The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Because the Murphys don’t raise lambs
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou
For those of you that don’t know, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (KOSD) is about Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell at his most odd), a heart surgeon whose relationship with his dead patient’s son, Martin (Barry Keoghan) goes very wrong. Martin blames Steven for his father’s death on the operating table and exacts revenge by somehow paralyzing his children Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic); Steven is presented with either watching his family members slowly die or killing one of them in exchange for Martin’s father. Needless to say, Steven and his ophthalmologist wife Anna (a strained Nicole Kidman) struggle to solve the mess whose creation is up for debate.
This movie is definitely odd. I usually use the word “odd” when something is either ambiguous plot-wise, visually disturbing, slow-paced in a deliberate way or a combination of the three. KOSD hits all those spots for me. It’s definitely a movie with a definite language if you know what I mean. If you don’t, I mean the characters in the film all speak and act in a way that is specific to the movie. If real people were to act like them or if any of the characters were implanted into other movies or real life, it would be excessively strange. Everyone speaks in a measured way that is often not filtered by embarrassment or social graces which is ironic since good manners or at least pretending to be polite is central to the characters’ behavior. More on this later.
Now let’s get into this.
There’s something about hospitals
A significant amount of this movie passes in hospitals. Both Steven and Anna, our main characters, are doctors and their children do end up paralyzed so this is expected. What strikes me about the (plentiful) hospital scenes is the use of this specific odd camera angle. (See below)
Notice in both these images the wide view, slightly black corners and high angle as if part of security camera footage. What’s strange is these shots are only used during hospital scenes. You never see these angles or blurred corners again. Because of these corners, it focuses your eyes on the dead center where the most light is, that is more obvious in the second image than the first. My question is: What is it about the hospital setting that requires or calls for this kind of shot? Let me know.
Among many of Martin’s psychological and social flaws, his scene eating spaghetti like a raccoon with thumbs topped the list. Not only does he have the single sauciest, oiliest spaghetti imaginable, but he wears a plain white t shirt that looks like it’s there to get stained. While he talked his little nonsense about how people always said he was just like his dad because of the way he ate spaghetti but it turns out everyone eats spaghetti that way and all that all I could think of was when that white shirt would be soiled. It was a weird anticipated cringe that never cameBefore we go…
Among many of Martin’s psychological and social flaws, his scene eating spaghetti like a raccoon with thumbs topped the list. Not only does he have the single sauciest, oiliest spaghetti imaginable, but he wears a plain white t shirt that looks like it’s there to get stained. While he talked his little nonsense about how people always said he was just like his dad because of the way he ate spaghetti but it turns out everyone eats spaghetti that way and all that all I could think of was when that white shirt would be soiled. It was a weird feeling of impending cringe that was never realized.
Like other moments, this scene was a reminder of this movie’s fortes: building tension to ultimately no climax (e.g. Anna’s lack of reaction to Martin’s claims about Steven’s relationship with his mother) countered by moments of intense action that were given no real build up (Anna slapping Kim in the hospital).
Something in the air?
What was with the fans in this movie? The first time we see one, it’s going at the speed of sound in Kim’s room as if it’s about to fly off at take everyone out.
Obviously since this is a still, you can’t see the fan’s WAY TOO FAST motion but even in the shot it looks strange being the only thing in motion in the top right of your screen. For such a mundane scene between parents and child, that wildly fast fan seems out of place. It’s as if we’re given this wide of a shot in the instance that the fan disengages from its base and wreaks havoc on Kim’s room. Just saying.
“The idea of separating dogs fighting scares me”
Martin says this weird hypothetical quote after Kim says they can walk her dog together. Maybe Martin hates the idea of separating dogs from fighting because he’d much rather watch them til the bloody end. He certainly did just that with the Murphy family.
Talk weirdly to me
What was with the way everyone speaks in this movie? Everyone spoke in a dreadfully monotonous, polite tone using academic language. Not only that, but everyone except Anna it seemed speaks with no filter or regard for how their words may sound. Take this conversation Anna and Steven have with their anesthesiologist friend, Matthew:
Anna: Bob has started piano lessons. The teacher says he’s very talented. Now we have to get one so he can practice at home. I just have’t gotten around to it yet. I’m renovating the clinic. I’m on the phone all day.
Steven: Our daughter started menstruating last week.
Steven: Yes, she was a little scared but she’s okay now.
Am I under the delusion that talking about your daughter’s first period is not the stuff of small talk? Please say no.
Also who says “Great.” to that? Not even an awkward pause or long stare, just a “great.” Thanks for bringing that up Steven! I feel closer to you and your family now!
Everything said in this movie is so strange as if the characters answer questions no one asks.
Minimize your manners
Everyone was painfully polite in this movie. Steven I assume is more so because of the guilt he carries for killing Martin’s father, but still. It’s excessive politeness when you apologize for leaving someone’s house after they hit on you by shoving your fingers in their mouth.
Another example: Steven meets with Martin after Bob is first hospitalized and because Steven’s in a hurry, Martin tells him about his family members’ impending deaths and way to prevent them as quickly as possible. What the hell is that about?
Is Martin really being polite or is getting this information out FAST ultimately beneficial for him in some way? So he can dump it on Steven and it’s no longer his burden? Unclear.
Answer my Q’s!
- Do lamps really give off this much light on the ceiling? The amount of artificial light in this movie must set a record.
- Why is everyone’s dialogue so measured and monotonous? Is it simply to set the stage of the weird world we’re in or for some other purpose?
- I’m thinking specifically of Kim saying about Martin, “He’s so funny. I laughed so hard my ribs hurt,” with a straight face and without breaking eye contact with her father. STRANGE.
- How the HELL did Kim walk to the window in the hospital when her legs were PARALYZED?
Before we go…
- Despite its slow pace and utter ambiguity (e.g. dialogues that seem random) I would classify KOSD as a thriller since you’re left wondering the solution to the Murphys’ dilemma
- Sunny Suljic reminded me of the boy from “The Shining,” I’m sure this specific role aided that comparison considering they’re both creepy movies
Rating (out of 10): 6.5
I like this movie. It’s weird and kinda long and cryptic, but I enjoy having more questions than answers at the end of a movie. It leads to some frustration, but it makes the viewing experience engaging and worthwhile to me. Colin Farrell was so good and strange here, I’m a fan of his recent movies (especially “The Lobster” which happens to also be directed by Lanthimos) and this one also did him well. Same with Nicole Kidman, she was great to watch as the most sane person in this movie. Barry Keoghan was also a great disturbed yet not outwardly threatening teen; he played the perfect unexpected villain. Overall, this movie delivers on dynamic shots, a great score (lots of eerie piano) and wonderful actors.
Thank you for reading!