THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (2017): An Absurd Revenge Story like Nothing Else

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

No deer was harmed in the making of this film. In fact, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” does not involve deers at all. The title is metaphoric: the “sacred deer” resembles the tragedy Iphigenia from the Greek mythology—Iphigenia was sacrificed for the sins of her father. Hey, don’t worry! That is not a spoiler. Just from the film posters you can all tell that “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is nothing about deer or animals or anything like director Yorgos Lanthimos’ previous film, “The Lobster”. It is more about how someone has to sacrifice his beloved ones because of his sins. A rather familiar theme, isn’t it?—except if you already knew Yorgos Lanthimos’ works, you know things are not going any familiar.

The story of “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” revolves around a surgeon named Steven (played by Colin Farrell). He’s married to Anna (played by Nicole Kidman), and they have two children: Kim (played by Raffey Casidy) and her younger brother Bob (played by Sunny Suljic). They are all living a happy, fulfilled life until we know that Steven has long befriended Martin (played by Barry Keoghan), whose father died in a surgery. The deep, unlikely bond between Steven and Martin then continues to get complicated, as Steven has to make a sacrifice that may harm his family.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

As I told you earlier, I think the plot is rather familiar for us moviegoers. From the first scenes of Steven and Martin unlikely bonding, viewers can already tell there is something wrong in one of them, and there is going to be something sacrificed as a price for the wrong things done by one to another. In short, we can obviously tell that “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is going to be about revenge. The thing is, in one form or another we’ve all seen how ‘revenge’ has been becoming one of Hollywood’s hottest meals. The theme can be served as a family drama, or an action-thriller, or (most popularly) a mystery-horror, like in this film. Still, I can guarantee that however familiar the plot is, Yorgos Lanthimos’ body of works, which include “The Lobster”, “Alps”, and his most well-known “Dogtooth”, has given us a promise that in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”, ‘revenge’ will be nothing familiar.

And it’s true. The script written by the director and his comrade Efthymis Filippou likes to punch us with one or two awkward scene, so that we were becoming uneasy (and disturbed, somehow) even before we clearly understand what was happening. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” likes to give us surprises that are getting more appalling as we are reaching the end of its 121 minutes of duration. This may become both an upside and downside of the film: knowing the director’s previous works I think these morbid suprises are something we will expect from him, but then some people may find that most parts of the ground story are not told clear enough, making the aftermath feels rather unmotivated. I kind of agree with the latter, ‘though, because with what is going to surprise us near the ending, I think a stronger grasp of the characters’ motivation will bring sharper impact that lingers in us perhaps days after we watched it. There is not enough dilemma in its characters, so we don’t really feel the struggles within them.

“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” marks one of four film appearances of Nicole Kidman in Cannes this year. She is having a real blast in the festival, although I prefer to say that her performance in this film is just a safe performance. Colin Farrell is, too. As a pair of husband and wife we can tell how they both embodied absurdities in them, but as they are facing the so-called ‘family dilemma’ reaching the ending, it’s getting hard for us to see conflicts in them. Maybe that is how they are written in the script, ‘though, so that they managed to keep the atmosphere of black comedy in this film to not getting any nearer to be a sad, heart-wrenching drama. Still, kudos are delivered to Barry Keoghan. I’m not giving away to you if he is protagonist or antagonist, but he has delivered one of the most mind-twisting performances this year—in a very, very good way. I don’t know how he is not in the talks right now, because I think he’s so promising and he deserves it.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

If you like mystery-horror films like nothing else, you should ultimately go see “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”. I think you are going to see one of the best films of the year; an unnerving and absurd film with a superb script and directing by Yorgos Lanthimos. Still, if you look closely, you can tell there are some parts that need fixing, and moreover if you are a fan of the director, you will agree that this is not his best.


The Killing of a Sacred Deer

4 out of 5 stars

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
2017 / Drama, Horror, Mystery / 121 min / R

cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Casidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, et al. 

screenplay by Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Akbar Saputra

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