The first time I ever heard of the name Yorgos Lanthimos was back in 2016, when a trailer was released for his movie at that time, The Lobster. The trailer was rather intriguing, and the movie had a very favorable buzz about it, as it was one of the critics’ darling from the latest Cannes film festival. I hated that film. Now, with more than a year’s distance from that moment, I have found myself looking at another trailer of a movie made by Lanthimos, which is again, intriguing. And of course, the movie was loved at Cannes. So, I must ask: fool me twice, shame on me?
Also, there will be spoilers, so beware…
But, about the last question… No, I did not liked the movie. It was pretty obvious to me after the first 5-10 minutes that this movie has just too much in common with The Lobster, and, as such, my curiosity was replaced gradually by hate. Yet, at the end of the day, this movie managed to stuck with me and I do recognize that in this case my dislike of it is a result of the clash between my personal taste and the directors vision. I can respect The Killing of a Sacred Deer as a movie. The same is not true for The Lobster.
The story, in short, is about a surgeon (Colin Farrell) who has it all. Perfect practice, perfect wife (Nicole Kidman), 2 kids – a girl and a boy, big house, the works. In his spare time he is meeting up with Martin (Barry Keoghan), the teenage son of a patient of his. As Martin gets more and more intrusive in his day to day life, Farrell begins to suspect that something is not right. He soon finds out that he was right and that his family is in danger.
My main problem with this film is the script. To be more precise, the dialogue. It just takes me out of the movie. This was rather bothersome because the story itself kept pulling me back in, so I was torn between wanting to see what is happening next and just abandoning the movie altogether. Everybody is talking like they are on the spectrum. It is like the dialogue was written by a couple of second graders trying to emulate somehow adult conversation. The result is an endless amount of meaningless small talk that has a great deal of importance attributed to it. Topics such as “what material is better for the strap of a wristwatch”, “daughter is having her first menstrual period but she is ok” and “my dad has 3 times as much hair on his body than you” pop up frequently and are followed up later on in the movie. In fact, the entire 1st act is just a collection of such small talks. It doesn’t help that the actors deliver each line with 0 intonation, as if they were reading out loud the instructions manual of a washing machine. Except for a couple of scenes in the 3rd act where Farrell is finally allowed to channel some emotion, everybody is acting and talking like some sort of automaton. Think of an animation where all the characters would be voiced by Siri and you get my point. And this is such a waste! This would have been such a good movie if the characters would have sounded more believable, more natural than some radio commercial from the 50s.
But, the story is good. Even with such an awful script, there is plenty to flesh out each character, their backstories and motivations are believable. Even their choices do not seem to be that far-fetched given the circumstances, although there are some pretty absurd circumstances, non the less. I really liked the fact that the danger for Farrell’s family isn’t really explained. He knows what will happen, he knows what he needs to do to stop it. And despite how ridiculous the threat sounds like, the only thing that we are showed is that the threat is real. Nobody is wasting time showing how the threat is actually pulled of, and nobody has to either. It is real, it is there, nobody can do anything about it, you just have to deal with it. It is a pretty neat concept to build a movie on. The ending is also rather unconventional and sort of satisfactory, I think (?). The movie is big on the idea of actions and consequences, but I find that only works on a personal level, as the characters do a lot of questionable deeds, yet the society which they live in doesn’t seem to care who is doing what to each other, who is being kidnapped, beaten, abused or killed. Several gunshots late at night in a gated community doesn’t produce the slightest reaction. Neither is shouting threats in the front yard of a suburban house. Nobody is doing anything unless they are directly involved. That one scene towards the end however, where Farrell is improvising a sorts of Russian roulette, that was just stupid. Not to mention cruel and unusual. Also, it seems that the people of this world prefer masturbation instead of sex. Not sure what to make of this, but Lanthimos kind of wanted to make a point about this, I think. It is comes up in all 3 acts of the movie.
I have a working theory, that the entire movie is just in the head of Martin, as he imagines things how they should be, instead of how they actually are. If I look at the story as just one giant daydream of a kid not that right in the head, I can justify everything that happens, even the dialogues quality and the overall strangeness of the depicted world and just how disengaged that is.
Like I said, I can respect this movie. There certainly is a vision behind it, even if it is out of tune with my tastes, and the story is really good. Say whatever you want, but Lanthimos makes original movies. But his work does remind me of David Lynch, sort of. Lanthimos hasn’t reached that level of strangeness as Lynch and his stories are way more focused, but they do fit into a dreamscape, no doubt. So I guess that Lanthimos can be a David Lynch lite. Birds of a feather, of sorts…
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is one of the most original movies I have seen all year long. That is not necessarily a good thing, but it is something…