Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Alicia Silverstone, Sunny Suljic, Bill Camp
Words: Manon Peyralade
With the divisive film mother! released around the same time, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer enters the competition of the most twisted, bizarre and intriguing films of the year.
The opening scene sets the tone of the film – a close up of a heart operation. From this outset we understand that the film will make us uncomfortable, and that it will be oddly raw and gruesome.
The cinematography conveys a great sense of uneasiness throughout: the wide-angle used creates an odd sense of space, greatness, almost infinity (the film’s poster conveys that aspect, with a never ending hospital room). The angle makes a normal room look weirdly stretched, making the characters seem farther from each other than they actually are. The use of this angle added to the shot technique is reminiscent of Kubrick’s work on A Clockwork Orange or The Shining.
The use of colours and props draw your attention: the hospital looks extremely plain, with never ending white walls that seem to lead to nowhere.
Being the workplace of Dr Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), we can almost see those corridors as an allegory of the situation he can’t get out of: a young man called Martin (Barry Keoghan) is obsessed with him, but what adds to the creepiness here is that Dr Murphy accidently caused the death of Martin’s father.
A major aspect of what makes The Killing of Sacred Deer awkward to the point it’s almost unbearable, is the dialogue: intentionally unnatural, we’re made to feel unable to fully understand what is happening, and the impossibility of sorting out the situation Steven is in. For instance, some conversations involve the parents talking about their daughter’s first period at a party, Martin’s fascination for body hair, or Martin’s monologue about the way he eats spaghetti.
One of the themes the film deals with is death, incest and sexuality: Steven telling a story to his son on how he masturbated his own father while he was passed out, Steven’s wife (Nicole Kidman) pretending to be dead to arouse her husband, or even the daughter (Raffey Cassidy) mimicking this behaviour to seduce Martin, which means she knows one way or another what her parents do in the bedroom.
Martin mentions a sort of curse, that is never explicitly mentioned as such, saying that Steven’s family will die, and that bleeding from the eyes will be an omen of their upcoming death. In order to stop the curse, Steven’s wife coldly suggests that they will have to sacrifice one of their children. From that comes one of the oddest scenes in any film in recent years. In an alternative version of Russian roulette, Steven lets fate decides which one of his family members will die in order to save the others. Although before this, the growing illness of the two children who wake up paralysed is extremely creepy. What adds to the oddity is that they move around the floor using their arms, but only later they get a wheelchair. Steven’s behaviour when forcing his son to walk but only throwing him on the floor is painfully uncomfortable to watch.
Psychological horror or horrific drama mixed with surrealism, The Killing of A Sacred Deer, similarly to mother! is hard to fit in one genre. Bizarre, horrific and fascinating, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer is a must watch, and one of the best films of 2017.