There’s no real way to describe The Killing of a Sacred Deer that does the psychological impact is delivers any kind of justice. We have in this piece the work of a Greek director, Yorgos Lanthimos, which takes notions from Ancient Greek mythology and applies it to a modern setting, and does it in a style which many have compared (correctly) to Stanley Kubrick. It’s a hybrid of horror, tragedy and the blackest of comedies.
It’s entirely unpleasant, but undeniably brilliant.
The film is visually and tonally often entirely reminiscent of the work of Stanley Kubrick – the same notion passed through my mind when watching The Lobster – that if Kubrick were alive and well and still making films, he’d be making ones that looked and felt like The Lobster. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is like Kubrick if he was feeling particularly misanthropic on that day.
It’s as though an alien landed on earth and decided to make a film, having a basic understanding of how humans interacted given certain circumstances. The direction: ‘Speak about human things, human.’
Which is the heart of its comedic pulse – the way the central characters speak to each other, interact and simply go about their lives in the multitudes of circumstances in this film is so removed from the accepted and standard practices of social mores. And it takes a long, long time to figure out the bigger picture of what Lanthimos is going for. The crux of the film is not fully explained, and you can only assume, or interpret that what we’re seeing on screen is the machinations of “the gods” or “the devil” or that it’s “wizardry” or a “spell”, or that it’s some kind of unspoken, mysterious magic.
It’s quite mesmerising to see it unfold, not only for Yorgos Lanthimos’ unique shot structure or his way of playing out his scenes, the directions he gives his actors. It’s a film that defies regular description, and features both Colin Farrell, and Nicole Kidman giving never-better performances.
Some films, like this (and No Country for Old Men, The Master springs to mind) leap out as examples or remarkable cinematic art, but at the same time, works that you could go the rest of your life and never sit through again. You value it as an artistic endeavour, but a psychologically tortuous one at the same time. Brilliant, spellbinding, and wholly disturbing.