The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Alicia Sliverstone, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Bill Camp & Anita Farmer Bergman.
109mins | Drama, Thriller, Horror | 15

*Spoilers follow*

For anyone who sat through The Lobster, they will know within a very short time if the films of Yorgos Lanthimos are for them. Whilst that was an utterly absurd, yet brilliant and twisted tale, its themes of love and looking for love predominated. It had moments of Kafka, Beckett and surreal Sci-Fi from the 60s.

Lanthimos’ next cinematic journey is nothing like its predecessor. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is packed full of tension and heightened unease, rarely felt in the cinema. His camerawork is an oddity in itself (featuring cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis), with fisheye lenses, filming higher and lower than the height of the actors and scanning the room from a corner, with a cynical scope. Several elements evoke the mood of Kurbick, especially, The Shining (creepy music, harsh camera angles and painful suspense) and other sobering moods evoke Tarkovsky (long takes, zooming in and the use of Bach). Even through these influences, this is filmmaking unlike anyone else who’s working today and it’s simply electric.

We see Steve (Colin Farrell) as Steve, a top surgeon who is taking under his wing young Martin (Barry Keoghan). We soon discover Steve accidentally killed Martin’s dad whilst having an operation a few years ago. The teenager starts to become very clingy and freaks Steve out. Steve’s son Bob (wonderfully played by Sunny Suljic) falls ill and no one knows why. Then his daughter Kim (a relatable Raffey Cassidy) also mysteriously falls ill. With strange and ominous threats from Martin, Steve quickly realises there are ways to end the suffering of his family. Martin appears to be controlling everything and the unlimited sacrifice must be made. What is Steve to do?

We never truly know if Martin was some sort of higher being or if he was just a young man with issues, who was only hungry for revenge. The film opens with a visceral shot of surgery and we wonder if this was the operation involving the said death, or one of many Steve has done in his career. The script here is also wonderfully cold and stilted, as if everyone is forced to say their lines like that. Funny moments linger throughout (conversations about watches, sex and spaghetti are highlights), usually from the script having such odd remarks and non-sequiturs that appear to come out of nowhere. The laughs never last long, as the dread and deeply sinister tone invades again and again.

The performances really push the actors here. Colin Farrell as Steve is mostly calm for the whole film, a beautifully poised character who is mostly unmoved by most things. His wife, Anna is played with great conviction Nicole Kidman, evoking her previous Kubrick adventures with Eyes Wide Shut. Barry Keoghan is a sensation as Martin (you might recognise him from Dunkirk) who is highly intimidating through socially awkward encounters and well-mannered threats. He makes the film and not for a minute do we care for him, even if he lost his dad and even when we discover Steve did, in fact, cause the death by drinking before the surgery.

Lanthimos can’t seem to shake his Greek credentials, as the film is very loosely based on Euripides’ play Iphigenia in Aulis. This is even nodded to in the film when Kim had done an essay in the play and got an A. I guess she got an A because she could relate to what was happening to her family. She does appear to fall into Martin’s trap by falling in love with him, as a relationship blossoms between them, as Bob’s condition worsens. One wonders what parents would make of the sacrifice made in the film as well. It seems to also hark back to the Biblical stories of Abraham and Jephtha, in how both fathers process the idea of killing their child (the latter actually killing his child, the former being spared such a fate).

Here is a work of cinema that students and scholars alike will study for many years to come.

A superb film. The best of the year.

Rating: *****

Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite will be released in cinemas in 2018.

Photo Credit: Pi Media

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Photo Credit: Pi Media Website

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