The male of the spe­cious

One more priv­i­leged white guy is not re­ally what he seems

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - MOVIES - TINA HASSANNIA

Ac­cord­ing to the Greek leg­end, King Agamem­non ac­ci­den­tally killed Artemis’s sa­cred deer, caus­ing the god­dess to de­mand the sac­ri­fice of his daugh­ter Iphi­ge­nia. In The Killing of a Sa­cred Deer, “Artemis” is an awk­ward, creepy ado­les­cent boy, Martin (Barry Keoghan).

He ac­cepts un­usual at­ten­tion and ex­pen­sive gifts from Steven (Colin Far­rell), a sur­geon whom Martin holds re­spon­si­ble for the death of his fa­ther on the op­er­at­ing ta­ble. When the boy be­gins to stalk Steven’s fam­ily, the sur­geon’s gifts are re­vealed for their true trans­ac­tional na­ture. Martin, aban­doned by Steven, curses his fam­ily with med­i­cal prob­lems that will per­sist un­til the fa­ther chooses one of them to die, or un­til their bod­ies all fail.

Steven’s youngest child Bob (Sunny Suljic) loses sen­sa­tion in his legs; his daugh­ter Kim (Raf­fey Cas­sidy) en­dures an in­ex­pli­ca­ble paral­y­sis. Martin’s mag­i­cal abil­ity is never ex­plained. Di­rec­tor Yorgos Lanthimos seems un­in­ter­ested in de­tail­ing his su­per­nat­u­ral story. He makes the viewer suf­fer through his mod­ern-day para­ble and ex­ploits the fun­da­men­tal nar­ra­tive blocks of Greek mythol­ogy with­out im­bu­ing them with con­tem­po­rary rel­e­vance.

Lanthimos’s style is of­ten cold, art­ful and ex­act — his use of clas­si­cal mu­sic lends a se­ri­ous, macabre tone. Fur­ther dis­tanc­ing the movie from au­di­ences is the me­chan­i­cal mono­tone di­a­logue.

It’s an over­done style for Eu­ro­pean film­mak­ers and of­ten these films are crit­i­cal of bour­geois val­ues. Here, Steve’s prag­matic life­style is par­o­died to the point of ridicule. Yes, he shares a pris­tine home with his oph­thal­mol­o­gist wife Anna (Ni­cole Kid­man), but their con­ver­sa­tions — like Steve’s ca­sual men­tion of his daugh­ter’s com­mence­ment of menses to his co­work­ers — are sup­posed to some­how re­veal the soul­less na­ture of such a life­style.

Only when Steve faces an in­escapable moral dilemma aris­ing from his own cow­ardice and shame is he fi­nally chal­lenged in life. That’s about the only point that Sa­cred Deer has to make. So, Steve is yet an­other use­less male char­ac­ter who’s hid­den his flaws un­der the pro­fes­sional pro­tec­tion of his pow­er­ful white med­i­cal coat — so what? Lanthimos and his Eu­ro­pean arthouse contemporaries of­fer no so­lu­tion in their overly styl­ized, tor­tur­ous crit­i­cisms of cow­ardice in white, mid­dle-class mas­culin­ity, which nei­ther en­livens us nor makes us think.

Ni­cole Kid­man stars in The Killing of a Sa­cred Deer, which is overly styl­ized and un­der de­vel­oped.

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