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TIFF 2017 Review: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (2017) ★★★★★


There is no way to be prepared for another test offered in Yorgos Lanthimos’ new masterpiece “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”. Every time when you know what to expect, it brings you even a more queer situation where you won’t know how to react. And now imagine: if you were in shock after watching his “Dogtooth” and puzzled with “The Lobster”, do your math and add one hundred times more of weirdness, then you will get the deliciously made “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” but in a very creepy, yet unique way.

Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a brilliant surgeon who lives a quiet life with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and two children. Everything seems fine and uneventful until the moment when Steven takes a young man, her daughter’s classmate Martin (Barry Keogan) under his wing. From that moment on, things start changing: his children all of a sudden get paralyzed, but can walk any time when Martin decides to make that call. A psychological game of cat and mouse begins until the moment when Steven realizes the importance of making an ultimate sacrifice to bring peace back to the family.

The craziness and the absurdness of the situation continues when, for instance, Steven keeps buying gifts for Martin as a token of respect. He takes him to the hospital and discusses with Martin’s father who died on Steven’s surgery table. Whether it was Steven at fault or not, we don’t know that and that would not matter anyway. Remember, it’s Yorgos Lanthimos’ film, who never spends much time in the details of the past but rather what is it now which is Martin, who seeks to find justice and the balance in the family of his own, and Steven’s as well.

Anna, Steven’s wife, is someone who allows her husband’s weird sexual desires to be fulfilled. She literally can lay down on the bed, completely naked without physical contact, while her husband masturbates. But there is something about Anna you should know; she is smart and always willing to protect her own children. But the coldness in the character and cool mind won’t allow to limit herself, as if the need arises, she would do what it takes to have her voice heard.

The horrific situation which is much worse than you can imagine continues until you will find yourself uncomfortable and too worried to watch “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”. If in the first half of the film you laugh along with the audience, that will not happen in the second part. Because what was funny or amusing before won’t appear the same way during the remaining time. And the soundtrack which Lanthimos never used in his film was extremely effective, almost like adding fuel to a fire, turning things in the film into complete madness.

The performance in the film is luminous. Colin Farrell who reunites with Lanthimos once again showcases his boldness when it comes to choosing roles. In him Lanthimos found a great companion whom he can continue collaborating with. As for Barry Keogan, it was a whole different story. This young and very talented actor was able to stand out in every scene he appeared in… Maybe not stealing completely, but never fell short of highlighting the importance of Martin and his manipulative mind. And Nicole Kidman; it’s not the first time when director tried to take as much close up scene with Nicole Kidman as possible. That was done by Stanley Kubric, Jonathan Glazer, Lars von Trier, Sofia Coppola and now Yorgos Lanthimos.

It’s not the camera that knows how to capture, but it’s the one who stands behind that camera who knows how to use the object before him wisely. And Nicole Kidman is an excellent tool, if you allow me to say that way, as she does everything possible to hold on to the character, deliver exquisite long lines, or just reading what she tries to say just through her facial expression while the camera like a silent witness captures and translates it onto lens, and then to us, to enjoy Nicole Kidman’s EYES WIDE SHUT type of performance once again.

In conclusion, with “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” Lanthimos puts his brilliant mind in full display. What he does with the camera or with actors is the same thing a conductor does to musicians. One mistake can ruin the entire symphony, but with a maestro like Lanthimos that will never happen and it never does in the creepiest film I have ever seen.

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About Ulkar Alakbarova (1119 Articles)
My name is Ulkar Alakbarova. A wonderful name, is it not? I come from the exotic land of Azerbaijan but now I live in the hub of Hollywood North – Toronto, Canada. How lucky I am to be able to enjoy and indulge in my favourite avocation of watching movies. Movies of every genre are screened here in Toronto. There are black and white classics, avant garde, independently produced, and of course, newly released movies for all to enjoy. Let me share this treasure of entertainment with you. Read my thoughts and opinions then let me know if you agree.

8 Comments on TIFF 2017 Review: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (2017) ★★★★★

  1. Creepiest film I have ever seen for me too 🙂 Although Dogtooth is a close second.

  2. I agree with your assessment. This absurdist arthouse film is tantalisingly ambiguous; most viewers will not be sure if they are watching a supernatural horror, a psychological thriller, or a black comedy. Thats its greatest strenght.

    • Many went to see it because of Kidman/Colin, but ended up disappointed as The Killing of a Sacreed deer, as you mentioned, was not quite a movie they expected to see. I saw it 3 times already. Great piece.

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