell: Oh wow, that’s great. It’s nice. I haven’t been waiting around for this recognition or anything, but when I heard that Criterion was doing it I was like, “Oh, that’s cool,” because I have Criterion films. I know that they have really interesting cinematic tastes, of course, and it’s kind of somewhat a classy affair. So I was really happy when I heard that Criterion were doing it.
CS: Does that movie have a special place in your filmography for you?
Farrell: I loved working with Terry, you know? It was an incredible time, working with him. I love the man dearly, and so it’s one film that my involvement in didn’t completely ruin, because the aesthetic of it is so beautiful, that I could kind of – not that I was completely removed. When I watched it, I was still there in the screening room, but the frame of this or the aesthetic and how beautiful and sumptuous and slow moving and meditative it is as a film is something I could enjoy more than a lot of the things I’ve done.
CS: Yeah, I wouldn’t say you ruined it at all. I think you were very stoic. You were almost like the aspirational version of that John Smith character. It’s the image everybody has in their mind when they think of him.
Farrell: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s quite a romantic character, and yeah, suffered those slings and arrows of living a romantic life for maybe a little bit too long.
A24 will release The Lobster in theaters on May 13.
Colin Farrell also talked to ComingSoon.net about starring in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. You can find those quotes here.