The Killing of a Sacrificial Deer : A Film Review

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The Killing of the Sacrificial Deer
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos, Produced by Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos. Written by Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou. Cast. Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Camp. Cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis. Edited by Yorgos Mavropsaridis. Production companies. Film4, New Sparta Films, HanWay Films, Bord Scannán na hÉireann/The Irish Film Board, Element Pictures. Duration: 2HR 1MINS Cert. 15.

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Synopsis

Dr. Steven Murphy is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon who presides over a spotless household with his wife and two children. Lurking at the margins of his idyllic suburban existence is Martin, a fatherless teen who insinuates himself into the doctor’s life in gradually unsettling ways. Soon, the full scope of Martin’s intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with what appears to be a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter his domestic bliss forever. It is not until midway through the story takes an unexpected twist but it requires a stretch of the imagination as to is basis.

Variety Magazine reviewer Peter Debruge writes of the tome  – Nara Park, Japan, spotted deer were long believed to possess divine properties. To cause the death of one, even by accident, was a capital offense. Halfway across the world, in ancient Greece, King Agamemnon learned this the hard way, invoking the wrath of the gods for killing one of Artemis’ beloved deer, for which he was obliged to sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigenia. The obvious lesson: Don’t kill deer. But what if the deed is already done? … it does feature two key scenes in which a hunting rifle plays a critical role.

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Pulse racing performances

Colin Farrell in his element as the the male archetype in the movie by Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” whose films have found a co-conspirator in the shape of Farrell.  With jest, indirectness, satirical amusement along with Nicole Kidman he possibly continues to play with audiences in the after screening press interviews – this is after all part of the intruque which filmmakers keep up the hype and surrounding mystery of their film.

I think he and indeed Nicole Kidman are entirely onboard the bombast and delivery of cinematic cathartic supernatural realism which they connect on with the directors flaming lunacy. As it is another bizarre take on all our lives and all humanity swerving to avoid the nasty death scenario, which was brilliantly provocatively absurd in the Farrell and Lanthimos tale Lobster.  https://johngrahamblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-lobster-a-film-review/ Here normality takes a central role and gets turned upside down by an outsider. Using a medical backdrop is crucial in our expectation of ourselves burying thoughts of fate intervening and Farrell is a composite survivor. He is both survivor and repairer.  Clinically adept at keeping people alive where major organs go into a test of will against your brain in trying to tear down each edifice constructed to thwart the reckoning.  Dr Steve is intimidating in an unfashionably easy going way. Never one to concede he up’s the ante every time by diverse and quite clearly self deception with his wife Nicole Kidman is a fellow traveller on the make believe.

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A shape of truth

Lanthimos has constructed the archetype in the Jung manner as a universal truth or shape of the truth. The pathway to success of any kind having choices in respect of home life and family as well as protecting the young ones from evil and ensuring they too have a chance to exploit their potential. Full realisation is probably what Lanthimos is aiming for and the troubadours are both Kidman and Farrell. It is not all things in the sense of any universal truth but realised as section of it. I thought throughout the film of the scenes playing out as sections of life’s absurdity placing its own direction in front of everyone in a happenstance way. Jung’s was more a collective idea, of possession of inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches. Mastery is debunked here in the film lots of times.

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A boy who is revengeful and is prostyled as a God with special powers. The film opens beautifully with a Franz Schubert choral heraldic outpouring of the master at work. Colin Farrell at work as the renowned and respected heart surgeon Steven Murphy alongside a rich but inferior cardio-anesthetiser Matthew. The whimsy feigns on the walk through after the operation we’ve just seen as they exchange the bourgeoisie optics of a choice in diving watches. Steven is quizzical and monotone. Reviled, known, accepted. Dr Steven is after none of these attributes to adjust his psyche, he just portrays out the facts, the shape of his and his family’s life in their simplicity. At home this is particularly evident when the tasks are divided on the grounds of logic. For instance Bob their son who declines to have his hair cut before a school party is told by his father in gentle reasoned terms that it is too dangerous for him to walk the dog.

