I shall be gunning for The Killing of a Sacred Deer, hunting down its passages and tracking where it’s coming from to find if it’s trophy worthy or should be bagged. So read on only if you’ve already seen The Killing of a Sacred Deer, or don’t plan to.
0:01:20 After a long intro of complete darkness, the film opens with the shot of open heart surgery. At least now we can say the film has heart, even if it doesn’t.
[N.B. The song filling the silence is called something like “Stab at matter, Jesus Christ!” I’ll include it here. The soundtrack (accompanied by the songs’ real names) can be found at the end of this synopsis.]
0:03:18 The surgeon turns out to be Colin Farrell as Steven Murphy, who disposes of his bloody scrubs in a bin so that they’re as trashed as my reputation.
0:04:18 Steven and his anaesthesiologist (Bill Camp as Matthew) stroll the hospital corridors and seem as shallow as the water resistance depth of the watches they’re discussing.
0:04:38 In a local diner, Steve meets Martin (Barry Keoghan), an 16-year-old young man [Keoghan was actually 25 at time of filming]. Why Steve would be hooking up with Martin in this setting makes me wonder if Steve is hiding something…in his lap.
[N.B. FWIW I find Barry Keoghan’s performance here to be his best yet, and one of the best male performances of the year.]
0:06:42 Standing in a deserted car park off of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, Steven gives young Marvin the gift of an expensive watch. This scene has the feel of a gigolo and his client, and I should know, I’ve felt a lot of gigolos.
0:07:31 Family dinner at the Murphy household. There’s Mr. Murphy, his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), their 14-year-old daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and tween son, Bob (Sunny Suljic). (Not to mention the dog.) Conversation revolves around haircuts and I’m taken back like Christmas underwear.
0:08:04 Like with The Lobster, the acting style is akin to sex with a prostitute: emotionless, deadpan, and takes some getting used to. At least here you won’t catch herpes.
Anna: Did I tell you Bob announced the other day that he wants to be an ophthalmologist?
Steven: Yes, you did. Bob would be a coal miner if you were one, too.
Bob is such a mama’s ophthalmologist.
0:09:28 In the bedroom…
Anna [preparing to disrobe]: General anaesthetic?
Bob: General anaesthetic.
Steven likes playing doctor.
0:11:32 Martin arrives at the hospital unannounced and Steven reprimands him for it. He prefers Martin be like phone sex and call before coming.
0:12:42 Steven is forced to introduce Martin to the anaesthesiologist and lies, stating that Martin is one of his daughter’s schoolmates and is interested in medicine. This forces us to again question the nature of the relationship between Martin and Steven, though Steven seems to have as much passion as a virgin screwdriver.
[N.B. At the same time, there is an interesting carry over from the previous evening’s discussion, where at the dinner table Anna said Kim and Bob wanted to attend a party held by a girl whom Steven had met in the mall and who had expressed interest in becoming a cardiologist. Steven transplants Martin onto this story, with the added advantage that Martin is meant to be interested in cardiology, unlike Steven’s real son.]
0:13:45 Steven helps Kim practise singing her scales. She’s egotistical because, when she sings, it’s all about “mi mi mi mi mi”.
0:16:06 At a formal reception, a man offers Steven a drink, yet Anna turns it down for him.
He hasn’t had a drink in three years.
This explains Steven’s personality.
Matthew: How are the kids?
Anna: They’re doing very well. Bob has started piano lessons. The teacher says he’s very talented. Now we have to get him one so he can practise at home. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’m renovating the clinic. I’m on the phone all day.
Steven: Our daughter started menstruating last week.
Yes, but can she practice at home?
0:17:58 The next day, Martin and Steven are walking beside the Ohio river and they agree it’s better to have good friends than a lot of friends. Then Martin says,
I also consider my mom to be a friend. I know that might sound strange, but ever since my father died, we’ve been very close, me and my mom.
0:18:28 Steven invites Martin to his house to meet his wife and children. Martin his looking less and less like an illicit lover and more and more like a mystery.
