Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has made 3 films I've seen. The truly out there Dogtooth, then a film called The Lobster which I loved 50% of and now this, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer. IMO this is his most accomplished film so far.

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer is a resolutely disturbing and unnerving film. As horrific in its own way as any horror film released this Halloween. Plus it's weird as fuck. But in a great way..

A cardiac surgeon named Steven Murphy has a odd friendship with a teenage boy called Martin and things start going wrong the moment the man invites the boy into his life to meet his family. From that description you'd think this film was a modern version of the psychodrama thrillers that were so popular in the 1990's. Something like The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Pacific Heights. Unlawful Entry. You might be right but you'd be very wrong too.

From the outset it's unsettling and you aren't quite sure why. Things seem off. You can't put your finger on it. Then you start noticing things, small things. Coincidences in clothing. Sentences spoken and then quickly contradicted. Startlingly honest statements. Close ups of food that look almost pornographic. Strange kinks. Oddly emotionless interactions followed by intensely personal interactions. Silence when there should be noise and music jarring enough to put you on edge that feels really out of place and then suddenly doesn't. And the bizarre appearance of an actress best known for a universally loved 1990's teen film. It's a heady concoction and one that will really rattle you. And most of this is before you realise whats going on too. And then when all is revealed that off kilter feeling you've had since the start is replaced with revulsion. It's not a film for the faint of heart.

The acting is amazing. But in a strange way. At first you notice people engaging in an oddly robotic manner. Without emotion. Monotone. You wouldn't be a fool for thinking the acting was godawful TBH. Then as layers are pulled back the performances start to make sense and as the story builds emotions start to leak out. Outbursts become startling. An argument scares you. A slap across the face sounds like the most violent thing you've ever heard. 

Colin Farrell is superb. Clipped and dispassionate at first, then trying to contain his emotions before boiling over. He gives a performance that starts off frustrating and ends up terrifying. Nicole Kidman, a woman known for her sometimes glacial roles, ironically plays the warmest role in the film. As Anna, she's the first character to really display any outward emotion at all. Forced happiness and strained contentment at first then upset and then in a scene that made the entire cinema cringe and redden, back to steely coldness. She was excellent. A brave performance. The film is owned by Barry Keoghan though. The young Dublin actor who creeped us out in Love/Hate is brilliant here. A quietly petrifying young man who wants things to go his way. He's creepy and he's kooky, mysterious and spooky............sorry I just went full Addam's Family there. Anyway. He'll scare the pants off you and he'll flat out blow you away in the big revelatory scene. He's not a violent boy. He just has his words. But those words and their delivery. Jesus. He's a real talent and he'll win awards for this. Mark my words.  

Director Yorgos Lanthimos does a cracking job here. He trusts the audience to have enough of a brain not to need things hand fed to them. He lets us work things out ourselves. Clues are scattered around so we can work out which way the story is going before it's reveal to us. Bruised knuckles, a look between adults, cigarettes. His last film, The Lobster had a unique idea and a highly entertaining first half but died off in the second part. Here, the story makes for a satisfying whole. I can't wait to see what he has in store for us next.

I've made this film sound horrific. It is but it isn't without its moments of (very black) humour as well. As mentioned earlier some of the maddeningly frank statements made by characters will force a shocked laugh out of you. A confession made out of nowhere at a work reception nearly made me choke on my yoghurt covered raisins. And a scene of a man in a hospital trying to get someone to do something they can't physically do made me laugh and then feel very bad about doing so. The film needs these moments. Without them it might have been too dark.

I thought this was great but I know it won't be for everyone. It's a little frustrating in places and the lack of answers and explanations will piss some people off. But this are things that in the bigger picture don't matter. The stuff left unanswered all adds to the feeling of disquiet. Tellingly, when the film finished, I heard people giving out about the film but none of them left during it. No walkouts. Even if they didn't like it people were still glued to it. That's powerful film making.

A startling story of entitlement, pride, guilt and retribution. It's odd but in the best possible way. 

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