The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) is the new film by Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek director behind films such as Dogtooth (2009) and The Lobster (2015). The enigmatic director, known for his skeletal, empty and eerie tone in both character and cinematography is back with an equally idiosyncratic tale of ritualistic horror.
To give a bit of context behind the film’s symbolism, (and yes, there is a lot of it), the tale is parallel to that of the tragedy Iphigenia. In the myth, Agamemnon killed a sacred deer which belonged to the goddess Artemis. To make things even between the two, Artemis required blood in return, therefore a sacrifice needed to be made by Agamemnon, who subsequently killed his daughter Iphigenia. While the Greek myth is much more complex than this, the simple act of revenge and sacrifice is the basic premise of the film.
The film features an impressive cast including the the likes of Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman & Barry Keoghan (who has an Oscar-worthy performance as the boy seeking revenge for the death of his sacred deer, his father). What is prominent in Yorgos’ films, especially after Dogtooth, is the awkward and off-beat chemistry between the characters. The dialogue is often humorous and surreal,while the tone of the film is incredibly tense, with the growing sense of dread throughout. The music is chilling, a true highlight for anyone looking for an eerie and unsettling soundtrack. Aggressive strings, angelic choirs and classical pieces make it for an emotive and brutal experience. As for the story itself, while being drenched in mythology and moral philosophy, is ultimately a tale of tragedy and horror. What is so great about this film is the fact that the director gives the audience nothing in regards to solutions to the problems faced by the main protagonists of the story, thus leaving us as clueless as the people in the story. This leaves the curiosity and anxiousness with the audience until the very end.
I recommend The Killing of a Sacred Deer to any open-minded film obsessive with an eye for detail and a mind for analysis and philosophical curiosity. And it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
Watch the trailer below, and make sure you catch it at your nearest theatre!