0:19:36 In the next scene, Martin arrives at Steven’s house and meets Anna and the children. He brings roses for Anna, a key ring with a musical note for Kim and one with a smiley face for Bob. For Steven, he didn’t even bring anything up.
0:20:21 The three children are in Kim’s room, getting to know each other before dinner.
Bob: How old are you?
Bob: Have you got hair under your arms yet?
Kim: I just got my first period.
Blood runs in her family.
0:21:29 Bob asks Martin to show him his under arm hair and Martin obliges. No one asks Kim this about her period.
0:21:38 Now Bob starts bragging about how hairy his father is. Too much to bear?
0:23:22 Kim and Martin decide to take a walk and, at a neighbourhood park, Kim sings an a Capella version of Ellie Goulding’s ‘Burn’. Call me a philistine (and I’ve been called far worse), but I prefer Raffey Cassidy’s version over the original. Here, I’ll let you decide.
0:25:48 Later that evening, before bed, Anna says that she likes Martin and inquires as to the circumstances of his father’s death. Steven explains that Martin’s father had once been a patient of his and had died instantly in a car crash [N.B. we will later learn this is a lie]. Thus Steven and Martin met by accident, literally.
0:26:34 Then Steven’s mobile rings. He shuts himself in the bathroom to take the call. It’s Martin, he invites Steven over to his house for dinner the following evening. Martin says his mum would like to see Steven again, as the last time was two years ago, at the hospital. If this scene doesn’t seem odd, the off-kilter crazy music lets us know it is.
[It seems as though Martin is stalking Steven at the hospital. Steven will ask him about it and Matthew will question Steven over it at a cookout [see 37:41], but Martin will deny it. This appearance might be linked to the dilemma Steven will soon face.]
0:28:25 Steven, for some as yet unknown reason, is under an obligation to eat at Martin’s. Once dinner is finished, Martin compels him to watch a movie with him and his mother (Alicia Silverstone as Martin’s mother). The film, which was also his father’s favourite film, is Groundhog Day. #DéjàVu.
0:30:52 After Martin goes to bed on a pretext, Martin’s mother compliments Steven’s hands, and then tries to rape one. Steven leaves faster than a birch tree in autumn.
0:32:25 The following day, Martin appears in Steven’s office, complaining of heart pain.
Martin: It’s hereditary.
Steven: You’re too young to be worried.
Martin. That’s what you said about my father. He didn’t smoke. He ate a very healthy diet. He went swimming almost every day. He should have come out of that surgery alive, but he died.
Things are beginning to fall together for us, but apart for Steven.
0:34:10 After a series of stress tests for Martin’s heart, the lad brings up the conversation he had with Steven’s son, Bob, regarding the quantity of body hair Steven possesses. Steven obliges Martin’s demand and opens his shirt to show Martin how much hair he has. This conversation is getting a bit hairy.
0:34:54 When Steven turns down a dinner invitation at Martin’s house again that evening, Martin expresses his disappointment over the missed opportunity with his mum.
To be honest, I think you’re perfect for each other. You’d make a great couple. She’s got a great body. You’ve seen it for yourself. She lost weight and she has a really great figure.
Damn, Martin, MILF doesn’t mean you want to F your own M.
0:36:21 While Steven watches Matthew rip a fish to pieces with a knife at some sort of cook out, a phone voice-off of an annoyed Martin chastising Steven for not meeting him at the diner is heard between the thick, wet sounds of fish dismemberment.
[N.B. Director Yorgos Lanthimos is making a comparison here, and the fish that’s being violently dismembered represents Steven.]
0:36:58 More symbolism.
0:41:07 One morning after Steven snubs Martin, Steven checks to see why Bob is taking so long to get ready for school. He finds his son sitting on the edge of the bed.
Dad, my legs. They’re numb. I can’t move them. I can’t stand up.
A really lame excuse.
0:43:56 After some exams at the hospital, Bob is up and walking once again…until he collapses whilst leaving. Like falling in love, only there’s no love.
