Uranisco Disco (2001)
7.2 Dogtooth (2009)
7.0 Alps (2011)
7.4 The Lobster (2015)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
7.4 The Favourite (2018)
Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos (1973) directed
Uranisco Disco (2001) and
Kinetta (2005) before
Kynodontas/ Dogtooth (2009), a Kafka-esque parable.
It's a powerful portrait of madness, but, alas, doesn't seem to have an
Alpeis/ Alps (2011)
Langosta/ The Lobster (2015), his first English-language film, is a cryptic double-dystopiac allegory. The helpless protagonist is caged first in a Western-like dystopian society in which human relationships have been reduced to rules and regulations; and then he falls into a communist-style dystopian society in which his identity is reduced to obeying orders. The punishment for disobedience in the former is being deprived of humanity, and in the latter it is blindness. One doesn't know which one was better/worse.
A man sitting on a couch talks to a female voice, who becomes the narrating voiceover, and someone rings a bell. He thinks his wife doesn't love him anymore. He and his dog is taken by an ambulance-looking coach into some kind of hospital/hotel where all new guests are asked to strip half-naked and are given strict instructions. He introduces his dog as his brother, who stayed at the same hotel but "didn't make it". He looks outside the window and sees a number of apparently dead bodies and the people who shot them "dead" (actually, just with tranquillizer guns). For each "loner" (person who doesn't have a sexual partner) that they shoot "dead" they get an extra day of stay: when they run out of days, they turn into the animal that they chose when they arrived. He chooses to be a lobster. The way to avoid turning into an animal is to find a partner within 45 days (plus whatever days they accrue during the hunting parties). Then they can move to the matrimonial rooms. The hotel's maid and the butler are dressed with the usual hotel uniforms, but they act more like prison guards. The maid has a French accent. The first night she handcuffs him to the belt of his pants. In the morning all the guests consume their breakfast in the restaurant just like in an ordinary hotel. He notices a woman with short hair who is known to be absolutely heartless. He notices a young woman who suffers from nosebleeds. Two male guests invite him for a walk to the sea. The guests of the hotel give talks, dance, chat. The young woman with short hair whohas no feelings shuns everybody. The protagonist, David, but mostly known as "Room 101", invites the nosebleeding girl to dance, and her blood stains his white shirt. His two male friends invite her female friends to dance. All the lone guests are given a tranquillizer gun and taken by bus to the hunting ground where they are allowed to shoot each other. Depending on how many people they "kill", the number of days that they can stay "loners" (i.e. postpone being turned into animals) increases. The maid coldly performs an odd way of masturbation on him every night. One of David's friends, caught masturbating by himself, is punished by inserting his hand into a toaster. A sexually-frustrated suicidal woman starts talking to David on the bus, offering to give him a blow job: she is clearly desperate to avoid being turned into an animal. He coldly thanks her and tries to ignore her. The other friend of David, not wanting to be turned into an animal, pretends to have nosebleeding in order to seduce the nosebleeding girl. In reality, he slams his nose on hard surfaces to make it bleed; but it is still better than being turned into an animal. This new couple is publicly announced on the stage of the hotel and they are moved to a double room. The hotel manager congratulates them and the other guests clap, but they are also warned that they will be monitored carefully. Finding a mate is the only way to avoid becoming an animal, so the motivation to cheat is high. There's a point during which the guest spends her or his last day as a human being before beginning her or his life as the animal that she or he has chosen. It is now the turn of the nosebleeding girl's best friend. Then she turns into a horse (literally) and is taken away. The suicidal woman jumps from a window, trying to kill herself. Now David begins to feel the pressure find his mate so he doesn't turn into a lobster. He starts flirting with the short-haired woman who has no feelings. In order to win her over, he has to pretend that he too is heartless. They become a couple and are given a key to the double room during the usual public ceremony. In their room they perform sex the same way that the maid was masturbating him. She has absolutely no feelings during sex. He has to continue pretending to have no feelings, otherwise their union would be null and void and he would be turned into a lobster. She kills his dog (that was actually his brother) during the night, and tells him that she did it slowly to maximize the dog's pain. He has to pretend that he doesn't care but then he starts crying, and she immediately decides to report him to the hotel manager for lying. The punishment