Ariane Maid

In the strange world of The Lobster, humans are forced into romantic coupling. If single for too long, they are turned into an animal of their choice. Colin Farrell stars in the film, playing a man who must find a mate at a pairing hotel before it’s too late. Actress Ariane Labed plays The Maid, a mysterious worker at the hotel. The Greek-born actress was raised in France and now lives in London, England, with her husband Yorgos Lanthimos (who directed the film).

ScreenPicks was able to sit down with the lovely Labed at the recent press day to discuss the film. The Lobster showed at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and this month Labed will return to the festival to promote The Stopover. In case you’re wondering, Labed’s animal of choice would be “a lioness.”

The Lobster is very original and different, with several layers to it. It’s funny but also dark; romantic, but sad too. How do you describe the film?

Ariane Labed: I think it’s a love story. I don’t think you can really put a name on it or put it in a box, and I think that makes it more interesting. It is definitely about relationships, and about human behavior. It’s about us and it is a very human movie.

What appealed to you about the story?

Labed: I thought it was brilliant because it has a very, very funny tone. And also something dark like you have said before. I thought it was very interesting to somehow see ourselves in this story through all the tricks and the compromise that we have in order to live together. I truly thought it was a very interesting and beautiful portrait of our society, and of our rules, and of our behavior. Yeah, I thought it was very unique but a very clever view on our behavior.

In the film, your character first starts out at the hotel which has very rigid rules. What motivates The Maid to change her outlook? Why is she then so loyal to the Loner Leader in the forest?

Labed: To me at the beginning, she is probably a spy, we don’t know it, but she is working in the hotel. You know, there to help the Loners and the Loner Leader and then she helps them to come in, and then she finally goes and lives together with the Loners. Yes, for me she is a bit like an outsider, in the hotel, and in the woods because I don’t feel like she is doing all these things just for the Loners either, it is for one person. I see a love story there actually…

Ha – yes, I hadn’t considered that, but that makes sense. Between her and the Leader? The Maid is so devoted to her.

Labed: Yes…love or something else or devotion, but there is something very extreme, being dedicated to this woman, so there is something strong there, a strong feeling. It is great that I had the chance with this character to go through these two worlds that are very different – different sets, different atmospheres, different rules…that was very exciting.

Did the cast work in two different locations for the hotel and the forest shoots?

Labed: It was quite close, it was the forest next to the hotel, so it was practical. Yeah, and we are living in this hotel where they were shooting this movie, which is crazy! But it helped the movie for sure and the atmosphere. It was all in Ireland and it was a beautiful landscape.

Working with your husband [director Yorgos Lanthimos], is that easier or is it harder to work with someone that you know so well? Do you guys talk about it off set?

Labed: Yeah, The Lobster was part of our life for three years I think, so, of course it might be a bit deeper for me I guess, because I feel more involved in a way. Yorgos is the producer as well. I really enjoy following all the process, and not just on the set. I really love knowing how you make the film in every department and every level. For me, it’s actually a pleasure to have this position. Then on set, like you said, you know each other so well, it is sometimes tricky, but we knew it, it’s fine. We’ve worked together before, so we know how to do it.

You have a big movie coming up with Michael Fassbender, Assassin’s Creed. How did that come about, and is there anything that you can tell us about it?

Labed: It is the adaptation of the video game. It is the director that I really like, his name is Justin Kurzel. If you’ve seen the film that I did with Yorgos, a previous film called Alps, and I think it happened from that, because I have a part that is quite physical. [Assassin’s Creed] is a very physical film, which is something I enjoy. It is a different scale, and it is a very different production and industry, but in the end for me as an actress, it is the same. I am just trying to do my job as best as I can, and I take pleasure [in it]. I just feel very lucky. It’s great to do both, actually, that is the best, really.

You mention enjoying the physicality of a role; you started in dance and theater? And then film later?

Labed: Yeah, I studied dance at something like 16; I wanted to be a dancer. Then I started to do theater, and I created a theater group, which is more like a body language style of theater. So I mixed the two of them, and I started to do films when I was 25. It was quite late, I didn’t want to do cinema before that. I studied, I liked it, so I continue. I still work with my theater group, and I still like working in a physical way, and it is what I try to do as well when I do films…I like using the body language. On another level, I think it is very interesting and a concrete tool to work with when acting.

Do you like doing English language films?

Labed: I started to do film in Greece, but it is not my first language, so it was great to do some French films, lately. I enjoyed that, it was so good to just being able to talk in my language! It is a challenge that I like actually, working in English or in any other language because it is a very … once again like the body, it is a very concrete thing that you have to work on. I think it helps you to get into a tone or character or something. I mean, I would like to do a film in Spanish, but I don’t speak Spanish.

Another challenge!

Labed: Yeah, I’d love that, Italian or whatever.

I loved your movie Before Midnight, and that was done in Greece. Beautiful scenery. Another film about love and relationships.

Labed: Absolutely. In a very different tone and language, but it is the same struggle of how to be together and what you are ready for, and how free you are, how trapped you are in a relationship – all these things. Yeah, [Richard] Linklater is an amazing director, a great person; it was a good experience.

With The Lobster, do you think overall it has a cynical or hopeful view on love, or maybe both?

Labed: I think there is both. There is something cynical, this world is terribly cynical, because you have to find a clear, common point with somebody else, which is very superficial and stupid. There is no other way, which is crazy. Even the two people who are falling in love are really struggling with its rules and trying to make it the way it should be. It’s like sorry, love is above that, so they will find a way anyway. The end is really open…it is great because it says a lot about people.

I don’t think the movie has a very clear strict point of view about that, but I think it says a lot about yourself when you watch it…that you are cynical or it can say that you are terribly romantic. Maybe you can find another end of that. It is very open. It is great because I think it obliges you to ask yourself the right questions about your point of view on that.

What was it like working with Colin Farrell?

Labed: Great, he is amazing; he is a beautiful person. He is clever, funny. Really it was a great experience with all the actors. It was beautiful cast, and I felt very lucky working with them.

Yes, the cast is terrific.

Labed: Yeah, it is, and we had fun. We could feel like everybody was there because they would connect with the project and Yorgos’ work, and everybody was very, very committed. It was beautiful.

The Lobster opens in US theaters May 13.