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Characterisations

Nicole as Anna is splendidly anti-Stepford wives as another archetype and is happy with the odd indiscretion and is as a clinician and I think of ophthalmologists thus, able to smoke the odd cigarette, it may even be weed given her off the cuff and leisurely comfort when indulging in a smoke. It is the same with Steven. A scene or two throws up their bedroom routine which is also a vision of their private selfs when this coupling is itself purely on their terms and not a formulaic expression of love which ‘tropes’ ‘protoreality’ might encumber them with. I think Lanthimos has, and it’s almost hidden within the film as a calming notion, a signal the achievement both have is the joy of sexual love on their satisfying terms. Without any sign of inner anxiety Anna embraces the composite union of their sex life as a non material act or with either partner having a dominant leading part. The parts are equally erotic and evolving. The nuances again are played out through the medium of their adopted speech patterns so it only becomes tangible – for them as human beings acting on their own instincts, and as a satisfying ultimately pleasurable and worthwhile shared gift – it spools out (film simile!) when they are in silence. Give or take a few noises off. It is one way of looking at their world but then the horrific enters and upsets all parables or prophetic notions.

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The covert boy steps up

Early in the film we get to know of a boy who is close to Steven and whose relationship might even be taken as a divorcees son having set times for meeting up. That’s not the case and their meeting is also not thought to be sexual but presents us with a problem why and what it actually amounts to as it passes on covertly. Barry Lonegan who turned up alongside Mark Rylance on the boat in Dunkirk puts on his best American accent (a very good all round take for a young Irishman) plays Martin whose father died on an operating table with both Stephen and Matthew holding the dinner plates. (Defibrillator needed?). For Martin it was a murder and he embarks on a conversational journey with Stephen.

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Quite how Dr Murphy allowed himself to be a foil for a Martin in the first place is beyond reading. They meet in picturesque, solitary open aired spaces under the Cities bridge, Cincinnati a likely location but it’s an anywhere place. Or they meet in a cafe or diner. The set up is odd to say the least and part of the ensuing implausibility which never looses it’s annoying grip. Allowing for the metronome action of sections of life going onward, in which most is highly predictable, an illusion is constructed to be shattered. At around midpoint dark and strange unexplained things happen.

Martin has acted to visit these appalling life changing acts upon them or that’s the premis and the family Murphy are drawn into a battle with life itself. The rolling story is now at its scariest and darkly intense. Moods alter somewhat with Doctor Stephen no longer a spokesperson for medical triumph but is set on a course to discover it has no solutions to what seem to be psychosomatic conditions. A fanaticism/realitist is in the Nicole Kidman stroke of genius as she alters her verbal continuity of external wafer thin communication in unison with Steven – they up to then are participants in a fantasy neither want to disrupt – and she is the fluctuating chime on the timepiece that is misbehaving. Family Murphy are in chaos.

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Superbly realised

The cinematography is immersive and beautiful cleansing as each location is pristine and choreographed to within an inch of is serenity. The nerveless cascade of a couple in the wonderful lifestyle and home immunised American success story is where we begin to intrude. Nicole Kidman plays no lesser a wonderful medic as an ophthalmologist with her own clinic and she is fit to the boards in terms of screen presence and the couple as actors share this gift of portraying absurdity as normality. Farrell in Lobster and Kidman in Dogville, The Hours, The Beguiled.  The cadency of this pairing is part of the fallacy, false world we are to be absorbed into.

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I chose the word cadency as it is primarily a function of both actors to not use any voice technique which is normalised. As with the a slight falling in pitch of the voice in speaking or reading, used by Colin Farrell in Lobster, he perfects once again the clinical talking and its as if it’s being read asa read through. Except the story is entirely told this way. Nicole Kidman to a lesser extent engages in this device and the deliverance is acutely jarring and then mediates as a voice of comfortable upper middle class America or any national ‘pride’ in being along for the merry joyful ride. You begin to wonder are we going down a path of horror movie and revenge driven hate for an act of – it is never conclusive – on the operating table accounting for the pain inflicted. Satirical, metaphorical, meta psychological it may be but once more Yorgos Lanthimos’s direction is not potable as any cocktail of these genres.

