Do you play God or Devil?
The very first time I heard about this matchless director was about three years ago, in mid-March 2015, when "The Lobster," his fifth work as a filmmaker and screenwriter which locked its characters inside a dark, perverse, jocular and dystopian hotel, got an electrifying buzz by being a resounding success at Cannes Film Festival, winning nothing but one Jury Prize for the director, a Queer Palm special mention and one Jury Prize for Bob's performance, a fundamental canine for the story. It garnered even more recognition when it was proclaimed as a strong contender for BAFTA, Golden Globes and Academy Awards. When its boom ceased and faced with the inability to see what many commend, I had to move on, then, sadly, his name only emerged sporadically in the news, talking about possible upcoming projects. Today, two years later, I was fortunate his most recent film was released—released last year in the United States, —in my country, one where drama films lie under "big-budget-productions" oversaturation and I simply have no words. I consider the real pleasurable cinematic experiences are limited, nonetheless, what this Greek artist has done places his movies, in all certainty, on the levels of emotional shock, fearsome perversity and intimidating and even esoteric storytelling depth of a Christopher Nolan or Dario Argento. Yorgos Lanthimos has suddenly joined the top list, he's one of the most acid, genuine, risky and original filmmakers working in the field today.
Beyond the story about lost, vengeance and repulsion that he sets up, what makes Lanthimos so unique and aggressive is his power to relate poetically atrocious fables, a type of narration that is far, far from the prototype used by cinema currently. He already did so with his previous film and now backs it up with "The Killing of a Sacred Deer", dangerous ideas and perspectives without anesthesia embellished with peculiar breakdowns on lies, justice, forgiveness and hard feelings; rubbing salt in the wound of many conservative moviegoers who describe this type of cinematographic approach as ostentatious, ambitious and shamefully voyeuristic. Only with the first frame selected by the filmmaker to open the film expresses the general sense of the story, projecting an uncensored, full-color open-heart surgery, with squeaky resonances as cynical background, a perfect start. Simultaneously, it begins the difficult journey that gradually sinks us, along with the characters, into an infernal spiral of mystical degenerations that befall in the flawless lives of two successful but frivolous American doctors, she's an ophthalmologist, he's a heart surgeon, and here is where the conflict comes into play as an important component. Very few filmmakers have explored the medical world from a perspective so sinister, attractive to the sight of the most curious, setting his story over the dilemma of what could happen if a human being, like you and me, makes a mistake saving another's life voluntarily or involuntarily, we're all mortal and therefore we are prone to destroy our world because the slightest error. In a more realistic context, there are a few options that this kind of case goes directly from the hand of governmental justice to the affected person's own justice, however, this is why his films are so appealing, because it tries to imitate realities, turn them into fictions and present them as our reflections, some perceptible, others intrinsically hidden. The story veers completely over a psychological, captivating and supernatural air and many movie lovers appreciate that, we really do. Suggesting subtly that everything shown on screen isn't explicitly all they want to say is a tool for the audience, who must start, on its own, a quick but much deeper study of the connections between the pictures, questioning each line getting out of the mouth of any character, every decision, every distraction, a game in which the spectator must be more clever. Along with "mother!" by Darren Aronofsky, "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" has one of the craziest, most symbolic and visceral scripts, in the bad and good sense of all the words, of the last decade, guaranteed stupefaction. The screenplay, written by the director alongside his habitual co-writer Efthymis Filippou, is overwhelming; from the opening scene, there are signs warning of an abrasive, variegated in-crescendo trip that gradually, as if it was an uncontrollable beast, increases in strength and belligerence to devour what could have been a tasteless drama. This kind of thing makes more interesting the stories in which no one knows what the hell just happened, not necessarily about R-rated scenes or courageous plot turns, but about that fictional game in which the writers immerse us whether we like or not. Don't forget the superb, staggered build of tension and discomfort, because in fact, the story is not made up of efficient twists and clever moves placed in the right moments, but the story itself is a big, insane twist. Certain elements are required for something like this goes well, fortunately, they're used on this occasion: top-notch performances, an antiseptic cinematography, a lancinating soundtrack and an infinity of technical, artistic and narrative support that become this work, only for a few ones, in one of the best of the year.
