Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan
Length: 2hr 1m
(N.B. This review may contain spoilers)
Yorgos Lanthimos, acclaimed director of Dogtooth (2009) and The Lobster (2015) brings in his newest oeuvre, The Killing of a Sacred Deer – a thrilling, disturbing cinematic experience, bound to engage audiences in a magnetic and original way.
Following the ancient tragic trope of revenge, the story follows young boy Martin (played by Barry Keoghan), who befriends a surgeon (Colin Farrell) whom he believes played a role in killing his father. Martin embarks on a mission to avenge his father’s death by bringing great suffering to his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and children Kim and Bob (Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic). As this Sophoclean tragedy unfolds, tension is constantly fluctuating.
Lanthimos’ signature monotonic tone reflected in the characters’ dialogue and behaviours is, of course, once again present in this film. At times, the dialogue in the film offers a sentiment of nuanced comic relief (though slightly convoluted at times) to some of the more intense, gruelling scenes. Though if you haven’t seen one of Yorgos Lanthimos’ films before, you might find it shocking and unsettling to a degree at first. Yet, it is incredibly refreshing to see such originality in a director who, much like Wes Anderson’s beloved symmetry, retains his own nuances of filmmaking.
Barry Keoghan’s performance as Martin is perhaps the most impressive of all in the film – tilting between innocence and malignance, due to his character’s unnerving disposition. Martin’s relationship with Colin Farrell’s Steven has an ambiguous inception at the beginning of the film, meeting in diners and exchanging expensive gifts, setting up the dubious, chilling atmosphere that certainly pervades the rest of the film.
Thimios Bakatakis’ cinematography is once again mesmerising. Having worked with Lanthimos on Dogtooth, The Lobster, and Kinetta, Bakatakis masters the use of calm, subtle colours to work in harmony with the sharp and often abrasive dialogue that pervades Lanthimos’ films. Furthermore, the use of camera angles and shots, particularly the slow zoom-ins, are key in creating a pervasive build up of tension, also working accordingly with the score.
The harsh orchestral score (including memorable pieces by Janne Rättyä and Michael Corboz) perpetuates the tension running throughout the film, even in instances in which the tone of the music is somewhat discordant with the image on screen, creating an even more jarring experience for the audience. The film also includes a haunting rendition of Ellie Goulding’s ‘Burn’ sung by Kim (Raffey Cassidy) after Martin asks her to sing for him, a scene in which Martin’s malevolence slowly begins to rise to the surface.
Overall, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an exceptional piece of filmmaking. Though not establishing as specific a comment on society as Lanthimos’ previous film The Lobster, it still holds tremendous weight in his catalogue of work and will be sure to thrill and excite any audience. If anyone else were directing this film, the absurdity of the plot would perhaps override the tension and nuances in character, becoming the focus of the production. Yet, due to Lanthimos’ careful craft, by the end of the film the audience is almost acclimatised to the surreal, disquieting events that unfold. Though the events are heavily disturbing in nature, one is left with an ambiguous reaction after the film’s climactic scene, proving Lanthimos to be a master of his art.