Cinema fix: The Lobster – Constructed, visual and sign languages

January 6, 2016 6:37 pm

maxresdefaultThe Lobster is a 2015 film directed by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. It is set in a dystopian near-future, where singles are given 45 days to find a romantic partner and, if they fail to do so, they are turned into animals. Starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, it won the Jury Prize at the latest Cannes film Festival.

For today’s Cinema fix, we have chosen the scene below because it represents well how the result of this dystopia is a situation in which expression of love strongly clashes with an Asperger-like behavioural display from all people involved. In fact, in The Lobster people have “either forgotten how to communicate or have been forced to unlearn its intricacies“, writes Simon Di Berardino, film critic, for The Essential. And, if you really think about it, in a post-social media world, like Lanthimos’s one, it isn’t that strange. On the contrary, “much of what’s spoken feels like its being delivered verbatim off a message board or comments section; devoid of emotion and only able to exist in polarities”, Di Berardino keeps writing. “It’s either congenial or explicit. (…) The ballet of conversation is lost”.

That’s why when “Shortsighted Woman” (Weisz) and David (Farrell) genuinely fall in love in a loveless community, they must reserve their feelings or they could face a horrible fate. Consequently, as you could see in the video clip, they disguise their emotions through a communication of complex sign language: a series of well-coordinated bodily cues that compensates for their inability to verbally communicate. And there it is: the first instance in which you can feel an authentic connection between two humans, one that doesn’t rely on shared interests or oral compatibility but, at the same time and as only deep and true communication consents, feels more real than ever.

If you’re wondering about it, The Lobster‘s sign language can easily be categorised as a planned or constructed language (sometimes called a conlang), that is “a language whose phonology, grammar and vocabulary have been consciously devised for human or human-like communication, instead of having developed naturally”. Among the many possible reasons for creating a constructed language there is the need to have an auxiliary language, which provides communication among all human beings, or a significant portion (like in The Lobster‘s case), without necessarily replacing native languages. Finally, the sign language in the video clip can be categorised as a visual language: a type of language which uses symbols or movements in place of the spoken word.


– The Essential. 2015. MIFF 2015: The Lobster. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 06 January 16].


Written by Eva Barros Campelli

Communication trainee at TermCoord

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