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The Killing of a Sacred Deer Discussed and Explained
The Killing of a Sacred Deer Discussed and Explained - or how this movie is so crazy, so messed up, as to be amazing - IMDB
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To say that The Killing of a Sacred Deer won’t be for everyone is quite possibly the most understated thing I’ll say this entire calendar year. Most people will despise this movie. But I’m just going to skip past those people, and say, “I am so so very sorry for your loss. I’m sorry that you got sucked into the movie theater on a whim, for some odd reason you stared at Star Wars: The Last Jedi and thought, BLAH. What is this Killing of a Sacred Deer thingy? Let’s try that on for size. For some reason you didn’t know Yorgos Lanthimos was involved. HECK, you didn’t even know what a Yorgos even was! All you knew was you thought it was a hunting movie, and then you got this craziness?!? They all talk funny. And they act funny… and the blood man. THE BLOOD!” 

If you have not seen this movie, and you were a fan of The Lobster, go see this pronto. (Best way to see it is via that Amazon link, it’ll help THiNC continue providing great movie discussion locations!) If you’ve never heard of the movie the Lobster and don’t see yourself enjoying independent film much… then no. Do not watch this film. This isn’t just a crazy movie, it’s a crazy movie squared. But for those of you that love Greek Mythology and the question of sin, debt and payments of said debts… sure. Give it a shot. But know this. Yorgos is about to take you on the ride of your life, and this may not be a very good thing.

So, with that said… THE REST OF THIS POST IS A SPOILER RIDDEN WASTE LAND. I will be discussing not only what happens in the movie, but the why, and what it all means. Please wave off if you do not want to have this movie completely ruined for you. Got it? Great.

Quick Overview of The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The story itself is simple enough. A doctor, Dr. Stephen Murphy, has had an accident. During heart surgery he has killed a patient on his table. Murphy may have had a drink or two before the procedure, but it definitely was an accident. Only problem? This now dead patient has a son, Martin, and a widow that he has now left bereaved (left bereft? No idea).

Anyway, now, as far as troubling coincidences go, Martin, happens to be a god. Ok, set the god thing aside for now… maybe not a god, but rather, someone with interesting super powers. And in exchange for killing his father, Martin expects Dr. Murphy to make amends. And here are his terms: the doctor can either kill one of his children, or, watch as everyone in his family gets paralysis, stops eating, and then begins bleeding out the eyes… and finally dies.

Is this hyperbole? The ravings of a lost, and mourning soul? Well, when Bob collapses, and cannot walk… we begin to wonder if this wasn’t the ravings of a lunatic. And when Kim collapses as well? Well, now we know we are full-on walking into the world of the Twilight Zone. (Speaking of which, I totally remember an episode of the Twilight Zone that reminds me of this movie – the one entitled “It’s A Good Life”, wherein there is a boy that controls everyone in this town, and sends them “Out into the cornfield” if they frustrate or anger him. But in this episode of the Twilight Zone, the boy’s name is Martin, and instead of sending them out into the corn, he kills them.)

Soon Stephen tells his wife Anna. But she is unclear. She’s annoyingly more interested in the back story of Martin’s father’s death than helping Stephen solve this logic puzzle. She wants to know if he’d been drinking. She wants to know his relationship to Martin, the mother… etc. Gah! I mean, that’s irrelevant! Right? But soon the movie barrels forward and we find ourselves with Martin, held hostage, by Stephen, in the basement. He’s been shot. And beaten. But still the kids illnesses are progressing. So when Anna let’s Martin go, Stephen and Anna have a choice to make. Should they kill one child to save the other?

And sure enough, that’s what Stephen does. In a game Russian Roulette of the worst kind… Stephen shoots Bob, and he dies. Chosen randomly… the gods have spoken. And just like that, Kim gets better, and the family tries to move on. Right? The what of the movie makes sense right? It’s just the – WHAT THE HECK – of the movie that doesn’t make any sense at all. So let’s away, shall we, to the next section of our discussion around the explanation of what happened in The Killing of a Sacred Deer?

BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN MAN!??!

How do we unravel this craziness? Where do we even begin? Do we find a loose thread and just start pulling? I mean?!? Gah. Hahah. But thankfully, your friendly THiNC. site has you covered.

What about that title? The Killing of a Sacred Deer?

When I first heard the title ‘Killing of a Sacred Deer’ immediately made my mind jump to the Greek Mythos world. You see, because there is a story about Iphigenia wherein she appears as the Greek fleet gathers to prepare for war against Troy. There, the leaders of the Greeks, you know, that Agamemnon guy? Well he makes a bad mistake and accidentally kills a deer in Artemis’ sacred grove. An apparently sacred deer no less. And as a result, Artemis punishes Agamemnon by stopping the winds so his fleet can’t sail to Troy. But the seer Calchas, helpful as he is, lets Agamemnon know that in order to appease Artemis, he’ll need to sacrifice his eldest daughter, Iphigenia. Sounding a little familiar? Well, Agamemnon initially refuses, but eventually relents, as he is pressured by the other commanders.

And who is Martin if he isn’t Artemis. Even the name is similar. Wikipedia describes Artemis as the deer and the cypress as sacred to her. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and she was the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness. And in this story, Martin is playing the part of a god punishing a clueless and unrepentant recalcitrant. Right? We’ll get to who that unrepentant recalcitrant is later. Trust me. Regardless, the story of Iphigenia is the story of Abraham and Isaac. It’s a story of debt, loss, payment, and retribution. It’s a story of Justice…

Sacred Deer and Questions of Justice?

First, a quote from Martin –

“It’s the only thing I can think of that’s close to justice…”

Martin has just walked Dr. Murphy through the agreement. That his whole family would die if he didn’t kill someone. That it would happen through a series of unfortunate escalations of events. Paralysis, Starvation, and Bleeding out the eyes. And then he says this – it’s the only thing that I can think of that’s close to justice. Eh?

