Yorgos Lanthimos's Silly Sadism

Sunday, 12 November 2017, 12:35:26 AM. How 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' completes the Greek director's descent into self-parody
The films of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos are unstable compounds of comedy and horror. Dogtooth, Alps, The Lobster—each spins out from its own absurd premise, guided less by logic than by an apparently boundless impulse to provoke. Like Lars von Trier and Michael Haneke, Lanthimos likes to show characters inflicting painful wounds on themselves, but his is a decidedly sillier sadism: noses banged into walls, hands inserted into toasters, torture with tongue in cheek. His movies are full of ridiculous (and hilarious) scenes of people dancing alone. Whereas von Trier’s and Haneke’s films achieve, for all their exaggerations and extremes, an essayistic clarity, Lanthimos’s can be quite muddled. On the surface, his new film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is about revenge. Colin Farrell plays Dr. Steven Murphy, a cardiologist with a dark secret: One of his patients died on the operating table, and the morning he performed the surgery, he’d been drinking. Steven is married to Anna (Nicole Kidman), an ophthalmologist. Their children, Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic), already have glimmers of med school in their eyes. Signs of twisted humor appear early in the film, when Steven and Anna start a medical-themed role-play before sex. She disrobes and asks, “General anesthetic?” then pretends to be passed out as he climbs on top of her. Later, at a fancy party, a colleague asks after the kids, and Steven says, “Our daughter started menstruating last week.” The absurdist...Read more
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