“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”
The devil rollicks and hurrahs in delight at the bleak turn of modern day moralities and judgement. Gone are the days of justice and buried are the times of righteousness. This is 21st Century and The Killing of a Sacred Deer is Yorgos Lanthimos’s audacious take tailor fitting our lives- shiny from the outside and horribly vile, border lining on disgust, from the inside.
Lanthimos sets the rhythm from the get go. It starts with an extremely intricate and grisly look at a cardiovascular surgeon, Steven (Colin Farrell), sunken knee deep in a live surgery. Bathed in sobriety and walking amidst spotless white corridors of a hospital, we meet a man who masters his profession, has high standards of living, a beautiful wife – Anna (Nicole Kidman) and a perfect family having 2 children. What seem pristine at first, starts showing the rot within when we we come to know of his relationship with a teenager – Martin (Barry Keoghan) and the background among which the same has been cultivated.
The power a doctor holds over his patient is made imminent from the first scene itself. But in an extremely clever stroke of writing, the tables are turned by the end of the film as the patient plays God and the doctor is left begging for mercy. The Killing of a Sacred Deer traverses the darker chasms of psychs which is both – a challenge and a treat to witness. On the other hand, it is oddly hilarious while providing the plentiful violent shocks behind it’s art-house veil.
Colin Farrell sinks his teeth deep into the troubled persona of Steven, somebody whose guilty at the core but due to his dual life, could not come to accept his sins. It is an immensely complex character which is pulled by Farrell by a resounding panache. Nicole Kidman is daringly offbeat, walking away with scenes in a blink of an eye. But it is Keoghan who is the real show steal – playing a Messiah / Devil (whichever way you look at him conceptually) – as a teenager hell bent on retribution. An off-kilter of a character – his impaired speech, repressed mannerisms and that one gritty scene (you’ll know it when you watch it) is so deviously depraved that it stays with you long after the credits roll.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a baffling black revenge-drama which is eccentric and weirdly cynical. While the visual and contextual influences of greats like Stanley Kubrick are clearly visible, Lanthimos infuses abundant Greek mythology references, Biblical angles and symbolic gestures throughout the film. Capping it all with one mind numbing climax that justifies its title to the hilt, Sacred Deer is shockingly bizarre, maddeningly twisted and nail-bitingly tense.