Well, think about it, Dr. Stephen Murphy killed Martin’s father through gross negligence at best, and manslaughter at worst. Everything should have gone fine. But instead? He died. And so, Murphy should be held accountable for his actions. You know… eye for an eye and all. The curious thing here though? There is zero admission of guilt in this entire movie on the behalf of Dr. Murphy. He blames the anesthesiologist 100%. Heck, he blames anyone and everyone other than himself.

The bigger question here is, what is the point of blood in exchange for blood? Why does blood have power to pay off a blood debt? Well, from a spiritual standpoint, religions the world over have looked to sacrifices as having power to pay debt forever. In the Jewish world, sacrifices were made to pay for sin of the person’s past. Pigeons, sheep, goats, rams… heck, Abraham and Isaac anyone? We have a spiritual forefather ready to sacrifice his son, but God provided a ram caught in a thicket instead. In exchange for WHAT? though! Well, blood in exchange for sin. The death of a loved one in exchange for the murdering of a child’s father on an operating table.

Who Is This Recalcitrant? Well He’s America.

Did you consider while you were watching the film that the Murphy’s were extravagantly wealthy? That house is like a McMansion. And that McMansions are a symbol of American extravagance and success? And in America we love nothing better than a pulling yourself up by your bootstraps story. Success! Opulence! Material possessions!! This is the pinnacle of American Success as defined by advertisers and the Joneses alike.

But if Stephen Murphy is America, then what is America guilty of? Have we killed a deer or something? A sacred deer no less? Could it be that our concentration on materialism and selfishness is similar to this myopic killing of Martin’s father? That America is not only guilty of these crimes but that we aren’t even aware of our crimes. That instead of apologizing and asking forgiveness he blindly heads down the path and illogic of ultimately killing one of his own children. Right? No? Trust me, this movie is an indictment of each of us.

That Ending of The Killing of the Sacred Deer Has me Confused Still

So in the final scene of the movie, the Murphys head to a local diner for standard, greasy, American fare. Hamburgers. French fries. And in case we missed it? Piles and piles of ketchup. And as the three of them (obviously missing one) sit there, in comes Martin – the god of judgment for the murder of all sacred deer. Stephen eyes Martin and vice versa. The two of them locked in a dodgy detente. All the while Kim is still longing for Martin with zero regard for the death of her brother, little desire to change.

Ultimately, it’s one final reminder of just how unrepentant Dr. Murphy and his family are. They were just party to kidnapping, child abuse, the works. And not to mention they killed their own son. As too, America is continuing to unrepentantly pillage the world to keep its place at the top of the pyramid.

Heck, or it could just be a story about a really strange boy using the powers of suggestion to paralyze fellow children and ultimately convince a random doctor to kill one of his own children. One or the other. I don’t know, what did you think it was about?!? You tell me!

Edited by, CY

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78 Responses

  1. wradgio

    I was thinking about one thing – if doctor killed himself, would that pay the debt? Because it should. I did get that idea from begining (psychologist can tell what that means) and felt dissapointed about him not even trying to ask that crazy kid about it. It’s a weak point of the movie for me, that you would almost need lawyer to understand if the statement “… now you got to kill member of your family …” means, deal is done if the egoistic doctor takes his responsibility and kills himself.

    When reading about your idea, that their family is USA – i don’t think so. People represented by that family can be found all over the world, with no connection to particular country or culture. If director for some reason meant that family is USA, I would recomend him to travel more. 🙂

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Two points, one – yeah, I think he could have paid the debt in that way. But that thought wouldn’t have even crossed his mind because he was WAY too self absorbed to even consider it.

      Two, fair enough, I buy it. Could be absolutely anyone on the planet. Anyone could be that selfish and myopically focused. But as a nation, America is extraordinarily narrowly and inwardly centered. Most Americans think the world should all be in English. Most Americans think American food is what they should find in every country on the planet. KFC in Vietnam baby! Because I can’t stand Vietnamese food and all those NOODLES!!! gah. hahaha. But yeah, you are right. Anyone could be American in mindset. Definitely.

      But I loved your thought of him committing suicide. It’d be a sort of redemption for the family. It’d be the opposite of the route taken. It’d be selfless, so selfless that it’d redeem the entire family. Kind of like what Christmas is all about. Hehe, just saying.

      Reply
      • ed

        Your comment that America is the guilty party in this tale is borne out by the wide-spread corruption and damning apathy of the actors and institutions in the film. The sex in this movie, in the bedroom and in the car, are a broad indictment. The hospital, where the protagonist works, literally puts the doctors paralyzed children to the curb. No accident. The scene in the car with the anesthetist is essential, and not a pointless or illogical diversion.

  2. Albrecht

    Hi Taylor,
    went to the movie tonight and what really caught me next to brilliant movie making were the dialogues.
    I think (and you already mentioned it) that it’s a lot about subconscious programming. There are always key dialogues with Martin and every doomed character that had a very special way of “saying things” almost as he would code something into the sentences (f.e. repeating terms three times, arkward topics with underlying messages – body hair, spaghetti etc.). Psychies use these formulars for subconscious programming or as Tony Hill from the british TV series Wire In The Blood (Episode: Nocebo) would say it: “planting an idea in someone’s head”. And then the family is literally programming themselves like the daughter did with the son about his death right before he started bleeding from his eyes. I think just saying it is a curse of some kind, like a lot of reviews did would be a bit simple for a movie of that caliber.
    Greetings from Germany

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      First of all Albrecht – totally love your name. Do your friends in Germany call you Albrecht? Or another nickname? I’ve always been a huge Durer fan, was that part of your parent’s thinking or is it just a common name in Germany. Pardon my ignorance. Just curious.

