Appetite for Lobster (thoughts on Lanthimos’ film)

The artistic recognition of “The Lobster” (co-written and directed by the greek director Giorgos Lanthimos) in the 2015 Cannes Festival combined with a cleverly-designed anticipation for the release of the film, if not global at least Europe-wide. In London, promotion of the film was distinct. For weeks the BFI website and Facebook Page excited the imagination of the cinephiles with micro-scenes, teasers and unofficial movie trailers. In most artistic cinemas the well known in its abstraction poster of the one-person hug  was put in place long before the release of the film while human size cardboard copies of the poster urged cinema goers to be the hugging person and get photographed as such. 

But what about the film itself?

The Lobster describes a society in which not being in relationship is forbidden. Those single (Loners from now on) are (self?)exiled and find refuge in the woods. If they ever find themselves in the city they can be at risk of stop and search by the security forces, and will be asked to provide a relationship certificate/verification and prove they do not belong to the Loners of the woods. This is a persecutory and oppressive attitude by the established society which reminds of the police attitude towards the migrants for instance, or the young blacks  and muslims of London suburbs, if I had to draw a parallel to the real society. The Loners appear to be a similarly marginalized, stigmatized and criminalized social subgroup.

On the unfortunate occasion you become a Loner, the Lobster society forces you to check in in an “idyllic” hotel (brings “idyl” to mind -“romance”) with a 45 day deadline to find a new mate. If you do not succeed then you transform into an animal of your choice (Lobster is Lanthimos’ main hero’s choice). The rules of the hotel, as absurd, wacky and bizarre as they can be, are strictly and indisputably followed, as if the transformation of a man into an animal is indeed an indisputable metaphysical determinism. The relationship between the Loners is depicted as a war game of survival. The Hotel Loners are both hunters and candidate preys to a violent play in the woods in which they desperately try to hunt and “drug down” each other  in order to earn a little more time before they end up turned into animal.

The first part of the film, the hero’s staying in the hotel, is a dark, grotesque demonstration of the absurdity on behalf of a social majority against those who do not comply with the rules laid down. The Loners, from initially “volunteer” hotel guests, now turn into desperate inmates who feel the clock ticking against them. Compliance with the rules can only lead to psychopathy, in the sense of the absolute incapacity and aversion of relating, removing any trace of emotional contact among people desperate for contact. Exactly the opposite of the alleged aim of the hotel’s society.
The second part, the hero’s running away in the woods, continues dark and grotesque. The viewer realises quite quickly that the society of the consciously Loners in the woods is only the antipode of the society in the Hotel. The same irrational, bizarre, wacky rules. With similar semi-insane, psychopathic supervisors for their implementation. And those who can not follow the rules suffer in a similar way. Those who still maintain a basic emotional world ready to have it revealed in a love relationship, find themselves on the same desolate confinement. This psychopathy is what is brilliantly illustrated in the Lobster. And the despair of love relationships too, in a fashion delightfully comic.

One of the obsessions of the protagonists is the matching of their personal characteristics. The heroes are anxious to find common traits that will make them a couple, eg nearsightedness, a frequent nosebleed, a limp leg. Feelings, love, emotional contact itself does not play a role, these have been replaced by compulsion, the external necessity of relating, a cold, inanimate and unimaginative approach between two caricatures. It is no coincidence that the word matching is a typical word in dating apps like Tinder. You add your features in the app, and the other add their own, a fancy algorithm then will look for matching and eventually you will be notified on your the desktop or  phone screen that your mate is found for you. The cold, calculating way to relate with each other lies at the core of the film.
The scene where the main hero realizes that the only common trait (nearsightedness) he shares with the woman he loves is lost when she gets blinded  is a tragic scene. He begins to desperately ask her if she can speak German, if she plays the piano, if she loves blueberries, only to receive negative responses by her. For love is there, but it is as if it is not, as if it doesn’t matter, as if love is something humiliated, substituted by a checklist of mutual characteristics, as if indeed man is transformed into an animal. And the communication codes, the language of love that testifies matching and union with its presence is converted here in a restricted, degrading, ridiculous process that causes the viewer laughter and sorrow. What is the norm in love, passion and physical contact, is the object of criticism and the reason for punishment in the world of the Lobster.

Faithful to the distinctive approach of the characters in his films, Giorgos Lanthimos creates heroes who have no depth, no history, no other dimension beyond these he allows depicted. All heroes in this film, both protagonists and secondary, are nothing but caricatures. And the way they relate with each other highlights their nature. Their movements and behavior are deliberately allowed to resemble a children’s show.

And all this for two reasons.

The first is that in the Lobster, main protagonist is the Relationship itself. The Relating and more specifically the lack of it. The second reason is that Lanthimos wants to state that in no way should we relate in such a way. Such relating is ridiculous, psychopathic, we need to be kept in distance from it, not to allow any approach. The funniest moments of the film, and also the most grotesque and the most cynical, are precisely those where the director allows us to get closer to the way Relating is permitted to the protagonists. The fact that the director’s insistence on it increases not only its ridiculousness but also the actual discomfort of the viewers (eg the jacuzzi choking scene, the dog murder scene or the knife scene at the end) just shows the creepy non-human nature of the type of relationship depicted.

Looking into the movie as a whole, its purpose is achieved. I think that the film suffers elsewhere. In the first part, in the hotel, there was a serious risk of repetition of the same scene over and over again. A mannerism in terms of both form and content was fortunately averted before completely spoiling the solid result. However, the risk averted in the first half reappears in the second one and leaves its footprint. The sense of balance on the second part seems to be lost in the woods. The initial internal rhythm of the film is left behind and the narrative from half the film on seems to lose its cohesion and leaves the viewer with the uncertainty of where exactly the story goes. Without doubt this film has a large number of good ideas that translated into some brilliant scenes, but it appears that this occurs at the expense of its inner pace and consistency of telling the story. As if the director did not manage to contain his anxiety of needing to show how many good things he had in his mind. As if impressing the viewer with his inventiveness was more important than the essence of the story. I think this is a matter of experience, I’m pretty sure in his next film Lanthimos will be more dominant on his own ideas or more thoughtful of what exactly he would need to show.

In summary, I found the Lobster an excellent cinematic study on the issue of love relationships in our post-postmodern era. The idea of ​​the film is given with a series of brilliant scenes, through an incredibly clever screenplay and via a hard-worked personal style, however some kind of narrative anxiety unfortunately blurs the total film result. I respect Giorgos Lanthimos and I very much like his work. I think he is own way of realising the many good potential he has. His journey in this seems to be safe and this is because it is well and hard worked and because he and his associates seem to be talented and intelligent. I look forward to Lanthimos’ next work wondering if he will indeed manage to keep up to the expectations he created.

A day in the british elections

These are the second general elections I experience as a permanent resident in London. Five years ago, I was impressed by the lack of passion, the sluggishness of the process, society’s business as usual on the elections Thursday. I thought there was something I could not understand, that something was shuning me from finding out that actually nothing was happening. Five years later, being more familiar with what English people think about politics, and a bit more politically organized here, I wonder whether my initial feeling had any kind of basis indeed.

Today weather in London was less cloudy than usual with intervals of blue sky which I happily welcomed. In the Tube the morning tabloids depicted the seven political opponents as contestants of the X Factor. Facebook reminded us that we reserved the right to vote and urged us to share this privilege with our friends. At work, a colleague was sharing her decision to vote for the Green Party while pointing out how uncomfortable it was for her to talk about politics in her workplace. No one actually responded to this daring confessions, and I was left with that cheery fantasy that I was secretly selling her the “Socialist Worker” or “Rizospastis“.
Shortly thereafter, as part of my work, I spent time with a young woman. She was a second-generation immigrant from Africa, unemployed, impoverished, with 3 children all in care, with benefits having been recently cut, a pending eviction order from the council flat which lived all her adult life in, and with serious and irreversible health problems. She had to survive with just 142 quids allowance every two weeks. She was desperate. And helpless. With the NHS as her only solace. She was that part of society for which elections don’t make the slightest sense. For her, today’s day was like all the others.

Business as usual.

The Big Society, the great vision of Mr Cameron and the Tories five years ago, was actually the vehicle towards an unprecedented widening of the gap between the rich and the poor, with which social inequality reached the levels of the Victorian era: Zero hours contracts, food banks, bedroom tax, punitive horizontal benefits cuts for the long-term unemployed, arduous physical and mental disability reviews by ATOS, cuts in the welfare state, privatization of sensitive social sectors, cuts and privatization in the NHS; Poor people displaced from their local communities, social housing bought and resold at prices inaccessible to their inhabitants, gentrified areas that lost what made them alluring for gentrification, rents in London becoming unapproachable and home buying opportunity almost nonexistent; The working class was targeted systematically while a new scapegoat was discovered by the brutal front line of the establishment: Muslims and immigrants. These are just a few of the achievements of the Tory-LibDem coalition that transformed an already ailing society to a discredited mass of poverty and misery for the benefit of a particular banking elite. Extreme neoliberalism in its most cynical face.