0:46:07 While her parents are with Bob at the hospital. Kim is riding on the back of Martin’s motorcycle with no helmet (breaking a rule previously established by her father). Seems as though she and Martin don’t like to use protection.
[I’ll mention it here because it’s as good a place as any, that a running theme in the film is parents assigning their children chores (specifically walking the dog and watering the plants) that the parents then end up doing themselves. In this scene, for example, Kim returns from her joy ride with Martin (and lies to her mother regarding her whereabouts) to find her Anna watering the plants in the front garden. Then Anna says that, while Bob is in the hospital, Kim will need to water the plants in his stead. If anyone can shed light on the symbolism of the chores in this film, I’d love to hear an explanation!]
0:48:26 The next morning, when Anna and Steven go to check in on Bob, they find Martin at Bob’s bedside. Bob looks as though Martin were a bitter pill he can only take in small doses.
0:50:00 Martin insists that Steven meet him in the hospital cafeteria. When Steven reluctantly obliges, Martin first presents him with the gift of a Swiss Army knife, and then unleashes this discussion on him.
Martin: I’m really sorry about Bob.
Steven: It’s nothing serious.
Martin: No, it is. That critical moment we both knew would come someday? Here it is. That time is now. You know what I mean.
Steven: No, I don’t. Listen, Martin, I don’t have time for this.
Martin: OK, I’m going to explain this very quickly so that I don’t hold you up. Yes, it’s exactly what you think. Just like you killed a member of my family, now you’ve got to kill a member of your family to balance things out. Understand? I can’t tell you who to kill, of course, that’s for you to decide, but if you don’t do it they will all get sick and die. Bob will die, Kim will die, your wife will die. They will all get sick and die. One: paralysis of the limbs. Two: refusal of food to the point of starvation. Three: bleeding from the eyes. Four: death. One, two, three, four. Don’t worry, you won’t get sick. You just got to stay calm. That’s all.
Seems like Martin should’ve placed that knife in Steven’s back.
0:52:48 After having Martin ejected from the hospital, Steven, fearing that Martin’s prophecy is reality, tries to physically force Bob to eat a doughnut, but Bob spits it out like a bulimic model eating spit.
0:53:54 Snuggling in Kim’s room, Martin is telling Kim French puns with a bad accent. The only thing French he knows is probably kissing.
[N.B. The pun is based on the similarity in pronunciation between «vainqueurs» (conquerors) and «vingt coeurs» (20 hearts), as well as «vaincus» (conquered) and «vingt culs» (20 arses). “Dans le bus, il y a vainqueurs / vingt coeurs et vaincus / vingt culs. = In the bus there are winners / 20 hearts and losers / 20 arses.”]
0:54:41 Kim steps out of her dress and lies down on the bed in her underwear, like a dead fish wearing her underwear.
0:56:08 Martin leaves, but not before throwing her a sympathy handshake.
0:59:46 In order to get Bob to admit he’s faking the paralysis, Steven states they’re going to play a game where the person who tells the best secret wins. Steven then proceeds to recount how, when he was Bob’s age, he was concerned by how little semen came out when he ejaculated, so when his dad was passed out drunk, he masturbated his father to orgasm. If I were Bob, I’d be all, “You win. I’m out.”
If it is an act and you don’t stop this stupid joke right now, your punishment won’t just be no T.V. for two months. I will take my electric razor and shave your head and make you eat your hair. I mean it, I will literally make you eat your hair.
Hope that goes down better than the doughnut.
1:02:18 While singing Christmas carols with her choir, Kim collapses. She literally fell for that Christmas B.S.
1:04:51 Steven, beginning to believe Martin, goes to Martin’s house and bangs on the front door.
Open this door or I will smash it down and fuck you and your mother just the way you wanted.
Makes me think the porn title of this film would be, “The Filling of a Naked Dear”.
1:06:44 Steven comes clean and tells Anna he’s being seeing Martin for 6 months, and that the boy was the son of a patient that died during an operation. That Anna need ask if Martin had been drinking that day says almost as much as if his answer were yes.
