Finally! A movie that uses music effectively, is filmed with a discerning eye, and leaves one hopelessly thinking about the layers and layers of depth regarding our human condition. Usually, having musical and visual perfection are enough to win me over but this one has a story too. This is a wonderful, interesting and challenging allegory that questions societal norms that far too often seem to be accepted mindlessly today.
Clearly though, if you view movies to be entertained then this one will be truly off-putting as it forces you to think. Or at least you will get the most out of it if you can look in the mirror and ask yourself some very challenging questions about yourself that you might otherwise avoid. In my opinion, director Yorgos Lanthimos is a genius. He has created something that on the surface may appear to be absurd but underneath contains mountains of depth as he probes the meaning behind the social constuct of couples as they set themselves apart from the world of the poor single souls. It is as if he is exposing the world’s views, which positions these two worlds as utopia versus dystopia. Yet he does very effectively show us that the rules for either are truly absurd.
Lanthimos does not make anything easy by supplying any answers and that is precisely why this film works for me. If you are smart enough to see it then he only starts the conversation for us. It is a film that keeps on giving as I think it calls for multiple viewings (to catch all the details) and an unlimited cause for an internal dialogue or never-ending discussions with the right person or groups. I think the casting is perfect as well too.
The other reason this works is that Lanthimos skilfully uses humour to juxtapose against a very sad and serious topic. But this is not cheap ha ha kind of humour. It is always indirect and very subtle. The characters are all very superficial beings without any apparent inner complexity that speak in monotone yet they all say exactly what they are thinking without showing any emotion. This is really how one should observe others in this world if you like to people watch and analyze others like I do. One example of humour is in advice given to couples. At one point, the ‘guests’ are given advice, “that anyone who experiences difficulty (as a couple) that you can’t resolve yourself, you will be assigned children. That usually helps.” If you have kids you will understand this.
The world created by Lanthimos is one where you cannot be single. If you are, you have 45 days to become a couple otherwise; you will be turned into an animal. And we all know that in the food chain what happens to animals. No matter which animal you pick there is always another animal bigger than you that will eventually kill or destroy you. To become a mate you must have something in common with each other. Examples in the movie range from being near-sighted, having constant nose bleeds, having a limp, having a lisp to having nice hair or taking pleasure in cruelty.
Without giving too much away I will say that I don’t think it was pure chance that Lanthimos chose Beethoven’s 2nd movement Adagio from the op. 18 no. 1 string quartet. Set in d-minor, it is the music that apparently was inspired by the tomb scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. So yes, you may not see this until the end but this is a tragic love story in itself and by extension this applies in some unique way to each and every one of us. It is tragic if you don’t nor ever will understand what is the true meaning of love (living a lie or superficially) and it is tragic if you understand love at the level of Romeo and Juliet (would you take a bullet to save your partner or save yourself?).
So based on my top essentials for movies (music, visual, and a script that challenges me) I really liked this as it is a movie that made me think and I won't forget it. This is rare in a world with a surplus of forgettable movies. But specifically, had this movie not use the music it did I probably would not be so enamoured by it. Music is a language I understand and the music perfectly translated into what you need to feel as a result of this movie. Having said this I would also say that this is a movie that will divide. There is no middle ground. You will either hate this or find it to be intriguing and far from the norm (which is a good thing). Tread carefully.