- Julian Wood
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
FOUR STARS More gut-wrenching, confronting and intriguing drama from the doyen of the Greek Weird Wave.
Starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman
PSYCHOLOGICAL DRAMA #KILLINGSACREDDEER
Director Yorgos Lanthimos may be a little weird, but in a good way of course. Recently there has been some cinema coming out of Greece (that economically traumatised nation) which critics have dubbed the Greek Weird Wave. Critics’ labels are sometimes too compartmentalising, but there is certainly something going on. Lanthimos has been a darling of the festival circuit for a while (C/F his early films DOGTOOTH, ALPS) but recently he has scuttled out from his arthouse rock to startle the mainstream world. In 2015 he made THE LOBSTER; an unclassifiable mix of love story, social satire, futuristic farce and comedy.
Now he has gone much darker but in an equally genre-bending way. This time also he has attracted some of the more adventurous big name actors. Colin Farrell (who starred in the LOBSTER) is the male lead here and opposite him is Nicole Kidman.
Farrell plays Stephen, a highly successful American surgeon who is married to Anna (Kidman). She is also a doctor. They live in a splendid house in an upper class suburb and have two apparently perfect teenage children. Into this idyll steps Martin (Barry Keoghan seen recently in DUNKIRK). Martin is a rather needy young man who says he is thinking of becoming a doctor. At first Steven seems keen to help Martin and he even introduces him to Anna and the kids. However, things are not as they seem.
At this point we either head into implicit spoiler or we veer away completely. Certainly, to give the film’s choices their full impact it would be good not to be too explicit. This is a film to be experienced before being analysed. Lanthimos is certainly a risk-taker bit in an interesting way. Like some Latin American novelists, he uses ‘magical realism’. He casually weaves in impossible and/or mythical elements as a way of prising open the everyday with a view to showing what is really ‘inside’ appearances. You have to meet this half way.
Another aspect of the film is his habit of directing actors to give deliberately flat performances until crucial moments of rupture. He has cast well. Both Kidman and Farrell can do this. Farrell, as he does in the LOBSTER, says a lot of his lines as he is reading them out loud for the first time. Is he a robot, or is there some other reason why he seems so disconnected? Either way, when things change decisively for the previously-insulated Steven, the effect is gut-wrenching. THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is confronting and intriguing stuff. Go and see it before you hear too much more about it.