for lying is to be turned into the animal that noone wants to be. But the French maid saves him and helps him stop his unrelenting vicious "wife" with a tranquillizer gun. David doesn't understand why the maid is helping him and, not trusting her, shoots her a tranquillizer. Then he drags the unconscious body of the short-haired woman into the room where people are turned into animals. He flees the hotel. He sleeps alone in the forest. In the morning he is found by people who are hiding in the forest, led by a beautiful cold blonde woman with a French accent. She welcomes him and tells him that he can remain a "loner" as long as she likes. In fact, there is harsh punishment for having sexual relationships. Now we realize that the narrating voiceover has been one of the women of that group, a beautiful dark-haired woman, who is short-sighted like him. The group practices how to run and hide in order to escape the hunters of the hotel. One day the French maid of the hotel leaves the van that took the hunters in the forest and walks alone smoking a cigarette. David's friend (the one who masturbates) catches David in the woods and is about to shoot him with the tranquillizer (and therefore return him to the hotel) when the beautiful dark-haired woman saves him. Meanwhile, the French maid meets the French blonde leader and they start speaking in French. It turns out that the maid is helping the loners who hide in the woods. The maid, however, tells the blonde that she cannot stand the hotel anymore because the manager's partner, a fat dentist, forces her to floss and brush her teeth. The blonde takes three of the loners (including David and his savior) to the city and to a shopping mall. Police officers interrogate shoppers, obviously looking for them. His savior saves him again. Then the quartet visits the blonde's French parents, who think that their daughter is a busy corporate executive. His savior (the short-sighted woman) pretends to be his wife, and that they have four children. The blonde has been preparing an attack on the hotel. That is the night. David enters the yacht where his friend lives with the nosebleeding girl, and tells the woman that her husband has been lying to her about the nosebleeding. Meanwhile, the blonde and the savior enter the room of the hotel manager and the fat dentist. They force the man to shoot the woman after he has told them that he loves her very much. The hypocrite grabs the pistol and pulls the trigger but there is no bullet. Then, after that strange mission, they all return to the woods. David gets jealous when someone gives rabbits to his savior. He finally kisses her. They cannot do it in public because of the punishment. They work out a secret code of love messages. Her voice keeps narrating the scenes like she has been doing from the beginning. The quartet visits the blonde's father again, and again David and his savior pretend to be husband and wife. In order to escape punishment, they decide to leave the woods and the blonde's group, but the French maid, who now lives with them in the woods, finds a diary that talks about them and reads it to the French blonde. The blonde forces David to dig his own grave and to cover himself with soil. Then she forces his girl to undergo eye surgery. Instead of healing her, the surgeon turns her blind. The blind girl grabs a knife and swears to kill the leader but instead kills the maid and drops the knife thinking that the evil blonde is dead. The blonde then grabs the knife and takes her back to the woods. David is not too shocked by the news. They still decide to run away. One night he attacks the French blonde and dumps her in the grave, bound and gagged, leaving her to be eaten by the dogs while he and his girl walk to the highway. They walk into town. They enter a restaurant. He asks for a sharp knife. He walks into the restrooms and cuts his eyes. The camera shows the table where the woman is sitting and waiting, with a large glass window behind it that lets us see the traffic outside.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
The costume drama The Favourite (2018), from a screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, is set during the reign of queen Anne, when Britain is fighting France in the War of the Spanish Succession. The meticulous reconstruction of spaces and jargon is hijacked by claustrophobic wide-angle shots (Robbie Ryan's cinematography), as well as by atmospheric Kubrick-ian and Welles-ian shots, and by the exhibition of the vain, decadent lifestyle of the government (in a grotesquely baroque style that evokes the tableux of Greenaway's The Draughtsman's Contract and late Fellini surrealism). The plot is a Shakespeare-ian drama of jealousy, ambition and cruelty (including female versions of Iago and Othello), but unraveling at a majestic pace, and somewhat watered down by the long corridors and vast rooms and idyllic gardens in which it takes place. The scheming protagonist (who enters well after the beginning of the movie) wins her personal war against a society that rejected her, while her powerful nemesis losers the public war that she felt Britain could win.
