Big Screen: The Killing Of A Sacred Deer

December 5th 2017

Part modern myth, part horror story and part absurdist comedy, ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ is like a car crash in slow motion, unsettling to watch but bizarrely fascinating.

It’s a weird world that we live in, where a film like ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ gets mainstream release. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos it’s a movie that is characteristic of the Greek auteur’s style – which is to say that it’s absolutely batshit crazy.

Colin Farrell plays Steven Murphy, a gifted heart surgeon with a wife and two obedient kids. His life is fairly straightforward, except for the strange friendship he has with an odd teenager named Martin. When Martin becomes increasingly demanding of Steven’s attention, the doctor cuts ties with the boy — at which point Steven’s son inexplicably becomes paralysed. Somehow Martin has cursed the Murphy family and Steven is forced to make a modern day ‘Sophie’s Choice’ in order to save them.

 

As Steven wrestles with his impossible decision, ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ plays out in a world that’s much like our own. It means that a lot of the weirdness stems from subtle differences in human behaviour, leaving you doubting the rules of the world that they live in.

Because while Martin’s curse is clearly supernatural, everything else seems so normal that the curse could almost be discounted as the symptom of an unexplained disease. It begs the question; what do we do in the face of the unknowable? How do we make impossible decisions when all else fails?

With that being said there is so much enigmatic shit going on in ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ that it’s very much open to multiple interpretations. It’s also a reflection on punishment, justice and a tonne of other things that Lanthimos touches on, but never makes explicit. Every time you think a theme starts to crystallise, there’s another moment that has you looking at the person beside you and saying “What the fuck was that?”

It would be frustrating if it wasn’t so elegantly done. ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ quietly subverts its audience’s expectations, challenging the hubris of the characters and in turn our own. Once again, Lanthimos has made a film where the fundamental sin is thinking you have all the answers, and the only crime is not asking questions. But he’s quick to remind you that, like his characters, there’s a chance you’ll be left a little scarred in the process.

 

Contributor

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