Although the context is so clear and the result of the polls so markedly critical, yet I am not clear what the mandate of these elections should be. Yes, it is imperative for the Brits to get rid of Mr Cameron and his collaborators, as it is clear that their policies destroy the lives of the most, but if you consider Labour, how will they differ in practice? False promises, rants, mud thrown by the media and cheap populism, of an intensity I haven’t even seen in Greece, allow no hope. And since the word “hope” somehow found its way in this paragraph, just to mention that the dominant public discourse in the UK regarding recent Greek project, Syriza, mostly uses it as a counterexample. And this is because politics here are identified with the management of a specific and well-established system of power that apparently nobody actually wants to change or even dispute. And which society accepts in a pure determinist fashion, like a law of nature.

The young African immigrant waved a lifeless goodbye to me. Just before she exited the building, she coincidentally met with my colleague who was going to vote for the Greens. The latter, a young middle class white british lady opened the door for her with that nice smile. I saw them both going away, each one with their own purpose, and had to think once again for the real meaning of this day.

Do the Greeks ever learn?

70 years ago today, in 25/3/1944, Nazis and their Greek counterpants anihilated the whole Jewish community of my home town, Ioannina. 1700 Jews were trasported to Auschwitz and 95% of them were murdered within the next 7 days.

Below is a captured passage from Mark Mazower’s thrilling work called Inside Hitler’s Greece. Pages 252 – 253 describe the holocaust of the Jewish in Ioannina.




Today, 70 years later, Greek goverment is openly antisemitic, anticommunist and homophobic. Amongst others it promotes illegal detention of migrants in concentrations camps, murders refugees in their effort to escape war zones, violates basic human rights of vulnerable parts of the society (HIV postitive, victims of trafficking, mentally ill), suppresses resistance using any means and shamelessly propagandises as people’s success story the most cruel, cynical and devastating policies that western world has seen since WWII .

Sad and disgusted, sitting here, observing history fiercely coming back…

Nudism is socialism

If what is reported about this photo is true, it could only be a pleasant surprise to see the Chancellor of Germany in her youth enjoying her naked body, freely and with confidence, hanging around in the company of her cute girlfriends, away from the nightmarish evocation of her current role. As a young socialist back then, she might have also been involved in the Freikorperkultur movement, that solid German nudism movement dating back to the Weimar Republic years, which required decisive activist persistence and disobedience to secure its existence in the East German regime.

Afterall, naked body is the best way to discard class identity. And probably the most humane one. The DDR regime not only was unable to prevail over the naked body but conversely, and perhaps more consciously than any other attempt of liberalization, it adopted it as a  socialist model of sexual freedom and social progress.

Even in this way, even if this comes from this mastermind of policies that save banks and destroy Peoples, this photo did remind me that nudism is actually socialism. And what is more, a voluntary, anarchist socialism. Synonymous to freedom, to personal independence, self-determination, autonomy. And synonymous to equality. This intact, classless equality. Nudity and nudism, and perhaps most of all the east German one, remind me more than anything that freedom in every aspect of life is the most important tool to raise humanity in the happiest state of living. And certainly the most visible one.

bedtime for democracy

I can still remember that cop who explicitly abused two arrested migrants who lacked documentation, ordering them to violently slap one another to his greatly sadistic enjoyment:

I can still remember that other cop humiliating those two arrested prostitutes exercising a fair portion of sexist and sexual violence against them.

This budding expression of fascism and sadistic treatment of the weak and vulnerable had been swept under the legitimizing terminology of “single episodes”. That “individual” violence against immigrants today has evolved into the collective solution of concentration camps, the dividing Wall of Evros River and covert assassinations. That “individual” violence against women has now evolved into the collective solution of public humiliation and targeting addicts, HIV carriers and prostitutes.

I can see myself now becoming more conscious as to how much torture has been legitimized in Greece this period. Torture has been legitimized by the Minister of Public Order -and of course his PM- who protracted political ambiguity by denying existence of torture and agreeing at the same time to further implement the same strategy of oppression. The Greek parliament has legitimized torture by its raw acceptance of state violence as the only legitimate and non-condemnable kind of violence. Justice system has legitimized torture through exemplary acquitting police officers who physically abused a student live on TV (see clip below) and by leaving unpunished use of violence by countless uniformed bullies and their protected neo-Nazi criminals of Golden Dawn.