I. The queen is sick, hardly able to walk. Her favorite is the noble strong-willed Sarah, married to a duke who exerts a strong influence on parliament. The queen is so generous to Sarah that one day she blindfolds the favorite and then gifts her a whole palace. Meanwhile, an impoverished cousin of Sarah, Abigail, is traveling towards the court in a coach shared with other peasants. Abigail delivers to Sarah a letter from her aunt, asking for employment. Her face is covered in mud after an accident. A slow-motion scene shows the court entertained with a duck race. The prime minister wants to discuss the war with France: the queen must decide whether Britain should negotiate a peace of continue the fight. Sarah wants to continue the war, even though this means that her husband has to leave for the frontlines and risk his life. Abigail, hired, has to shower with all the other female servants and then joins them in the kitchen, assigned to humble chores. The other servants are not kind to her. She injures her hands when they order her to scrub the floors with some corrosive substance. The queen has to meet the Russian embassador, but she is not presentable: the pain on her legs is unbearable. Abigail takes a horse and rides to the woods to pick herbs. She makes a potion to heal her hands. A young handsome rider, Samuel, sees her, but she rides back in a hurry before he can question her. Abigail takes the liberty of using the potion on the queen's legs to reduce the inflammation. Sarah is shocked to find her, a servant, in the queen's room, and instructs that she be punished with the whip. But the queen soon feels relieved of the pain and Sarah stops the punishment. Sarah convenes a cabinet meeting at the queen's bedside, and champions the war cause, despite pleas by Harley, the leader of the opposition to the war, to stop the war that is costing too much and would require more unpopular taxes. Abigail tells Sarah that her father lost her at a card game. Abigail was born a noble but now she is a servant. II. Sarah takes Abigail to shoot birds, and Abigail asks Sarah how she can be in favor of a war that might kill her husband. Sarah replies that the country is more important. Samuel, the young man who saw her in the wood, confronts her, but she avoids him. The queen is now mostly on a wheelchair. Harley keeps trying to talk sense to her, but Sarah's influence prevails. The queen attends a ball but then she gets hysterical and leaves. She slaps Sarah, but then makes love to her. Abigail is shocked to discover that Sarah and the queen are having sex. Harley takes Abigail for a walk at night and proposes that she becomes his spy. She refuses and he pushes her into a mud pool. Sarah takes Abigail again to the shooting exercise in the gardens. Abigail tells Sarah of Harley's proposal and swears allegiance to her. Abigail also hints that she knows Sarah's biggest secret... her love affair with the queen. Sarah aims at Abigail and pulls the trigger... but there is no bullet; clearly a threatening gesture. Then Sarah has to rush to bring the queen to her senses: she seems ready to jump from a window. III. The queen confides to Abigail that she lost 17 babies, which is why she keeps 17 rabbits. Samuel comes to Abigail room, she jokingly removes his wig, he tries to kiss her, she flirts with him but then kicks him out. IV. Abigail charms the queen. The queen is increasingly capricious: she yells at musicians who are practicing in the garden, and then wanders mad in the hallways. Abigail soothes her, even helps her (an invalid) to dance with her when they are alone in the queen's room. Sarah and Abigail go shooting at birds agian, and Abigail kills a bird that exlodes in Sarah's face. Harley stalks Abigail in a dark hallway, still trying to form an alliance. Harley outsmarts the queen in a government meeting and the queen collapes. Samuel tries in vain to rape Abigail in the woods where he first saw her: she flirts, but then She wrestles him and wins. She wants him to marry her, but she is just a servant while he is a noble. The queen finds Abigail in her bed and kicks her out, but in the middle of the night Abigail is summoned barefoot to the queen. Abigail masturbates her. Sarah catches them sleeping together. The following morning Sarah fires Abigail. Abigail beats herself until she bleeds from the nose and then lies crying on floor for the queen to see it. The queen then hires Abigail as her personal maid. Sarah is not only jealous but furious that the queen can be so gullible. The queen takes a mud bath, and Sarah joins her in the rub in front of Abigail. Abigail chats with Samuel in her humble room, planning a marriage that would restore her to the aristocracy. The politicians entertain themselves throwing oranges at a naked jerk. Sarah is given poisoned tea by Abigail and faints while riding her horse. The horse drags her unconscious for hours. Abigail offers a deal to Harley: she will help him win over the queen if he talks the queen into letting her marry a noble, Samuel. VI. A procures a private meeting between Harley and the queen in the gardens for him to champion the peace. Harley warns the queen against the perverse influence of Sarah. At the same time he convinces the queen of Abigail's right to marry Samuel and be restored to the nobility. Sarah is finally found by the people of a brothel. Her face is disfigured. She has to remain in bed for a while. Harley and the prime minister try in vain to get the queen's attention about the fate of the war. The queen doesn't want to admit it but is worried about Sarah's disappearance. Meanwhile, Abigail marries Samuel and becomes a lady. The wedding night, however, is not very romantic: Abigail is so focused on her machinations that she refuses sex with Samuel and simply masturbates him. Sarah finally returns, with a big scar on her cheek, accusing Abigail of having poisoned her. Abigail offers peace but Sarah slaps her. Sarah warns in vain the queen that Abigail is a liar, and Sarah tries in vain to reverse the queen's decision to sue for peace. VII. Sarah blackmails the queen with the love letters that the queen wrote to her. The queen doesn't give in, and Sarah burns them. The queen promotes Abigail to Keeper of the Privy Purse, a position kept by Sarah, and Sarah has to surrender the keys. Sarah begs in vain the queen to realize that Abigail does not love her. The queen appoints Harley as prime minister and orders peace with France. VIII Abigail gets drunk at a dinner party but by now an increasingly invalid queen tolerates anything from her. The prime minister tries to make peace between queen and Sarah. Sarah tries to write a letter of apology, and the queen eagerly awaits for such letter. Meanwhile, Abigail tells the queen that Sarah embezzled money. The queen refuses to believe it, and keeps waiting for Sarah's letter of apologies. When Sarah finally sends it, Abigail intercepts it and burns it. The queen keeps waiting anxiously for a letter from Sarah, but eventually she loses hope and becomes bitter towards Sarah. The queen publicly accuses Sarah and her husband (returned from the war) of being thieves, and orders them to be banished. Now Sarah is the one who is ruined.
Poor Things (2023), based on Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel,