Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest film is just what we have learnt to expect from him: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is weird, piercing and extremely uncomfortable, and will linger in your mind for days. Nonetheless, it is also much more than that. Apart from being his most shocking film after his 2009 masterpiece “Dogtooth”, it might also be the first time Lanthimos lets the viewer understand that there might be a message hidden behind the apparent absurdity of the film. In fact, the film seems to condemn on the one side people’s constant need to blame someone and their thirst for revenge, and at the same time people’s malleability and inability to react to oppression. Then again, maybe this is just an example of overanalysis and the film is meaningless.
Even if the film does not have a meaning, it is still an outstanding achievement. The actors’ uncomfortable acting style and their awkward and almost absurd dialogues are hard to forget, and set an interesting mood right from the start of the film. The cast is extremely small, which allows the audience to focus all their attention on the main characters and on their peculiar behaviour. Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman brilliantly portray a twisted version of the caring and reserved parents, and their false rationality has a strong influence on the family’s doom. Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic, on the other hand, are the beating heart of the film’s weirdness, and their brilliant performances are perhaps even more thrilling than the plot.
Visually, the film is stunningly upsetting, with a predominance of matt colours combined with white. Together with the bright hospital scenes and the impersonal luxury of the Murphys’ home, the images are as unsettling of the plot and reflect the bleakness of the situation. Thimios Bakatakis‘s cinematography, excellent as usual, adds an additional level of anxiety. The shots are uneven and the camera often seems on the verge of falling, a precariousness which reflects that of the characters’ lives.
Thus the film, thanks to its astonishing performances, its enthralling plot, and its unsettling visuals supported by a relentless soundtrack, is sure to leave no one unmoved. Although “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” might not be as shocking and ground-breaking as “Dogtooth”, it is Lanthimos’ most stressful and intense film so far, and is certainly one of the most original films of the year.