[N.B. This also adds weight to the discussion at 16:06, where Anna tells those at the formal reception that Steven hasn’t had a drink in 3 years. Meaning, clearly he has a drinking problem.]
1:09:08 Kim, sharing a hospital room with her brother, receives an anxiously awaited call from Martin, who is standing in the car park below. A word from him and she’s able to use her legs and rise from the bed to go to the window and wave. This is confirmation that Martin is controlling the malady, and that he can get a rise out of Kim.
1:15:42 Anna goes to confront Martin at his house. He makes spag bol for both of them and lies to her about Steven.
Ever since your husband killed my father, he’s been flirting with my mom. Constantly flirting.
Flirting with disaster, more like.
1:16:34 Martin explains that punishing the children is the only thing he can think of that’s close to justice. Speaking of justice, Barry Keoghan winning an Oscar for this scene alone would have been justice.
1:20:42 Anna meets with Matthew (the anaesthesiologist) at a diner and asks about the day Jonathan Lang (Martin’s father) died in surgery. Matthew says that Steven was drunk, and that is why the patient died. In exchange for this information, Martin requires a favour under a bridge, in the front seat of his car. Let’s just say he likes his orgasms like his pie: handmade.
[N.B. An interesting device used here is that, during the exterior shot at the diner, the sound of a horn blaring and then a siren wailing can be heard. This is to punctuate the danger of the meeting and Matthew’s revelations. Also interesting, during the conversation, Matthew states that an anaesthesiologist cannot kill a patient; that only a surgeon can kill a patient. This is in direct contradiction to what Steven said during his talk with Anna at 1:06:44]
1:21:11 The kids are back at home, because they can be both sick and tired anywhere.
1:24:44 Anna berates Steven for having beautiful hands (which are also lifeless) and flirting with Martin’s mum. When they go to bed angry that evening, there’s no playing doctor.
1:26:42 The following morning, Steven leads Anna to a fortified room in their cellar and shows her how he’s decided to be more proactive. Bound with duct tape is a bloodied Martin, held prisoner in the wreck room.
1:28:44 Martin bites Steven’s arm to the point it bleeds, then asks Steven how they can even out this unfair situation. In answer to his own question, Martin bites his own arm and tears out a piece of it. He calls it a metaphor, I call it a ‘met a psycho’.
1:30:48 Kim is smoking at the open door [smoking is a minor theme in the film to illustrate how characters are breaking through their own facades], explaining to young Bob that their father didn’t kill Martin when threatening him with a gun. She reiterates the same arguments Martin used, that killing him would mean killing 4 people (Kim, Bob, Anna, and Martin’s father). Kim and Martin have some sort of psychotic connection.
[N.B. What really strikes me in this film, is that Steven never considers suicide to save the lives of his family, and that no one finds a subtle way to suggest it…]
1:32:04 The siblings have a passive-aggressive argument where they imply the other one is going to die (Kim says she’s going to live with Martin afterwards, Bob says his parents have just bought him a piano without telling Kim for fear of disturbing her, Kim asks if she can have Bob’s MP3 player when he’s dead…). This is an argument for euthanasia.
[N.B. This is also the point in the film where the reality that they might actually die hits home for the kids.]
1:32:54 Bob drags himself across the floor to a cabinet where he takes sewing shears and chops off his hair. He’s thinking back to the conversation he had with his father [see 7:31] about having his hair cut. Bob ignored the request, but now feels it might give him a cutting edge when his father chooses which child to save.
1:34:06 Bob drags himself into the kitchen and shows his father his new haircut and apologises for not cutting it sooner. Then he says he wants to be a cardiologist like his father and not an optometrist; that he’d lied about that earlier so as not to hurt his mother. Finally, he adds he’s going to go water the plants, as chores was another point of contention with his parents. If The Killing of a Sacred Deer had campaigned this hard for an Oscar, it might’ve wound up with more nominations than 0.
School director (Drew Logan as Principal): [Kim] wrote a brilliant essay on the tragedy of Iphigenia, which she read out in class.
