THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Screenwriters: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
Runtime: 121 mins
Australian Release Date: 16 November 2017
Previewed at: Sony Pictures Theatrette, Sydney, on 9 November 2017
When interviewed by The Independent newspaper, Yorgos Lanthimos stated that, “I don’t know how to make a straight-forward film.” If his previous efforts are anything to go by, then he is a man of his words. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer is his much anticipated feature following the critically acclaimed The Lobster in 2015. And, as with The Lobster, audiences will be strongly divided between those who think it is a masterpiece and those who are left scratching their heads. Does this make for a good film? You should check it out for yourself and decide.
Utilising Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman as the leads - not long after their collaboration on Sofia Coppola’s Beguiled - makes for an interesting reprise. In this case Farrell is a cardiovascular surgeon, Steven Murphy, married to an ophthalmologist Anna (Nicole Kidman) living in harmony with their two children Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic). The film opens with scenes of graphic heart surgery and an invasive score that sets up the eerie tone of the rest of the film. Steven spends time with a young man, Martin (Barry Keoghan), who starts to visit him at the hospital and is eventually invited to the Murphy’s for dinner - to meet the family. This event is reciprocated when Martin invites Steven home to meet his mother (Alicia Silverstone). From that moment on, the mood changes as Martin’s true motivations begin to emerge and Steven’s family’s life accelerates into a living nightmare. This seems to be a common thread with Lanthimos’s films as he takes his audience on a ride into hell.
Loosely based on the Greek myth of Iphigenia, in which the killing of a deer required the sacrifice of a human being, coupled with the premise that God is being held accountable by the Devil, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer becomes an epic saga of revenge. Kidman is riveting as the ice-mother while Farrell has a dishevelled, almost withdrawn presence; and all the protagonists deliver their lines in a mannered monotone, even as the chaos around them takes over. Solid performances by both Cassidy and Suljic are also engrossing, but it is the unsettling, foreboding presence of Keoghan’s Martin that grips the audience with fear. Suffice to say, after watching him eat spaghetti, you’ll never look at the dish in the same way again! This is a fine piece of film-making, if a little off-kilter in its storyline. However, if you are prepared to go on a mythological journey into the unknown, you will find this an absorbing tale. Like Aronofsky’s mother!, it’s going to divide the ranks.