Here is one of the few films in which the majority, if not all, of the performances are magnificent and strangely credible. Becoming what Samuel L. Jackson is for Tarantino, James Stewart was for Hitchcock or Daniel Day-Lewis is for Thomas Anderson, Colin Farrell returns to the ranks of the director, exposing, again, an explosive labor and personal relationship, both men know how to get the most out it on screen. Putting his bleak sentimental muddle with Rachel Weisz's character in the past, he comes back in the skin of a know-it-all, renowned professional who must forget his perfect Californian life following a cryptic situation which asks him an inhuman sacrifice, revenge calls for blood. Farrell does an outstanding job in this movie, his movie, we feel true anger, his bewilderment and dread are real through his steely gaze, and unlike many other similar-storyline characters, he's a defenseless father contemplating how his family crumbles, one by one, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. He's a very honest manages to withstand an ever-growing madness that won't stop until it gets what it wants, a stroke of genius. Of course, the next big revelation is one of the most terrifying and ominously disturbing antagonists of this year: Barry Keoghan. Christopher Nolan gave him a supporting role to catapult him to stardom in his most recent technical ode "Dunkirk", however, it's this crazy film which gives him free rein to shine like the big ones. The 25-year-old actor has found a very complex character, full of nuances represented by means of monologues that he verbalizes in a way as natural as disturbing, the coldness of his boiling hate is what turns his interpretation into a fabulous triumph, there are sincerity and depth in his words, is such the power of his dramatic range that with just a couple of lines and one "loathsome" plate of spaghetti petrifies an entire theater, a visceral performance. It seems that we'll never find a bad interpretation from this matron because with her work in Lanthimos' fierce film she ratifies, again and again, her immeasurable talent, welcome Nicole Kidman. Anna, her character, is one more mother at first glance, suffocated by deceits, a worried woman who will fight even against her husband to find the answer about what's happening to her children, however, the "The Beguiled" actress endows it with so real concern, watching her on screen is as disquieting as watching Keoghan, just in a clearly different context. With scenes as the discussion in the kitchen or the long shots with her as a centerpiece, the camera delights to give her an open field in order to exhibit all her skills and also all her doubts, because, at the level of strangeness and disturbance, none of the characters left behind, why does she lay down naked on the bed, almost static, like a Greek sculpture waiting to turn her husband on? Raffey Cassidy, Kim in the film, proposes a rather unusual look at her teenage role, because although all the characters revolve around the father's decisions, the scenes she leads and her character's absorbing twist allows her to handle innocence, defenselessness and unexpected malice, there is something in the singing scenes of this young interpreter; a wealthy freak show influenced by a Greek legend.
Thimios Bakatakis' barbaric visual section must live up to the brutality and strangeness of the enigmatic writing, frankly, it goes significantly beyond. The cinematographer spreads the messages out through a thin and aggressive line of symbolic pictures, from the most deeply dramatic to those blatantly violent; the camera slithers harshly along hospitals, onerous houses, coffee shops and disturbing basements, using long shots to feed the unstoppable tension through tilt and travelling moves that accompany the characters all the time, even making the viewer to hide behind a shield in every moment, it's restless and frightened of what may come as soon as a change of scene happens. As a whole, the artistic composition is first-rate, metaphorical and brimming with messages that spring up from the colors, increasingly dark and indifferent; light plays a fundamental role in the film, subtly emphasizing an impact as simple as vivacious that it will get under your skin. In the seemingly less significant moments, hence more peaceful, the images are delicate but softly bathed by a bad vibe, however, when the sequences freak out, the images get a much more revealing value thanks to the flawless work of the art and production crew led by Daniel Baker, the most gritty and expressive scenes are painted with high-quality and delicate moderation to never fall into the coarse and lousy, the cinematography fosters the bad omen that transmits the colors and the Hitchcocknian melodies of the wonderfully precise soundtrack, the different songs captive and strengthen each one of the prior elements; a film that leaves you breathless from any side you want to see it, a superbly crafted nightmare.
Upsetting, exultantly cruel and incredibly hard to watch and forget, Yorgos Lanthimos's "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" is his film less chimeric in terms of visual setting, however, the stark and eccentric display of his ideas and the deep-rooted metaphorical meaning of them are pillars in this rabid tale of karma, morality, vengeance, and humility, smothering the spectator' tolerance limits, causing dissimilar results in each experience, in my case, a da*n obsession to know more about this unclassifiable Greek filmmaker. Quickly, the filmmaker shapes his filmography on metaphorical bases, with esoteric and complex ideas that define a caustically indelible work. No doubt, the second film, narrative and visually, more controversial, perverse and atrocious of 2017.