      Yeah, I agree with you. This was not an incantation. This wasn’t a spell. And actually? If pushed… I would say that Martin? That he was almost irrelevant to the larger story. Martin was just the conduit through which judgement came but he wasn’t the judge or arbiter. The judgement was coming from a larger dialectic, from a system of truth about right and from wrong.

      This movie could have just been a monologue from a stage by Dr Murphy really. This is 100% about Murphy’s guilt. It’s about Murphy’s sin. It’s about Murphy’s inability to come to terms with said guilt or better, culpability. His family? That’s just the spiritual debt that the sin cashes in on. And Martin, he’s just mirror to Murphy. Martin. Murphy. Murphy. Martin. Yin. Yang. It is an internal dialogue. And ultimately? Murphy fails to admit his guilt. Murphy not only fails to take the guilt and truth of his actions as his own, he shifts blame to others.

      So if that is true, then what does that mean to me? Do I do this? How do I not admit my own culpability? And why? And as a result, how are my family, friends and life affected?

      A lot of people think it’s weird that Christian, like me, would get so into movies like this. But there are eternal truths throughout our lives that are just eternally true. And movies (and also art) tell of these eternal truths. They are mirrors of these truths. It’s impossible to tell compelling human stories without telling stories of our relationship with God. Without telling stories about our failings, and our desperate need for a savior. End soapbox.

      But that brings me to a point that I have to make. Murphy cannot possibly even recognize his failings without a savior stepping in on his behalf. Have you seen The Shack? That is this story, but with the addition of a savior. Yes? Anyway, I agree with you Albrecht. The relationship between Martin and Murphy is a powerfully complex one. So much so that I’d argue that Martin and Murphy are one. And I’ll just leave that there and see what others think.

      Reply
  3. jo

    you can move things around a hundred different ways and they all seem to fit in some form, but for me, the biggest mystery of the entire story, and the main reason i have found this web site, is HOW was Martin able to poison(?) the family and how was he able to ultimately remove this curse from the surviving cast?
    I enjoyed the movie, however, this is where this movie lives and dies (you see what i did there?)

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      That really is the crux of it isn’t it? The question from me, to you is… do you see this a parable, or as an actual event? The reason that thought didn’t cross my mind was because I assumed that this was a modern retelling of a Greek or Roman myth. It’s a modern American writing of an ancient myth. It is a warning from a hyperbolistic vantage point.

      But, I see your point. If it’s just a movie, with a family and a weird kid (the coolest, darkest weird kid ever) how? Either he really is a super hero, god, or something… or, he is super clever. Is he poisoning their food? Is he poisoning the home? There are drugs that can paralyze. So that is a very real option.

      I don’t think that is what is happening here though. We get zero indication of his being super sneaky and uber manipulative. Well, he’s manipulative. But you get what I mean. Martin just is justice. He is vengeance. Dikē, the Greek god of Justice if you will. So it’s hard for me to even think through this logic tree and figure out how he poisoned them. If that makes sense.

      Reply
  4. McDaniels

    The biggest question for me has been that if Martin is some sort of god or has super powers or is using mind control techniques why is it that the mother never got sick? I kept waiting for her to fall ill but she never did!

    Reply
  5. peter borg

    dear all thank you for that insight of this film, but I quite agree that the boy Martin and Murphy were one and he Murphy was phsycologically bringing all that vengeance on himself and condemning himself to the end ..and as not killing the mother is clear enough that he still loves her and he was her protector..I agree as well that in this case about Agamemnon is relevant as well…I end my thought about this film is that is greatly done and directed and give pleasure to the watcher to discuss the pic and not let it go like all the rest of them…..thank you all for reading this

    Reply
  6. Ogamba Chisom Paula

    I have read almost every comment written… I will start with my questions? How was Martin able to carry out the punishment on the family? Why did Martin want to punish the doctor and at the same time have him for himself? How did Martin get to Bob? Let me move on to my comments. Yes it’s a beautiful movie as u said alluded to the Greek myth of Artemis and her sacred deer… But in a modern setting. However, there are contradictions… a) everything was fine till the doctor stop devoting his time to Martin… Are we to say that Martin got jealous and decided to met out the punishment? Or was he bidding his time so that he could meet Stephen ‘s family and like someone mentioned encode some keywords psychologists use to encode or psyche… Martin clearly wanted Stephen to be soo close to him even telling Stephen’ s wife Anna dat he had been flirting with his mother… He was not even attracted to Kim when she took off her clothes. b) if it was really psychological how was he able to plan it all out… He did not really look dat bright or smart. c) yes it definitely indicts the society… Not just USA all societies. You commit a crime and don’t accept that u have committed a crime… Punishment is given to you and your looking for a way out. Gross negligence is everybody’s crime so Stephen definitely stands for the society the tragedy is indicting. However, it did not only indict the society but also show us how we are ready to stump all over other people to get our goal… (Killing of bob) Stephen and Anna planning to kill one of their children and saying that they will have another which shows that most parents don’t care for who their children are individually but on the number of children they have… Dr Stephen should have killed himself but that’s not the case a typical example of our Nigerian president who is seriously sick and old and is not able to rule a nation wisely but refuses to step down for another to lead leaving us the masses to suffer under his tenure. I can’t keep on writing… Finally, this is a beautiful tragic movie which performs the role of black comedy when it comes to calling people out on their shit… (indictment) it also leaves you wondering how, why, when, who, it’s metaphorical atmosphere leaves one in a state of confusion and wonder.

    Reply
  7. BCMcBusy

    It’s obviously about black magic and the occult. The doctor figured it out and randomly payed for his debt from his family. Unfortunately that twisted kid will still pay the rule of three and be cursed himself.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Oh nice. Well played Busy. I just finished watching the Ritual, and these two movies seem conjoined at the hip though both adopted out to different families. Thanks for the thought, I hadn’t really thought of that. Spent more time focusing on the obvious relationship to Greek and Roman mythology. But that is a much more simple and clear explanation.

