This film is all about power and control. Yorgos Lanthimos continues his run as one of the most unique filmmakers working. His pension for the absurd and surreal is unmatched, he continues to experiment with camera placement and movement in interesting ways, and all his films are very thoughtful and resonant thematically. This is probably my favorite of his films. The performances were nuanced and raw from all the leads. I saw heavy Kubrick influences, with the painterly period cinematography and practical lighting reminiscent of Barry Lyndon and the public absurdity, excess, and immature power figures reminding me of Dr. Strangelove. I thought the characters were all three dimensional, with believable motivations and actions. Now for the spoilers.
My interpretation is that the women in this film all lack any real control over their lives. This is indicative for most any women in that period but is true in a more specific sense to each one of the lead characters. Abigail was sold by her own father in a card game and forced to wed. Sarah watches as her husband leaves for battle as she struggles to retain sway over the queen. The Queen can’t understand her own duties and has been helpless to stop 17 children from dying. This film tracks three women’s desperate grab for power in an attempt to try to gain control over their life. I thought the final shot was maybe a little too on the nose and drawn out but I appreciated the parallels Lanthimos was drawing. Abigail spends the entire movie accumulating power in order to dominate. She dominates the man she eventually uses to marry, she dominates Nicholas Hoults character into reluctant partnership, and she very visibly dominates the rabbit toward the end of the film. The rabbits represent the Queens children when they died, but they more importantly represented empty vestiges of her more meaningful and powerful relationships. That’s all Abigail was at the end, another one of the queens rabbits, just a shallow distraction for a broken woman and a meaningless substitute for her substantial relationship with Sarah. In the Final shot, the Queen realizes in that moment that no one loves her anymore and that she lost her only tether to truth and reality in Sarah. Abigail in that moment has come to the realization that no matter how much power she accumulates she will never truly have control she has a much power as the rabbit under her heel. She will always be at the mercy of higher forces and, much like the multiple shots of rabbits, she is very much replaceable.
I did feel that this film could’ve been about 20 min shorter, the third act noticeably dragged after the poisoning. That being said this film was hilarious, Lanthimos plays with social norms like a musician, with surrealism and absurd sequences driving the comedy. I laughed out loud a number of times. I thought it was fantastic.