Here we have the basic concept of the entire film. In Greek mythology, Iphigenia is the daughter of King Agamemnon, who accidentally kills a sacred deer belonging to the goddess Artemis. As punishment, she uses the wind to block Agamemnon’s ships from leaving for the war in Troy until he sacrifices his eldest daughter (Iphigenia) to her. Whatever, it’s all Greek to me.
1:36:47 Steven is at the children’s school and talking to the director because he wants an analysis of both kids and know which one the director likes best. The director says he can’t answer that. I tried answering this at uni with far less success.
[N.B. This is an important step for Steven, as it shows he’s accepted Martin’s version of the story and is at least considering which of his two children he’ll condemn.]
1:39:37 Anna takes both children to the basement room where Martin is being kept. They refuse to took at him so he tells them he understands and instructs Anna to take the kids back to their beds. Before doing so, Anna kneels before Martin and kisses his bare feet. Maybe she wants to get off on his right foot.
1:41:06 Following Martin’s warning that she had better act quickly as “the boy’s about to die,” that evening Anna assumes the position in bed. Tonight, however, Steven is out of patients.
1:45:18 Lanthimos splices three scenes together, out of order. In what is the first, chronologically, Kim drags herself to see Martin and tells him to make her walk again so they can run–or at least walk–away together. The second scene is Steven and Anna waking up to realise Kim is no longer in the house, and then they find her dragging herself along the sidewalk, trying to escape. The third is her apologising to her father while he bandages her knees and she tells him the only solution is for him to kill her then and there. This is, however, just another ruse. Her survival instincts are killer.
1:46:31 Anna informs Steven that she let Martin go because keeping him there would not change anything. Steven heartily disagrees, as he feels Martin was bound to confess. Literally.
1:48:24 Bob’s eyes begin bleeding [Step 3, see 50:00], meaning he’s as short of time as a pygmy gnat with no wristwatch.
1:50:38 Steven tells Anna he wants to meet her with the children in the living room.
I think I’m going to wear that black dress that you like.
Even Anna is now bargaining. After an offer of sex the previous evening, now she’s covering her arrears with Steven’s favourite clothes.
1:51:57 To resolve the dilemma, Steven binds his wife and children with duct tape, then places pillowcases over their heads. Steven proceeds to hide his own face under a knit hat and twirl around the living room with a rifle, shooting at random. An easier solution, one which has been there all along, would be for him to mimic a selfie photographer and shoot himself.
1:53:28 His first 2 shots miss completely, but his third hits home. Bob has one more hole than he woke up with.
1:55:02 Martin arrives at the same diner where he’d met Steven before. This time Steven (and his wife and his daughter) ignores him. Even young Kim turns to look away, no longer enamoured with the lad. Perhaps she didn’t receive the MP3 player she was counting on.
[The song playing in the diner is ‘Herr, Unser Herrscher’ by Bach. See playlist a the bottom of this synopsis.]
1:56:15 But does Kim really loathe Martin? Decipher this expression she leaves him with upon exiting the diner… What do you think, a last look or a lasting look? Leave your answer in the comments!
- WTF!?’s: 1, considering this whole film is one giant WTF.
- When to Follow: The film is rather esoteric, so maybe it’s best to watch it alone on a Sunday night with a glass of white wine, but not so late that you risk falling asleep in the middle.
- Where’s This Found: As I wrote in my Instagram review after having seen this in the cinema, “It made me feel like I’d crashed a party where I didn’t know anyone. The party was fascinating and I left having enjoyed it, but not in any way I understood. 🤔” While this film is slightly less accessible than The Lobster (despite being more reality based), the raw emotion comes through and the pervasive foreboding that saturates the film like it’s eerie soundtrack will reach deep inside you with cold and clinical fingers. Out of a possible 10, I have 7 F’s to give.
- What To Feedback:
Left Over WTF (Way Too Funny) Photos
Left over photos
Steven insists several times in the film that Bob is in need of a haircut.What do you think? Study the above picture and let us know in the comments!
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WTF!? do you meme?
What to Follow Up
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