      Reply
  8. Pamela

    Well, my thoughts at the end of the movie was to kill Martin …who would seek his blood debt ?

    Reply
  9. Ashley Power

    I thought the wife would kill her husband to save her children as it was Stephen’s fault they were in the mess to begin with. My Greek mythology is a bit weak. I am a huge fan and have just started reading the Odyssey with my daughter so my memories of the stories I read many years ago are slowly coming back. I didn’t watch The Lobster, is that film also inspired by Greek Mythology? If so, I may take a look. Thank you for your breakdown of the film. It makes the experience more enjoyable!

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey there Ashley,
      That is an interesting thought. Why didn’t she kill him? It was Stephen’s fault, you are right. That’s a great question. Except that the moral that Yorgos is telling is one of a downward moral and logical decline. That we, (You, Me, America, Western World, etc etc) value our comfort food, our big screen TVs, our status quo so much, that we will even logically follow the consequences necessary to save these freedoms all the way out to executing one of our own children. Right?

      It’s not a logical story. It’s not an if / then string of thought. It’s telling us something. So Anna? She’s infected with the same ailment that Stephen is infected with. She too is hoping to not lose this place that she has earned. Not to get political, but I see the Republicans doing this with Trump. Well, he sucks, but he’s all we’ve got, let’s stick by him even though he has dealings with RUSSIA of all places! hahaha. I mean, I’m a Republican, and last I checked, we hawkishly build missiles and carriers, etc. for the sole purpose of beating back communism. I mean, not to get crazy or anything here. But don’t Republicans pride themselves on wrapping themselves in the flag and defending freedom? But now? The party and its leadership (Senator Grassley I’m looking at
      you sir (he was my boss at one point)) has followed this logic all the way down the rabbit hole and we are defending Trump and his Russian connections? But I am just making the point that this family has decided similarly… don’t lose our privilege, our place, our money, our jobs, our house, our community… Do whatever necessary. So Ashley, congrats on being logical and actually thinking of an angle that didn’t hit my skull cap, BUT… hahaha.

      Alright, in so much as Sacred Deer was connected to mythology, there were parallels and echoes to various mythological stories in The Lobster as well. But if you liked this movie? Oh yeah, definitely try The Lobster out. It’s not for the feint of heart. I didn’t really “enjoy” either of these movies, but loved dissecting them and trying to decipher their messages. Yorgos is always a mind job. In a good way. Mother! is another film that I’d sort of put in this bucket where the thing that we are watching isn’t the thing that we are watching. If you know what I mean?

      I’m impressed that you are reading the Odyssey with your daughter. No thanks. I pride myself with having read the Lord of the Rings books to my kids even at a young age. But I don’t think I’d read Odyssey to them. So, kudos to you.

      Reply
  10. Dean B.

    Taylor Holmes, I figured someone would finally write a political response to this movies meaning. I would differ with your analyses. While I might agree that we as a nation have become too violence and too materialistic, much of that is a product of the very industry that makes films such as this. Nowhere do we see more violence, sex, and depravity on display than in Hollywood. And as far as the taking a more soft and cuddly approach to the world, let as look at the example of our last President. Obama took the appeasement approach, and apologized for American strength and past transgressions in the world, taking steps to weaken our military and our corporations with heavy regulation. He received the Nobel Peace Proze for his efforts. So what did it gain us? A more aggressive Russia that took Crimea and threatened Ukraine, and interfered in our elections with no response. A North Korea with more nukes and more aggressive behavior. And China more aggressively building military islands, threatening the Far East, and stealing our intellectual property. And then Iraq faltering, Syria and Libya falling apart. In some people’s minds, Western Civilization has been aggressive and heartless at times, and certainly has made its share of mistakes. But it must exist as the major defender of individual freedom, something that hardely exists in much of the rest of the world. In the case of our Constitutional Freedoms, I do believe the ends justify the means. Otherwise, we will likely live under the harsh authoritarian rule of a Putin, Kim Jong-un, Castro, Madura, or Khomeni. When America decides that our Constitution is not worth defending, then the light on the hill will be extinguished by the forces of darkness.

    Reply
  11. Andrew

    Hi, so the wife and I put this movie on tonight but only one of us finished it. After the movie I began my research, found this site. It was a hopeless struggle for me to understand the film and was thinking more objectively. I made no connection to the title and just thought it was a play on words. If I knew it was more of an existential drama would have been able to relax and enjoy it more instead of constantly waiting for a data carrot to build/validate my thesis on poisoning of the characters, possession etc. I did enjoy the article with the various analogies and all the comments, thanks. Cheers.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Definitely required lots of active participation in order to suss this sucker out. But you are right, if you walk in assuming it’s literal, and non metaphorical, much of it doesn’t make sense at all. But I knew the director coming in, and knew it was going to be a mind job of a concept movie.

      Thanks for the compliment… don’t be a stranger. We have fun talking about all manner of craziness here.

      Reply
  12. Dean Booso

    Taylor, I just didn’t get what your negative commentary of Trump and Republicans (seemingly the flavor of the day, no matter what the topic) has to do with a movie review. As far as the movie, I found the themes pretty warped. It presents a young man, Martin, who feels wronged by a careless, but likely unintentional mistake, of a surgeon that unsuccessfully performed heart surgery on Martins father. The surgeon is certainly no good guy, but Martin is a sort of sadist, who by some means wields power over the surgeons entire family, terrorizing them to the point of finally driving the father to put their young son to death, by gunshot. In the end, Martin appears to be the winner, continuing his total control over his victims. The themes seem to be the “end justifies the means” no matter what the cost, and that vigilanty Justice should be the tool of the powerless to punish the powerful. We see more and more of these themes playing out in our society with mass shooting, riots, etc., and it’s sad that movies such as this perpetuate such concepts.

