In Greek mythology, the killing of goddess Artemis’ sacred deer by king Agamemnon causes a storm that stops the ruler’s ships from sailing to Troy. In order to cease the storm, the goddess asks for compensation and Agamemnon is faced with a devastating decision.
In Lanthimos’ The Killing of Sacred Deer there are no kings or gods or deers, but instead a mysterious young man named Martin (Barry Keoghan), a successful cardiologist named Steven (Colin Farrell) and his family. The film opens with the puzzling and slightly unsettling scene of a beating heart, accompanied by an evocative score. This should come as a warning for some viewers: in case you started watching this and didn’t already know, it’s not going to be lighthearted. What follows are scenes of Steven and Martin spending time together at a diner and along a river. The nature of their ambiguous relationship is not unveiled until later on, but just a few minutes into the film an inexplicable feeling of unease is effectively introduced.
As the plot progresses, the impeccable use of sound and music helps grip the viewer tighter and tighter, as the film nauseatingly spirals from drama to nerve-wracking thriller. Martin meets Steven’s wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and children (Sunny Suljic and Raffey Cassidy) and appears to become increasingly obsessed with the cardiologist. Not long after, when the boy’s intentions are revealed, the viewer is dragged in a crescendo of madness where everything can be anticipated but nothing can be stopped. Reminiscences of the deadpan humour seen in The Lobster are present in the film, but do not in any way brighten its atmosphere.
Barry Keoghan, Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman deliver outstanding performances and manage to truly give life to their characters despite their robotic cadence, characteristic of all Lantimos’ films. Undoubtedly his best work so far, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an unforgettable and beautifully-crafted pearl. Everything from the visuals and sound effects to the writing and performances contributes in leaving the viewer absolutely distraught once the closing credits roll. Needless to say this film might not be suitable for everyone, but is nonetheless a unique experience and well worth giving a chance.
This film will screen at the GFT until the 16th of November. Tickets are available here: http://glasgowfilm.org/shows/the-killing-of-a-sacred-deer-15
The GFT also offers a free 15-25 discount card for students, available here: http://glasgowfilm.org/plan-your-visit/memberships/15-25-card
[Ludovica Credendino – @ludofaiga]