HELEN MUSA’s weekly arts column features opening concerts and shows in Canberra.
IT would be simple to write off Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos’ oddly-titled film as a bummer of little merit. But that is no less because of the title, of which no part appears in the film, than of how it delivers a story that is at best eccentric and at worst unbelievable.
Nowadays not a lot of people spend time becoming familiar with ancient Greek mythology. As I watched the film with increasing scepticism and not a little impatience, a word in the dialogue provided a vital clue to what it’s actually about. Iphigenia.
Never heard of it? She was the daughter of Agamemnon, king of Argos. Out hunting one day, Agamemnon accidentally killed a deer that was sacred to the goddess Artemis, who commanded Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter before Artemis would let him sail his army to Troy where there was a battle needing to be fought. Vengeful, those Greek gods.
The film opens with actuality footage of open-heart surgery to prepare us for gruesome stuff to follow and introduces a modern Agamemnon in the form of heart surgeon Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell). Unknown to Steven’s family, 16-year-old Martin (Barry Keoghan) has been visiting Steven. Gay? No way. Steven’s daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) has just begun to menstruate and son Bob (Sunny Suljic) is interested in body hair.
Martin inveigles his way into the Murphy home. He invites Steven to come to his home for dinner, after which his comely mother comes on to her guest who begs to refuse because his ophthalmologist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) has a superb body and an ardent libido.
Martin tells Steven that unless Martin gets what he wants, the children will refuse to eat, become unable to walk and announce impending death by bleeding from the eyes. Lovely stuff.
In a way, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is a horror movie, offering gruesome images and high-grade tensions. Some may consider it more horrible than horrid.
At Dendy and Palace Electric