Most recently 4 young arrested bank robbers suspected of terrorism (photo) were tortured following their arrest by the police. Their photos have been published with a clumsy but infuriating touch of photoshop.

Pictures of the four suspects. Faces marked by signs of mistreatment with bruises and swollen eyes. And a very bad and clumsy photoshop.

Last year, anti-fascist motopad-march detainees suffered violence and torture whilst being interrogated in the police headquarters. These incidents can only be seen as a sheer implementation of what has now been institutionally legitimate. This is the new reality that future social activists will have to face. This is the new assumption needed to be made by that part of the Greek society whose only solution is to rise up.

I am anxiously anticipating Greek society’s actual stance towards this institutional legitimization of torture; however I still feel quite reserved. I know already that a significant part of this society has sought refuge to fascism feeding their hunger with hatred and violence towards the other. The rest of the society may still believe that they just cannot bother with state violence as if it has nothing to do with them. They themselves have been “tortured” enough by their deteriorating economic misery, they might think. Undoubtedly, an unfortunate sign that need of democracy and social justice has been eradicated from social thinking.

It is apparent that the media-cultivated terror, daily fed learnt helplessness and ongoing mental blackmail by the Greek government is still strong enough to keep this great part of society under complete control by the elite, having their oppressors being legitimized also as their bullies. And they are so alone in this, lonely and defenceless that the torment of the others is their salvation for not yet having crushed whilst in their own fall. But rumour has it, if not them, it’s definitely their children.

a tie that does not suffocate

This is lovely snapshot from the anti-nazi demo held in Athens on 19.1.13 which unfortunately coinciding with the attack against a Pakistani migrant who was stabbed to death by two Greeks members of the neonazi gang of Golden Dawn. More details about its circumstances here:

The older brother holds a placard which slogans “out with the neo-Nazis.” I wonder how much he actually knows about the Nazis, how much he actually learnt at school, or how much time his father had to say to him about it. The little one holds a balloon in hand, how much more compatible this with his age and what he is able to register in his developing consciousness !

For these two boy trying to understand would be titanic. Too mnay things to come to terms with. There was a death: premature, sudden, violent. And there is hatred: racist, revengful, targeted. And then it’s this recurrent discrimination against them. Their diversity which has become violently guilty. Their color. Their religion. Their command of greek language and the audacity for it being their second language. Their accent. Their very identity. Who they are. Their very existence. There is so much for such a young age to undesrtand that I wonder if they will ever be able to allow themselves to dream again.

And their father, whom they may see little in the day, and whom when they finally meet they need to succumb to this unconscious obligation to become his carers in this regime of terror and violence against him, this father, on that day, a day of  mourning and solidarity, this father had them wear their best pieces of clothes, a nice little suit with a tie for the older one and this great three pieces suit for the little one.

As if they were going to a fest.
Shining with dignity.

avant Lagarde

 Greek parents have to take responsibility if their children are being affected by spending cuts. “Parents have to pay their tax,
Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund chief

The dominant ideology of this woman, and of every neo-liberal of this world, is that this thing we call poverty does not exist. If there are poor this is due to their personal errors. Whoever gets poor, whoever impoverishes, are responsible for their poverty, responsible for their impoverishment. They are the ones to blame. The symptoms of neoliberal policies are turned into intrinsic disadvantages of the victims, a deficit in their characters, into laziness, social indifference, irresponsibility. Violence, prostitution, the forced migration, addictions, increased rates of suicides, every kind of social pathology of its new form, as the consequence of poverty, destitution and misery resulting in reality from this policy, is therefore due to the problematic personalities in the society, because of the  irresponsibility of these personalities and of other evils as well, but not due to the implemented policy. And of course, it is absolute justice for those inherently irresponsible tax evaders to watch next generation, their children, sinking into depression.
Thatcherism would have at least glorified the capital, the owners of the wealth, before demonising the impoverished and the wasted. Langardism on the other side , does not even bother.


tales from the greek communist underground

I am happy to say that after 35 years of political rivalry, the Greek Marxist-Lenninist Communist Party (M-L CP) and the Greek Lennininst-Marxist Communist Part (L-M CP) have merged to one, now titled M-L CP (L-M).

