There are so many ways, too many, to say how weird Yorgos Lanthimos’ new film is. I’m nearly tempted to warn people instead of encouraging them to watch it. I want to save them from being haunted by such a disturbance.
Fans of Lanthimos’s previous film, The Lobster, will enjoy this unique artsy piece, but the average moviegoer will not. The best way to describe the film in a few words is a dark, eerie complexity of a story that will either break your heart, confuse you, anger everyone in your household or leave you astounded. It’s odd, but every little detail that makes it so is clearly intentional and does it well. It strips the humanity of their emotions and souls, revealing them for the beasts, not savage beasts, but basic animals that they are.
Even the dialogue is strange. The words spoken by the characters is normal enough, but the way the actors deliver the dialogue is monotonous and dreary. Don’t take this as a negative comment because it works well with a story so dark and mysterious. Hearing such dry conversation spoken slowly from hollow individuals fits perfectly.
Loosely based on the Greek play, Iphigenia in Aulis, which itself is based on a story that took place during the Trojan War about the sacrifice of Iphigenia at the hands of her father. In the story, a Greek commander is sailing to Troy to fight in the battle. He encounters the wrath of Artemis and is unable to, so to appease her, he sacrifices his own daughter and can then sail to Troy. If that doesn’t say enough about Killing of a Sacred Deer, then nothing can.
The plot, like in the Greek tragedy, starts when a doctor appears to be responsible for the death of a patient and invokes the wrath of the dead man’s son. The backstory of the dead patient and the issue of whether the doctor truly was responsible is never explored because that is not the story. It is about consequences and what happens when that consequence not only becomes deadly but demands the impossible.
The movie dives into people’s deepest fears and what comes out when faced with those fears. There are two children, newcomer actors Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic, who are normal, callow and innocent children,.When a desperate and angry need blooms from within them both, their naivete and virtue are laid exposed in some heart-wrenching sequences intensified by a stillness that lingers within every scene.
The famed Colin Farrell brings the same oddball man he brought to the screen many times before. He does well, projecting a man unwilling to take responsibility, mixing pity with indifference. You both sympathize with him and want to smack him around for being so careless and clueless. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a dark, poetic piece of art, telling a story no one wants to live. The largest takeaway from the film is the calm acting and feeble looking villain with the face of sad innocence, but with a mind that is emotionless but sympathizing. He is more of a balancing scale than a person, bringing a divine justice that shows how cruel and unfair “justice” can be.
Actor Barry Keoghan is visually compelling as he stares at the camera and his co-stars with puppy eyes. That quickly transitions into something frightening, when you realize that it’s not puppy eyes you are looking at, but cold apathy.
There is no gore, not much blood, which is where most people go when they hear the word “disturbing” regarding a movie. It’s more of the subject matter that will darken your thoughts rather than the images. Fair warning though, the first scene is a graphic open-heart surgery. Slow, drawn out and sharp, there is no action whatsoever, no romantic plot, and does not include a single humorous line. In fact, if you are watching this movie with someone and they start laughing, run away.
Take caution, this one will make you think hard.