    Reply
  13. Taylor Holmes

    Fair. I think I’ll pull my Trump tirade. It confuses the discussion by jumping one too many sharks.

    Ok, but here’s how the logic works though, and the piece that you are missing in your walkthrough. This isn’t a shooter situation in a school. This isn’t a sadist punishing random people. That is the bit that you are missing. This kid is a greek god of sorts, he is the definer of justice. Martin’s father was murdered via negligence. Heck, it was manslaughter. Operating on someone while drunk?

    But the question is larger than this human perspective that you paint it with. It is the question of moral debt. Agamemnon and his men were stranded because Artemis shut the winds down because of the killing of the sacred deer belonging to the goddess. And her terms? Kill his daughter. Well, if he doesn’t kill his daughter his entire family will die because his men are stalled and can’t progress across the sea. But that is just code for a discussion about moral culpability. Murphy has committed a moral wrong. Everyone knows this. And yet, Murphy won’t admit it, or ask for forgiveness. He does absolutely anything and everything possible to evade his own sin. And ultimately, instead of admitting his wrongness, he kills one of his children.

    And it is this attitude, it is this unwillingness to look at our own culpability, our wrongfulness as a country, as a people, as humans, that I am taking issue with here. The Trump this is such an irrelevant side tangent. It’s about you Dean. It’s about me. Am I willing to admit my sin and ask for forgiveness? Or would do anything and everything in order to avoid admitting it? Pride much? Hahhah.

    Again, this isn’t at all about a sadistic kid getting some random giggles with the death of someone somewhere. It’s 100% about Dr. Stephen Murphy. It’s about you. It’s about me.

    Reply
  14. Lohpurush

    Regarding the first comment that Dr. Stephen Murphy killing himself would have been the closest to justice and better option. Well, that would distort his characterization as unrepentant and recalcitrant disclaiming responsibility for the patient’s death on his operating table. So is his wife who is hand in glove in setting up the Russian Roulette and dressed appropriately for the occasion and suggests that killing one of the kids is the better option instead of her as both can still reproduce given their wealth in spite of their sexual dysfunction. If he decides to commit suicide or is so suggested by his wife it requires a major shift in their paradigm on the reason for the patient’s death and admittance of guilt which is just impossible. Apart from the allegorical indictment of USA and Americans it is not much of a stretch on logic, intellect and imagination to see the incrimination of all the three Abrahamic religions which denounce suicide and claim Abraham and hold his attempt to sacrifice his son in highest esteem and his God Jehovah who demanded it though did not let it go through in ultimate reverence.

    Reply
  15. Moonstruck

    It sets out to be a drama, and if it is a concept movie, it has been too realistic to warrant the claim.

    Not really know all the twists but enjoyed the movie and acting, especially the boy Martin. I recall him in Dunkirk, he is a young fellow to watch.

    Reply
  16. Polly Chandler

    I loved this take on the film, and your insight to the Greek Mythology, so thank you. Although, having just finished it, when you state that Martin and Stephen lock eyes throughout the entire final scene in the diner, that’s not so. Martin and his wife, both have their back to Stephen the entire time. It’s only when he walks in, does Martin look at him. And only when they leave, that the wife (her name escapes me now), looks at Stephen, while their daughter is the one that stares and stares. This movie made me so uncomfortable, which I consider a complete success! I believe that was the intention. That, and for each of us to consider the detachment in our own lives, and the very dark side all of us carry around. I mean, this family is SO detached from one another, to the point where each member is literally begging not to be the one chosen. It was brilliantly disturbing.

    Reply
  17. Vic

    @Dean B
    Your comment about politics made me laugh so hard. Politics is not a melodrama, as you describe it. “Forces of darkness”?! Give me a break LOL

    Reply
  18. Vic

    @Dean B
    Your comment about politics made me laugh. Politics is not a melodrama, as you describe it. “Forces of darkness”?! Common!

    Reply
  19. Vic

    Dear Taylor

    Thanks for this awesome website and the nice comments, which made many points of this movie clear to me. Otherwise, I was totally lost, even after reading many other interpretations about this movie.

    I wanted to share some points:

    1. I am still wounded by this movie! Why a god has to be such cruel? I remember Martin telling Murphy that “he would be safe any way”. I don’t really think that the father was not punished because it is a fundamental way of selfishness interwoven into every aspect of that family (which was a metaphor of wealthy and aggressive nations). I think “killing the father as a punishment” was not even an option whatsoever. It seemed to me that this could be the ultimate punishment: to live and see your beloved ones suffer and die, and then blame yourself for the rest of your miserable life. OR to gather all your darkness and cruelty to DECIDE on killing one of your beloved ones, and then go even further and pull the trigger. That seems much much much more intense than the idea of the father simply committing suicide, or having his wife killing him

    But my question is why the H, this Martin god decided to ruin the life of the father, in the harshest way, and called it “closest to justice”? What else could Martin want, in order to make it even worse? I don’t understand where this level of hatred comes from? What is the director angry about such badly? What message does this kind of punishment have?

    The doctor had healed thousands of to-be-dead patients, and no gods came over to pat on his shoulders. Then he accidentally killed 1 patient (who could die even if the surgery was done without drinking), and suddenly heavens got so angry?

    I know this movie was about responsibility. But shouldn’t the punishment be proportionate to the crime?

    Are gods that sadist?

    ————–

    2. If we put the deeper layers of the movie aside (temporarily), the surface was interesting. As our German friend pointed out, I too noticed strong traces of Erkisonian hypnosis in the dialogues of Martin. Especially in the spaghetti scene, I told myself “this is definitely an Eriksonian hypnosis”.

    3. As for HOW Martin forced the kids to get sick (assuming he was not a god): I am more inclined towards mind control, rather than chemical drugs. Because, if it were drugs, the daughter could not suddenly heal at the hospital. But if it was mind control, how the bleeding was justified?
    –> Then this should be something supernatural (the god theory).