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Pain is at the end of the line always

At around halfway as I’ve noted earlier the film takes a nasty turn. As a revenge movie and it’s formulaic only in the sense no one gets out without pain or hurt being inflicted and even death is a visitor, it provides twists and agonising drama cinematically intense and involving. The cinematography is a clinical beautiful sweep of the inner pages of the narrative with also real emotional depth in close ups being sought out alongside the framing of rooms and corridors methodically and invisibly forceful. The colouring is contrastingly sharpest when a few bloody acts are contended and claustrophobia kicks in the deeper the harm becomes.

To elaborate further on the different scenes or twists taken would be to spoil the immediacy of the shocking effect which happens often. The black comedy and satirical take on supposed bourgeoisie is not a place to park you ideas but as a troubling film it delivers much more. It is no laugh a minute for the child actors and strains a bit however adaptable and good they are. Kim (Raffey Cassidy), a wide-eyed teenage girl, and her younger brother, Bob (Sunny Suljic) are the children in the story and they will be equally perplexed as to their part in it.

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Conclusion ####4 

The breadth of this film does not match the previous works of Yorgos Lanthimos but is need not be compared to his previous work given each piece is of a particular well honed view on life as each narrative shows separately the energy and profoundly valuable cinematic experience it composes.  Neither should you be too troubled the male character is again in the place where blame arises.

This film is a dream like journey of success which is destroyed by the traverses of life which interrupt and have elements of love and tragedy.  Sacrifice is a huge word.  The greater claim is what haunts this film which is at times horrific and bloody (Cert.15) and it graphically delivers both the beauty of a deer and the tragedy of a killing.  If you also park the male lead again ‘to blame’ in the absurdity, you’ll get by.  The surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim means Dr Stephen makes a choice holding to these thoughts. It is a claim therefore of the Director that good people become spoiled by apparently small acts and reason is lost. On both sides of this film anger is controlled until an awful outcome seems too – and you have to go along with the absurdity to aquaint yourself with another reality – is visited upon this happy successful family. A success which is based in medicine.

We see the surgeon at work and incidentally also dealing with saving lives routinely. As a hero he does not embrace the healed or the recovered in a heartfelt (sorry for the inexcusable pun) hug but routinely moves onto the next endeavour.  This is a brilliant conceit which Colin Farrell masters along with Nicole Kidman whose acting is superbly nuanced and provocatively challenging to the twin peaks of the present and the past.  Surveillance of the present and going forward as one is their menacing, troubling (to any outsider now in possession of the view) attitude and behaviours grit and twist while the plausibility is tested with pathos of speech styles and patterns forming.  It is both breathtakingly smart and highly disturbing and we’re it not for the completely visceral violent content which is in all probability actually close – you could imagine – to a real life tragedy – it is nevertheless a troubling element of the film and not a five rate drop film.

John Graham
2 October 2017
Belfast

The Killing of a Sacred Deer will screen at QFT from 03 November 2017 until 16 November 2017.

 

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The Lobster : A Film Review

THE LOBSTER
Cast Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia imageColman, Ashley Jensen, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw
DIrector Yorgos Lanthimos
Genre Comedy, Romance, 118 mins
Cert. 15 Country. Greece, UK, Netherlands, Ireland, France

The synopsis of The Lobster is one of mating in which our Greek director summons up in two halves basically future environments of firstly a hotel where ‘The City’ encourages singles to go and meet up with prospective partners. Secondly the movie goes outside the hotel to the woods were the romance obstacles unfold. To be without a partner has its drawbacks according to the sisterly Olivia Coleman proprietress and manageress of the hotel. Splendidly four or five star and located in – well imagine Kerry and the palatial Parknisilla near Sneem – and you won’t go far wrong. All lakes and mountains, hillsides, woods empty roads etc.
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Colin Farrell is our principal singleton having lost his partner and on checking into the hotel is set 45 days in which to meet his match.
His deadpan black comedy approach is very effective. He even instills a surreal way of speech which is manifest among all the characters here. It is one of perfect annunciation and lightly clipped dialogue. A narration is used in the beginning as a storyteller describing basically their vision of the adventure Colin Farrell has as his leitmotif which as he soon discovers is the nature of adopting a disguise, a guile which will extend his time and chances of success in the mating game. Isn’t that always the way of it! Only to be untruthful in even the slightest way has her a modicum of fatality as a consequence.
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Spoilers None
For you to be immersed in the full effect of the film I am NOT going to give you any account of how the title is represented. Instead I will skirt around it by giving some information on the creature itself and other oblique observances. Try as I might I cannot impart a reason to let you know what your in for as this tale is grotesquely and simply bizarre funny and futurist absurdist storytelling.

