Director and screenwriter Yorgos Lanthimos has previously been known for films such as Dogtooth (2009) and The Lobster (2015). Lanthimos is a Greek artist who specializes in venomously funny, bourgeois-baiting absurdism.
His previous films have been called cold and heartless. Almost as though in response to this criticism, this one opens with an actual heart pumping furiously away.
1. Quick review
The story revolves around a surgeon with a wife and two kids. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with a teenage boy.
Soon, horrible things start to happen to his family. Will his domestic bliss be shattered forever? This 2-hour long film entraps its audience in its plotline until your chuckle turns into a gasp, and you scream to tear your eyes away.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer takes place in a world of clean lines and stark white walls that feel like operating rooms. It’s this world of suburban perfection that Lanthimos deconstructs and dehumanizes.
There’s something about the cool, detached, and monotonous world Lanthimos creates in the film that makes it all the more terrifying.
2. Is it worth watching?
The Killing of A Sacred Deer is a film that challenges viewers in fascinating ways. The film is undoubtedly refined in its filmmaking. This leaves its audience feeling invigorated after a watch.
It comes across as a rare film, one that can be alternately shocking, hysterical, unnerving, and heartbreaking, often in the same scene. This is a film that makes it hard to separate from the experience of watching it. Much of its effect depends on not knowing how you’re supposed to react.
Lanthimos has long been intrigued by the comedic power of the uncanny and its close relationship with dread. His previous films reflect this very well, but neither are as good as this one. He keeps both sensations in constant flux here, while the camera discards the façade of surveillance to slink in for ravenous close-ups.
The film’s title refers to the Greek myth of little Iphigenia. Agamemnon, her father, offends the goddess Artemis by killing one of her hunting deer. In order to save himself, he has to sacrifice Iphigenia. Like the Greek myth that inspired the film, watching it makes you realize it feels powerful enough to be timeless.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer follows a cardiovascular surgeon, Steven (played by Colin Farrell). He is happily married to Anna (played by Nicole Kidman), and they have two children named Kim (played by Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (played by Sunny Suljic). Steven takes an awkward teenager named Martin (played by Barry Keoghan) into his care out of guilt; Martin’s father died under Steven’s knife during an operation.
Martin weasels his way into the family’s approval, and Steven invites him to dinner one day. That’s when Martin exacts his revenge. He tells Steven his wife and children are all about to become paralyzed from the waist down. After that, they’ll refuse all food, bleed from the eyes, and finally die. The only way Steven can save his family to it is to kill one of them himself.
II. Music & visuals
The music director of this film is Janne Rattya. He is regarded as one of the most successful classical accordionists of his time. The soundtrack of this film includes snippets of Schubert’s Stabat Mater D383, Ligeti’s Konzert für Violoncello und Orchester, and Bach’s Chorus: Herr, unser Herrscher. it also includes Sofia Gubaydulina’s Rejoice!, Mike Scott’s How Long Will I Love You, and a handful of songs by the Death Panthers.
The film is filled with extravagantly unnerving visuals. Cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis accentuates the sense of dread as his cameras creep and crawl through hospital corridors. He films as though he were almost like the lurking spirits in The Shining –low-angle flits and ghostly glides. Thunderous music cues with unnerving bursts of classical music make it even more ominous and screechy.
3. Final thoughts
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a drama and a grisly one. However, it’s infused with Lanthimos’s unique way of looking at the world. One he populates with characters who have robotic and detached mannerisms.
Lanthimo constantly finds a way to seamlessly bring his audience from the theatre of absurdity to cruelty. Here, he presents a tale of methodical revenge. The film is undoubtedly a must-watch for anyone who loves the genre.
What gives The Killing Of A Sacred Deer a new voice in a genre full of overused tropes is a clash between the ancient and the modern. Similarly, the battle between cool irony and unsettling horror remains perpetually unresolved, leaving the audience squirming with uncertainty when things turn nasty.