    4. Why the daughter asked his father to kill her, and save his brother? Was it an act to get her father like her? If she was honestly asking the father to kill her, then why? This was the only instance someone made a sacrifice. At each other scene, all of them wished the other ones to die. So I couldn’t understand why Kim suddenly turned to an angel and asked her father to sacrifice her.

    5. The mother kissing the feet of Martin was an awesome scene. Reminded me of worshiping some god. But I don’t know why Martin didn’t act as a god, while being worshiped? What god is so pathetic that looks so pathetic while being tied and tortured by his own worshiper?!

    6. At some points, the daughter seemed to be relaying the voice of Martin in her head, to her mother. It reminded me of an Exorcist-like power of Martin. Perhaps Martin was actually Satan, or some demon. And not a god. This can better reflect his sadistic thirst for ultimate and illogical cruelty.

    7. What was with the style of the parents’ sex? Did it have anything to do with the movie’s message? Was it showing that the father wants absolute obedience and passivity?

    8. Their sex style together with those dialogues Kim was telling his father (that as the one who has created me, you are the only one who has the right to kill me), it appears to me that the father was actually representing GOD. Otherwise, any modern daughter would know that her creator is not solely his father, and her father is only 50% of her gene pool.

    The father was in many other ways similar to a god (in many religions): apart from a male “father”, he was also authoritative, wanting absolute obedience, loving, and considering himself flawless. Although there were many other features not backing my theory!

    9. So it appears to me that under a disguise of a Greek mythology, it was ALSO another mythology about a war between Satan (Martin) and god (the father), in which Satan wants to ruin his reputation any way he can (lying to the mother he flirted with his mom), and ruin his life (destroying her kids at many levels, and making him decide about killing his own flesh). And there is no justice in that, and Satan knows it too (but since Satan is a pathological liar, he lies that “this is the closest to the justice” while giggling inside). Maybe he is revenging on god, because of their old conflicts, but certainly not because of killing his dad! 🙂 [the last sentences are somehow kidding]

    10. Interestingly enough, the father did not head-shot kill Martin after killing bob and reversing the curse, so that Martin could not do them (or anybody else) any other harm anymore. This reminds me of god not killing Satan, but tolerating him to the eternity, despite knowing that what a pain Satan is!

    Reply
  20. Lucas

    I see it as a psychological thriller. The antagonist Martin is a brilliant mind bender, that through anger and hunger for revenge has seized his opportunity. Dr. Murphy is a typical surgeon who prefers the strict behavior instead of varied developelment. You can see this during his pep talks with his kids. I believe his kids, growing up in a perfect atmosphere, where sensative to any new ideology or maybe just any chance to rebel. I work side by side to professionals and surgeons so I know the feeling. I feel like Martin induced a spell, not magical, but psycoligical over the kids. Notice how the wife never got sick. The girl most of all, loved him for his physical appearance. I feel like yougn kids with an underdeveloped mind and no real parental control ( both parents are doctors and super busy) will be easily induced with any form of change. Almost like pottery. Anyways, I think Martin convinced the kids to pretend to be sick and caus Dr. Murphy to go insane. How did the eyes bleed you may ask. Well, Martin spent an awful lot of time at the hospital, including Dr. Murphy’s office. There are plenty of pharmacological substances that can onset bilateral eye bleeding, spontaunstly. Martin might have learned a trick or two. The ending he gives the daughter a code like state, which initiated the termination of the charades. Justice is served, the doctor made a mistake with Martin’s father, now he made a mistake and killed his son. It’s the same as bitting someone and then bitting yourself!

    Reply
  21. Vic

    11. Martin once said “I live in a not-so-good house in a not-so-good neighborhood”. Does that symbolize the “hell” (Satan’s home) compared to the flawless home of the father?

    Reply
  22. Ann Taylor

    I don’t care what anyone comes up with to try and explain this movie…it’s totally messed up.

    Reply
  23. Taylor Holmes

    Fair enough. Thanks taking the bus all the way out to these parts in order to share that with us Ann! hahahaha. Don’t think anyone is going to disagree with you really.

    Reply
  24. Carlo Hassan

    Thanks Taylor for guiding me to the right path for this movie,I aways look for a moral angle to every movie I see even the obvious ones like kids Disney movies.
    This movie was so so obvious about the meaning for an “eye for an eye” justice, etc I almost missed it ( maybe be because I’m an atheist lol).
    This movie is so religious,political and morally based that you can see elements of this movie in history even down to the tears of blood ( remember on the news of a statue of Madonna crying blood),sacrifice of a child,sin-offering ( God sacrifices Jesus on the stake,jesus asks “my god my god why have you forsaken me”) but was Jesus not innocent?
    Political, in our attitudes as humans,accepting we are all to blame,we so easily judge others,status,colour,attire, attitudes need to change.
    I’m from the UK the death penalty was abolished in the 1960s for many reasons,one of the reasons were a later found innocent man Timothy Evans was hanged for murder,which puts the question,is it better to release a 1000 guilty men rather to kill 1 innocent man?
    I have no doubt( can’t find evidence) that Yorgos Lanthimos drew his experiences from a Greek orthodox family upbringing, I need to find more about this clearly talented artist,maybe this movie is all about Yorgos.

    Reply
  25. Ryissa

    Before I launch into my commentary here:

    I am not a scholar of Ancient Greek Mythology. I have been fascinated by it for a long time, but have difficulty wrapping my head around it. I think it’s fair to say that because of the multiple myths ascribed to a seemingly endless cast of Titans, Gods, Demi-gods, Mortals and fantastical creatures, most actual scholars have trouble settling on one absolute “truth” when it comes to the ins and out of the Greek pantheon, especially when it gets retold in numerous ways depending on time period, author, area of Greece etc.

