Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
“Steven, a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.”(IMDb)
»Currently streaming on Amazon Prime«
What to Expect
Long zooming shots
Why You Should Watch It
Lanthimos’ style shines as bright as ever in Killing. The flat, oversharing dialogue; dissonant score; muted colors and just plain awkward sex scenes tell you to buckle up, buttercup, because you are trapped in Yorgos’ mind for the next two hours. This time, it’s a modern retelling of the Greek tragedy of Iphigenia. Part of the fun (if you can call anything that happens in this film ‘fun’) is figuring out who has the role of Iphigenia, and whether or not Artemis will swoop in and save them in time.
Art is meant to evoke emotion. It doesn’t matter if that emotion is pleasure or sorrow or anger. If it makes you feel something, it’s done its job. Taking that into consideration, Killing is a successful movie from an artistic point of view, because I spent the entire time writhing in discomfort. Most of this was thanks to the discordant music that every once in a while would get cranked up to 11 as if to remind the audience that this is SERIOUS BUSINESS and not the chortle-inducing awkward interactions of The Lobster. The rest was thanks to the script and the characters [did anyone else squirm when Kim (Cassidy) lies on the bed in the exact same position as her mother (Kidman) for sexy times??].
In Greek mythology, King Agamemnon is forced to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to appease Artemis for killing a deer in one of her sacred groves. This means the sacred deer referenced in the title isn’t Steven’s son, Bob (Suljic), as viewers are led to believe for ultimately bearing the role of Iphigenia, but Martin’s father. Surgeon Steven Murphy (Farrell) is Agamemnon, appearing culpable in Martin’s father’s death but refusing to admit it. Martin (Keoghan) is the moon goddess Artemis, demanding payment for Steven’s sins.
I was very much on Steven’s side when his family began to fall ill, convinced there was some logical explanation to his children’s ailments. But Martin is actually imbued with supernatural powers (not good enough to save his dad’s life, I guess, but perfect for tormenting others), and when science and medicine fails Steven he is left with no other choice but to play Martin’s game. This is one of the great things about Lanthimos’ weird style of filmmaking: he doesn’t do happy endings. Moviegoers have grown so accustomed to the Hero’s Journey that they naturally expect Steven will save his family in the nick of time, will pull back the curtain to reveal the man behind; and when he doesn’t, it’s shocking. But like jumping into a cold shower, the shock is also invigorating.
Overall, the idea of choosing one family member to live over the other is a fascinating thing to portray on screen. Everyone has a favorite child, but are you willing to spare their life by murdering your least favorite? Probably not. Watching each character alternately beg for their lives or offer themselves up to Steven while he contemplated the unthinkable was riveting, yet I couldn’t help but feel the movie would have been better if they had turned up the emotion and turned down the music.