Identity is ensnared among a rag tag and bobtail of fellow date travellers.
We have the groups of females and males in this hotel who are troubled by finding themselves without a life partner for whatever reason and ‘The City’ functionaries have it as a requirement for the ‘corporate’ good and ease of operation a standard which is in this futurist world a stable norm.

What has become of us? The future asserts we need in pursuit of happiness something other than the Jeremy (Ca) Bentham epoch of the best public policy is that producing the greatest happiness. Private behaviour need be of the right moral act and that which produces the most happiness for the people it affects. The nineteenth century enlightenment. At another extreme is the shatter zone philosophy of Schoenberg that ‘we suffer through being born’ nothing is availing to happiness.

This film features for reasons that will become quickly apparent, legions of the animals of the type – perhaps the writers inspiration, the arc of the story (sic) – ‘the animals went on two by two’ – no similarity other than that! – appear throughout in their settled comfort or habitat of the Kerry skies and hillsides. Frequently visitors too. They appear as a tableau of a menagerie of beings, reminders of our companion creatures ever present unless carelessly extinction is abroad or in house.

Merits are on the roster of the Hotel lodging. All newcomers are able to extend their stay, and chances of ‘survival’ by joining the group trip to the nearby woods to hunt literally loners or the fringe radicals who somehow have evaded being caught up in the societal dictatorial modes operadi for living a stable existence and seeking and obtaining their own survival.

Partnerships under the circumstances take on a further dimension of dependency beyond the norms of individuality found in all sorts of marriages. Maggie from extras is a female recruit whose habit of offering her ever replenished supply of biscuits on anyone that she is remotely attached to. She also does a line on offering inducements that are off limits in the Hotel and is herself in need of others at a cost she has found appropriate.
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The self realizations are mostly visible and the characters adapt rapidly to the situation they find themselves in.
So has the secular socialism failed, the hubris of philistine culture prevailed, the oedipus of anxiety angst driven corrective religion and pacifism vanished? The welter of happiness is the prisoners dilemma of co-operation.

We are not allowed to see ‘the City’ dwellers lives. We are able on a few occasions to see their homes. A visit to Mama and Papa for one reveals a seemingly (blissfully perhaps?) couple who play classical guitar and are entertainers with felicity of Spanish historically reference times gone by music. The same meeting finds a couple inspired to display their bond slightly beyond social mores.

The film is magical horrendous infuriating dis-abandoned realism reconstructed outwardly complex standards and disposed morality.

The snap bite of death is ever present and comes in many forms.
Expect blood, murder, dismembering. Expect some scenes which are heartfelt and absorbing as empathy strange as it may manifest is released.

In the throes of Colin Farrell’s (David’s) survival we are introduced to the nameless woman narrator, that is to appear in the second half all trashed up but glitzy in attractiveness Rachel Weiss.
At first, Weisz’s character tells us David’s story, then she becomes a central part of the story alongside David. This is strongly lifting the level of the films sharp narrative. The development of the revealing personality divisiveness is resolved in true Romeo and Juliet determined belief in a partnership no matter how it has evolved. Even exchanges of gifts of a kind!
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My second half review filling diatribe
Daliesque (Salvador)
How do you like your decapod? Afresh from the saline and dull green and alive. A creature with a life in the sea. One large pincher for grabbing another for crushing. This extraordinary creature might be seen as a wonder of our varied existence and plainly not designed for eating though it has gained the hostility of being edible being boiled alive.
A worse death cannot be imagined. How surreal is beauty if not alien?
A concept of beauty I am now inclined to believe is the lobster. An astonishing machine for living as we are. Who wants t o be a Lobster seems to be the surreal connect and as Dali reflected they make a good representation as a telephone. Something sublimely surreal is they live to be 100 and if you extrapolate that in crustacean years does that make them thousands of years old and they circuit the globe avoiding lobster pots?
Blue blood allegedly? I once took from a wedding list a set of Lobster cutlery as their gift of choice and posh food was the entrée for a menu featuring quails eggs and a stunning wedding feast. The cutlery I eschew as apparatus, as I cannot conceive the thought of the killing of this creature no matter how centuries old the tradition has become as being necessary.