    Greek god ground rules were simple. Greek gods were just as perverse and vain as mortals, maybe more so. However, they held all the cards, so if a mortal pissed them off that mortal would find him or herself in a no-win scenario that they could only wiggle out of if they acquiesced the god(s) in question. Obeying gods tended to only get you out of your current dilemma. You could still have to appease another god in an opposite manner or piss off one god while appeasing another. Why you were doing something didn’t matter to the gods, what you did is what mattered.

    Having said that I tried to imagine myself as typical Ancient Greek sitting down to watch a play about Agamemnon and what would I know going in. I’d know that he was a mortal whose pride got him trouble with the gods on more than one occasion. He was a notable player in winning the Trojan war and a king, so he thought he was hot stuff. Without getting into the details he first gets into hot water with Artemis over killing her sacred deer for which she demands sacrifice or else he and his men will never make it to battle (in some accounts she rescues the daughter last minute in some form or another and keeps her for her own purposes). Once he gets to the Trojan wars he steps on the toes of Apollo and winning the Trojan war gets held up until Agamemnon in turn pleases Apollo. Finally victory of the Trojan War in hand Agamemnon heads home bringing along a mistress, only to wind up being murdered by his wife and her lover as his wife has never gotten over the whole daughter sacrifice thing (and even though his wife is hardly faithful, bringing home a mistress probably went over badly). And to complicate things more, this splits their remaining kids down the middle and a couple of them wind up killing mom for killing dad.

    I’d also know certain other salient facts.
    -Apollo and Artemis were twins.
    -Their mother was Leto (A Titan – essentially the gods that ruled before the Greek Gods defeated them) and their father was Zeus king of gods.
    – Leto was a bit of a home wrecker in the eyes of Hera (Zeus’s wife) and basically forced Leto onto a remote island upon learning Leto was pregnant.
    – Zeus was so busy running things and impregnating nearly everything that moved things that he rarely spent much time with any of his numerous legitimate and illegitimate kids. In many ways he was a segull parent, swooping in and being pretty harsh on the discipline front. By modern standards he’s be judged a predator as far as women were concerned and an absentee father.
    – Artemis wasn’t as known for her perversity to the extent that Apollo was. She was a virgin who protected women in childbirth, represented the hunt, loved dogs and was usually a bit more even handed than her brother. Killing her sacred deer was a no-no, but she didn’t usually go out of her way to reign down judgement on mortals.
    – Apollo was a bit more of a vain jerk by comparison. Had a long list of lovers (a beautiful youth who girls could not resist), was in charge of prophecy (Oracle at Delphi), bringing healing (medicine), plagues, music and living in moderation. He had some issues with his sister paying attention to good looking guys. The only man Artemis ever loved (Orion), he tricks Artemis into killing by convincing her she’s aiming at a deer. Because Artemis never loved another man she remained a virgin after that and probably didn’t show up at a lot of Dinners at mom’s house when Apollo was around.

    – There are not many accounts of Apollo or Artemis coming to the defense of their father’s honor. However, they had major issues if anybody tried to make out that their mother was less than adequate. Famously they murdered 14 of Niobe’s (a mere mortal) children when she claimed she was a better mother than Leto for having raised so many kids. It really didn’t matter whether Niobe could out bake and out lemonade Leto – making herself out to be better than a god mom was unacceptable. Even apologizing profusely before Artemis and Apollo polished off her last child wasn’t enough. Apollo was also noted for killing anybody who tried to rape mom as well as a couple of critters that would have eaten her.

    So to recap – any Greek Audience knew that Agamemnon and his family was the ultimate train wreck in tragedy, sacrifice, and vengeance. Pretty much everybody on stage will be murdered at some point regardless of where the play stops. By modern standards, they might be viewed as a family of ambitious psychopaths who will wrong one another before admitting any fault on their own part. They may be destined for great mortal accomplishments, but you probably don’t want any of them for neighbors. Greek audiences were also well aware of the defensive streak Artemis and Apollo shared with respect to their mother’s safety and honour.

    Now something that got my head scratching from the start of this movie is why the “Artemis” (Martin) character is depicted as male. Okay we can digress into how whether an angry male adolescent may seem more menacing than a girl and it added levels of perversity with the whiffs of possible homosexual attraction. But when I consider the other attributes of this character I started to conclude this was a tale more akin to what would have happened if Agamemnon had pissed off Apollo so much he demanded human sacrifice. And the other question was what exactly that would have entailed.

    Apollo didn’t have a big history of trying to go nuclear on others for injuring/insulting his dad. He did have issues with people insulting his mom and/or ignoring him. Even when he mentions his father in the movie his anger is over spaghetti eating habits not the loss of a dad whose love he never knew. Conversely his mom is supermom and great at making lemonade. It really can’t be a coincidence that this movie centers around Martin’s relationship with Steven who is a surgeon (healer) and that a plague afflicts his Steven’s family once Martin decides he is genuinely affronted – attributes strongly associated with Apollo as I have mentioned before.

    Although Steven (stand in for Agamemnon) may or may not be actually responsible for the death of Martin’s father, I don’t think this is clearly enough established in the movie to stand up to Greek standards of justice. To a modern audiences yes, but not Greek theatre standards. Yes Steven had a couple of drinks and Martin’s father didn’t survive the operation. But there is no mention of a knife slipping or some actual surgical error occurring causing the death. Blame on the part of one or both doctors is insinuated, but never established. We are led to believe Steven is to blame because he’s a pompous jerk with a drinking history, but nothing is revealed that firmly establishes Steven as the cause of the patient’s death.

    However, losing a god like dad before he’s old enough to know him does set the ground for Martin to become a vain, jealous little twerp with a need to protect his mother’s honour and safety at any cost.

