TIFF 2017 Review: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is Bizarre, to Say the Least
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is the second film I have seen from writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos. 2015’s The Lobster received wide praise and to be honest; I didn’t get it the hype behind it. I didn’t like the film nor the acting. When seeing The Killing of a Sacred Deer, I didn’t know a thing about the film, even the director. Within the first two minutes, I leaned over and asked my husband “is this the same guy who did The Lobster?” The tone and the feel of the film are very similar to The Lobster. It has the same odd staccato, emotionless, and awkward line delivery and even Colin Ferrell as well. This film, however, I can’t say I didn’t like it. It tells the story of a cardiothoracic surgeon, Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), his family and a very strange boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan). At the beginning of the film, the relationship between Steven and Martin is unclear, and we figure it out through the rest of the film. Meanwhile, Martin infiltrates himself into the lives of Steven’s family including his daughter, Kim (Raffey Cassidy), son, Bob (Sunny Suljic) and wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman). As his children fall inexplicably ill, Steven must face Martin’s presence in his life and make a heart-wrenching decision for his family.
Yorgos Lanthimos has a very particular style. The film features awkward dialogue, very gruesome images, and impossibly bizarre and crazy circumstances. The film is filled with odd little conversations and moments but nothing more awkward than a conversation where Steven tries to get Bob to tell him if he is faking his illness by telling him a story that he has never told anyone. The story he tells is about when he was younger and had just started masturbating and ended up giving his sleeping father a handjob. WHAT. THE. F**K?! There is also a scene that involves Martin biting a chunk of his skin off and spitting it on the floor. These are all moments that are bizarre and disturbing but not as surprising if you’ve seen films by this director.
For this film, the camera angles are played with a lot. For a lot of the shots, the camera is pulling back or zooming in on an angle to the side to give an open and unbiased look at what we are seeing. There’s a scene where Bob and Anna are walking in the hospital and go down the escalator. This whole scene is shot from above and gives an interesting visual with the light reflecting off the glass. The sound choices in the film are interesting. There are great moments like when they have a chorus singing “Carol of the Bells,” and it gives a real atmosphere to the film. On the other hand, some scenes have an overly loud drumming over top of the action in the film. I felt that it was way too loud and had me distracted from what was happening on the screen. I even looked away at some points because it felt like an assault on the senses.
While I didn’t like The Lobster, this film was much better and was one that the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated it. The story was more engaging, captivating, and relatable. It kept my interest from beginning to end. While The Killing of a Sacred Deer is certainly not for everyone, you can easily find the merit in it with the commentary it makes, the skilled camera work, and the daring and bold storytelling it presents.