The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Drama/Mystery, United States/Ireland 2017

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The very first image of a throbbing organ exposed by steel staples anticipates the thrust of this film: after “Dogtooth” and “The Lobster”, Yorgos Lanthimos (“Poor Things”) once again undertakes open-heart surgery on our civilizational certainties. Steven (Colin Farrell) is the name of the heart surgeon who, like a demigod in white, removes his bloody gloves in slow motion after the operation and talks to his anesthetist about expensive wristwatches. Steven's wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) is smart, beautiful and the head of an eye clinic. The children, a 14-year-old daughter and a son two years younger, have the right hobbies and an obedient appearance. Everything could be so perfect in the suburban villa in Cincinnati if the production by Yorgos Lanthimos (“Poor Things”) didn't keep distorting this decal of a picture-book family so eerily: Wide-angle perspectives allow corridors to grow into infinity. The sometimes unpleasantly high, sometimes darkly throbbing string sounds of cellist Siegfried Palm alternate with dialogues that sound so forced that they can only testify to inner alienation. A sense of eeriness spreads in this aseptic, chilled-out environment with its rigid family structure, in which a swirling, black ulcer called Martin (Barry Keoghan) begins to settle. The suddenly appearing young man is an artifact from Steven's past that becomes more and more intrusive and can no more be shaken off than the feeling of a growing threat. Martin prophesies doom: first paralysis, then bleeding eyes, finally death will befall Steven and Anna's children if Steven does not sacrifice one of his family members. Steven, the Job of enlightenment, remains incredulous. The unreal horror that has been lurking all along slowly and cruelly takes shape. Where the metaphysical setting of “The Lobster” and “Poor Things” was an uncontradicted reality in Yorgos Lanthimos' work, the characters in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” still resist the fantastic premise and its tragic consequences. First, they incredulously consult medical analyses. Then they rely on Anna as a supplicant. Finally, the head of the family does not shy away from the barbaric use of violence. Steven is the pompous, arrogant Agamemnon, whose killing of a sacred stag in the “Iphigenia” saga resulted in severe punishment. This is not easy material, which Lanthimos swells to the size of a Greek tragedy. This story grips us coldly and throws us into a deeply moral and at the same time cynical allegory of the subliminal violence and dark nature of mankind. The result and reward is a great viewing experience that auteur filmmaker Lanthimos developed with co-writer Efthymis Filippou before his more conventional films “The Favorite” and “Poor Things”. Allegorically, they describe the faint suspicion that all the achievements of civilization and the pursuit of knowledge and perfection cannot illuminate the darkness in the world and in ourselves.
121 min
HD
FSK 16
Audio language:
EnglishGerman
Subtitles:
German

Awards

Irish Film and Television Awards 2018 Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Film Barry Keoghan
Cannes Film Festival 2017 Best Screenplay Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival 2017 Best Film Yorgos Lanthimos

More information

Sound Design:

Johnnie Burn

Cast:

Colin Farrell (Steven Murphy)

Nicole Kidman (Anna Murphy)

Barry Keoghan (Martin Lang)

Raffey Cassidy (Kim Murphy)

Sunny Suljic (Bob Murphy)

Bill Camp (Matthew Williams)

Barry G. Bernson (Dr. Larry Banks)

Denise dal Vera (Mary Williams)

Original title:

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Original language:

English

Format:

1.85:1 HD, Color

Age rating:

FSK 16

Audio language:

EnglishGerman

Subtitles:

German