This brings to my memory another amazing event from the greek underground communist scene, which during the 80s had nearly become an urban political myth among the comrades.

In late 70s, just a few years after the fall of the greek military junta, revolutionary left reached its heyday. Part of this self excitatory movement was a tiny Maoist Communist Party which didn’t involve more than 5 or 6 persons, the majority of which university students including some intellectuals too. This party had strong political and – as retrospectively proved- emotional affinities with a specific group of Chinese comrades members of the then central committee of the Chinese Communist Party. To note that none of the Chinese comrades had any idea about the existence of their Greek admirers. One day, one of the Greek comrades heard the terrible news that some Chinese comrades of that group had a minor argument about something which to them appeared an enormous issue, probably exaggerated by the huge distance between Athens and Beijing and certainly confounded by the overwhelming awe of this long distance one way relationship. Greek comrades felt obligated to transfer this argument some thousand kilometres away. They themselves caught up in an argument which inevitably and expectedly resulted in the splitting of this much promising revolutionary party.

Oh yes, here’s a great one taken from the crosswords of the 6 monthly journal of a tiny Greek Stalinist Communist Party, again back in the 80s:

This was never made by Joseph Stalin.7 letters.

The answer: Mistake

So I guess following the above, this short scene from the Monty Python’s famous film can only be rather too passée.

instead of shouting out

With only few exceptions which traditionally confirm the rule, the so much renowned Greek culture hasn’t offered as much these past decades, contrary to the grandiose perception commonly shared among the modern indigenous Greeks. Modern poetry, I am happy to say, is one of these exceptions, and can be probably the only thing that a Greek migrant should bring with in their hastily packed suitcase.

Celebrating the World Poetry Day I would just like to share my sheer passion for one of the most important -but paradoxically less known to the English speaking audience- Greek poets. Manolis Anagnostakis.

Manolis Anagnostakis (10 March 1925 – 23 June 2005) was a Greek poet and critic at the forefront of the Marxist and existentialist poetry movements arising during and after the Greek Civil War in the late 1940s. Anagnostakis was a leader amongst his contemporaries and influenced the generation of poets immediately after him. His poems have been honored in Greeceʹs national awards and arranged and sung by contemporary musicians. In spite of his accomplishments, Philip Ramp notes that Anagnostakis ʺis the least known, to an English speaking audience, of the major Greek poets of his generation.ʺ

Anagnostakis’ poetry is not pessimistic. Though its tone is sombre, though its verses often flirt with despair, in its innermost core there glows a light that looks more like the gleam of dawn rather than the dim glimmer of dusk. This light pervades his poetic work with an existential hue. Rather than being just an ideological poet, Anagnostakis is an existential poet, and this trait means that he strongly diverges from the category of political poets. As a result, he leans more towards the existential poets of his generation. (source)

Here are two of my most favourite of his poems. Even if they were written decades ago, Ι only have to succumb to their timelessness to feel modern before I utterly realise that a dead country is only that one who has forgotten of its poets.

The first telegrams began to arrive
The newspaper presses ground to a halt and waited
Orders were given to the proper authorities.
But the dead man would not die on the appointed hour.
All wore black ties
Rehearsed broken‐hearted postures before their mirrors
The first lamentations began to be heard. the grievous laudations.
But the dead man would not die on the appointed hour.
Finally the hours dragged into days
Those dreadful days of waiting
His friends began to protest
Closed their offices, stopped all payments
Their children wandered in the streets like outcasts.
They watched flowers withering.
But the dead man would not die on the appointed hour.
(So many many things never foreseen
So many incalculable consequences, so many sacrifices,
To what responsible person can you protest, where can you shout?)
And the dead man would not die on the appointed hour.


Are you for or against?
At least answer Yes or No.
Youʹve thought the problem over
Iʹm certain of course itʹs troubled you
All things in life trouble us
Children women insects
Noxious plants wasted hours
Difficult passions rotten teeth Mediocre films.
And this no doubt troubles you.
Well then, speak out like a responsible person.
At least with a Yes or a No.
The decision is up to you.
We donʹt ask you naturally to give up
Your activities to interrupt your life
Your favorite newspapers your discussions
At the barber shop your Sundays at the ball park.
One word only. Well then, go ahead:
Are you for or against?
Think it over carefully. I shall wait.

This post is titled by another of Anagnostakis’ poems.