Suspend all concepts of love
Out of the director of Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos mind came a concept for a surreal near future world which has gathered in a stellar cast of inhabitants.
Rachel Weisz, sans husband Daniel Craig, chooses her roles very carefully and has been known to buy up rights to books such as Thirty Girls which is a story about the Ugandan resistance army in the vien of realism she found in 2006 movie The Constant Gardener which gained her an Oscar.
Stunningly attractive and far from the glamourous image she has to convey an ordinariness and moderately staid business like character here.

It is asking a lot as a scenario and it asks if love is found when you overcome self inflicted ideas on the obstacles or after you breakdown those self inflicted obstacles. Rachel is known as Short Sighted Woman and plainly has a physical handicap to overcome. People change in appearance over their lifetime so maybe she has no hang ups on looks. If only that were true were would …
Kindly she is dealt sufficient sight to discern a little of the concept and make up of her first Romeo. Remote from the New York vehicle she shared a stage last year with husband Daniel and counter point Timothy Spall in Pinters Betrayal this is a surreal set of problems we encounter and unearth.
It is a thriller of take no thought of tomorrow lest we lose the initiative type of thing! Is it about seizing the moments love and trusting in it?

Pop culture cinema and the makers
Take with you to the Cinema the theatrical tapestry of modern film anthropology. From the Daily News reveal of Frank Sinatra caring for and carousing at the table, Marilyn. The cocktail mixers in place, the effervescent Schweppes, with label, Quinine distilled, asking her to come to his futureproofed home at Lake Tahoe and provide the dreams she filled her loneliness with. Or the red carpet on a Sunday, rugby weekend where you would rather be in a warm place watching sporting history unfold if not at the event, rather than standing in black suit and bow tied with your arm on the waist of Kate, she in the fullness of a masterpiece A. McQueen dress which defines glamour and faithlessness.
Or the dreich downpour and walking in the rain to the next moorland scene in an Aussie cagauole and hear in the distance someone shout action.
The reality and unreal juxtaposed as we enter the contrivance of the cinema accepting its twists and turns suspending belief and summoning new ones.
This film will similarly place randomness alongside statis and neither will seem as clear as was once the case. Nor should it be. We have been allowed imagination as a birth right and such is the distinction we want underpinning – otherwise it is dreich.

The soundtrack of the movie is both perfect and annoying. Some songs and classical soundscapes are very effective while other elements are intrusive and snarling. Bring on blue eyes and Polka dots and moonbeams, East of the Sun, begin the Beguine, Poiniana, I fall in love too easily or any song as solitary testimony of the luxury of loves happenstance.
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Conclusion ####4
This is a film offering generous helpings of fascinating entwined lives and the surreal interactions are wisely contorted – through the voices and practicality of the language and dialogue – it’s attractive setting in the midst of abundant beautiful landscapes well photographed (Thimios Bakatakis’s) and the modernity of the fast evolving – construction traffic makes it appear, though it isn’t presumably, Celtic Tiger Ireland. Ireland constructed an incredibly false but real vision of itself as it redesigned its future given the bankroll. Plenty there in itself to think about desires and wishes.
Much to play with here beyond what you will see but it is ann insatiable polemic. After you.

They are.

John Graham

22 October 2015

Belfast

IS ON AT QFT FROM 22 October 2015 and selected dates.

CHECK THEIR WEBSITE FOR THIS AND MORE.

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