LFF 2017: The Killing of a Sacred Deer *****

It is becoming increasingly difficult to describe a Yorgos Lanthimos film to the uninitiated. The Greek writer-director first came to international attention with his odd but endearing dystopian drama, The Lobster, about people having a limited time to pair off in a hotel, before being turned into an animal of their choice. Two years on, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is equally perverse, though chillingly more sinister in nature. It also reunites Lanthimos with actor Colin Farrell who is enjoying a career-defining change with such misfit characters – and lots more facial hair.

Farrell is Steven Murphy, a successful heart surgeon married to medic Anna (Nicole Kidman). They have two children. Steven is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice in his family, after taking a strange young man called Martin (Barry Keoghan) under his wing.

The story plays heavily on the supernatural, the fear of the unknown. It is quite clinical in its approach, from the wide vistas of the hospital to the equally lofty rooms at Murphy’s home. What makes the status quo even more absurd and detached from reality is Lanthimos’ curious script, co-written with Efthymis Filippou. Through the terse (sometimes shocking), banal chitchat – think the unfiltered subconscious having a voice – comes a wealth of emotion from the characters. They seem cold and aloof at the start, but actually, as disaster comes ever closer, there is more urgency and feeling in their rapport.

Farrell and Kidman are compelling as a screen couple – subsequently going on to film The Beguiled after this. However, credit goes to Keoghan whose ‘immortal’ Martin is the most fascinating character overall. Keoghan begins by making him vulnerable and inquisitive, until something unknown penetrates Steven’s closeted and privileged lifestyle. Then it is too late. This is a superior supernatural thriller, utterly unique in execution – even the roaming camera has a mind of its own.

5/5 stars

By @Filmgazer

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LFF 2015: The Lobster ****

the-lobster

Damned if you are. Damned if you’re not. Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos’s first English-language feature The Lobster puts its characters in an impossible situation. The decision is all theirs in this bizarre but highly comical dark tale set in a dystopian future with completely different ideas on relationships.

David’s (a superb Colin Farrell) wife has just left him for another man, so he decides to book into The Hotel with his dog (actually his brother) to find a new life partner, in order to return and live in The City. He has 45 days or will be transformed into an animal of his choice. In David’s case, that’s a lobster as it lives for over 100 years, is blue-blooded (like an aristocrat), and he likes the sea too.

In the surrounding ‘The Woods’ live singletons or ‘loners’ that are not allowed to couple up, according to draconian rules followed by their leader (played by Bond’s Léa Seydoux). David can earn extra time (in days) at The Hotel for every loner he kills in establishment’s nightly organised hunts. However, after a tragic event at The Hotel, David is forced to become a loner. Ironically, he meets and falls for a ‘Short Sighted Woman’ (Rachel Weisz, who also narrates), someone he would love to have a relationship with.

The first half of the film in The Hotel is the best part by far. The latter half still has its nuggets and intriguing concepts as the overall way of life bemuses the hell out of you. There is a totally warped sense of coupling in both respects, played out in ritualistic dances, sports and breakfast meetings and set uniforms in The Hotel, and hilarious signing between David and his ‘Short Sighted Woman’ in The Woods.

Perhaps the funniest scene is the total lack of control when the ‘couple’ visits the loners’ leader’s parents in The City. Farrell and Weisz are an absolute scream here, openly doing what you only dreamt of doing in full view of the folks when the boyfriend was visiting, in the pretence of being a genuine couple. Weisz is also very funny as the sarcastic narrator, first telling the story of David at The Hotel then becoming part it.

Other delightful performances from an array of international talent include Olivia Colman as the obtuse Hotel Manager, along with her partner (played by Garry Mountaine) – almost certainly a product of their own creation. John C. Reilly is the ‘Lisping Man’ and Ben Whishaw the ‘Limping Man’ who gleefully squabble for our pleasure. Ashley Jensen is ‘Biscuit Woman’ with a penchant for custard creams – and David. The Greek director’s Dogtooth star Angeliki Papoulia is quite chilling as the ‘Heartless Woman’ who susses out David’s game and pursues him like a Terminator.

The Lobster has wonderful extremes too, from wildly absurd, laugh-out-loud moments to totally shocking brutality, often throwing you off course. The ending does let it down a bit as the effect of the brilliant set-up of this crazy dual existence seems to wane, which is a shame. Still, The Lobster is devilishly entertaining with some of the most original and deadpan crackpot wit on offer in a long time.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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