    So like others I think Steven’s real misstep here is when he meets Martin’s mother. I also think no matter how that meeting played out, he was heading into a no-win scenario. Beforehand Martin meets and charms Steven’s family. He brags about his mom and her awesome lemonade (Interestingly Anna (Nicole Kidman) suggests she can have a lemonade making contest with Martin’s mom perhaps not realizing she is suggesting she could best a goddess, which would maybe be a bit of an affront right there as far as Martin is concerned). When Steven meets Martin’s Mom the woman is aggressive sexually even though she knows Steven is married – not exactly out of character for Leto who had no problem dating the ultimate married man. He not only rebuffs her advances, he refuses her offering of food (tart). Not that most of us blame him, but he’s not grasping his place and his rudeness when in the presence of a god. She’s offered him gifts and he is refusing her.

    Afterwards Steven is dodging Martin at every turn. So not only has he rejected Martin’s mother, but he’s rejecting her vain needy son. He gets one chance to change things when Martin is chatting about how mom still likes Steven, etc. But he just distances himself more after that. It isn’t till this point that Martin starts bringing down plagues on Steven’s family and demanding a sacrifice. As admitting he needs and wants Steven’s attentions would be to let go of his own vanity, he tries to make out that the vengeance is all about killing his dad (which may have messed him up, but isn’t the actual crime we see on stage – and what happens on stage is what matters most).

    However, given Martin’s need for tributes (gifts) and attention from Steven, even if Steven had gone along with having an affair with Martin’s mom I think Steven would ultimately have wound up in the same place. Attention would have shifted from Martin to his mother, and that would have brought out a jealous streak consistent with Apollo and still doomed Steven into a no-win scenario. Apollo had no compunctions about setting up his own sister to kill her only boyfriend when feeling ignored, by extension Martin would have no problem setting Steven up for some other vengeance if Steven developed an affection or Martin’s mom that took attention away from Martin himself.

    Curse gets voiced including rules to stop the plague brought on by the curse. Now by Greek rules it has to play out as presented. The god has demanded a specific sacrifice of what matters more to Steven than any god– his family. By forcing Steven to be the instrument of that destruction, Martin ensures that Steven will never again doubt the hold a beautiful god can have over his life or question the favours demanded of that god. Steven must give up something he loves for spurning a god, it’s as simple as that. Killing himself won’t get him out of it—it might convey grief over what he’s brought on his family, but it’s not the price the god as requested. Killing Martin won’t stop it (assuming a mortal could even kill a god). Only doing exactly what the god demands can he lift the curse. A sacrifice must be offered so that the rest may live and Martin must offer that sacrifice as he is the one who affronted the god.
    I realize Martin representing Apollo is not what many reviewers are suggesting about the film. I have not seen a single online reference suggesting that Martin is Apollo (although there probably are some Greek literature classes batting the idea around). But there are a few Easter eggs that hint at this further. Artemis loved dogs, but in this movie Martin voices a fear of dogs and pulling them apart when they are fighting. Kim offers him a tribute of music and she also understands Greek gods as she got an A on a paper about Iphigeneia. She catches on pretty quick that this is a guy she should worship and revere no matter what he does (i.e. to win Apollo over you play to his vanity). She knows she has to convince Dad to kill her brother if she can’t appeal to Martin to save her from the curse by garnering his favour. But when Martin coldly explains how the curse has nothing to do with how he feels about her, she gets it. She has to wait for dad to make a sacrifice and end things – this is dad’s fault for offending a God. This is not the fault of the God who must dish out justice in response to that offence.

    Bob too late figures out part of the game, but not the whole scenario. He focusses his appeasements solely on his father. He cuts his hair (interestingly cutting hair in Greece was associated with enslavement for men). After that he’s trying to do chores and make dad happy. No real sign of him figuring out he needs to figure out an appropriate tribute to Martin.

    On the surface how Steven kills his child seems random. He plays a blinded game of Russian roulette until a bullet hits home. But in Greek tradition, a god who has found favor with one of the family members might make it so Steven’s arrow takes out the lesser favored family member. Kim worshipped Martin quite literally. Anna at least freed him from imprisonment. But Bob never offered any real tribute or kindness to Martin. He may have won over some of his father’s favor, but not so much to the real hand on the wheel which was Martin.
    As we watched this totally messed up family eat dinner together while their daughter is still googly for Apollo, it confuses us but this twisted scene would make sense to Greeks. Apollo may have exacted a steep price, but his justice was earned. Greek audiences would be aware of is that when later Agamemnon’s children kill their mother for killing Agamemnon, Apollo rules in favor of the children’s actions because the mother broke the sacred bond of marriage when she killed her husband. In this film Martin and Kim share a clear attraction for one another. It is never acted upon from what we can tell, but it does plant the seed that her actions later might be viewed less harshly because the God favors her. So in a sequel we could expect to see Anna stabbing Steven over repressed rage because he killed her favoured son, but the attraction that Martin has for Kim might cause him to excuse her actions. And as a Greek god he still might not be over the slight that Anna thought she could make better lemonade than his own mother.

    Like all Greek tragedies, the rules of the game are alien to western sensibilities. Why is nobody punishing Martin? Because he’s a god and mortals are his play thing. The only way Martin can face consequences is if he pisses off another God and his tinkering with mortals because of his vanity isn’t enough to warrant that.

    Why aren’t the police all over Steven? He’s carried out the will of a god. His crime was offending a god, and sacrificing his child was punishment.

    Why is Kim hot for Martin. Why was Steven attracted to Martin. Because Martin is a beautiful god. He may be perverse and messed up, but he attracts admirers by the score. They will pay tribute and endure his vanity until his demands break them. Martin’s attractiveness to others is one of his gifts, he can’t help it if his beauty blinds followers to his twisted nature.

    Another thing Greek audiences would be aware of is that when later Agamemnon’s children kill their mother for killing Agamemnon, Apollo rules in favor of the children’s actions because the mother broke the sacred bond of marriage when she killed her husband. In this film Martin displays favor towards Kim in response to her fawning over him. So in a sequel we could expect to see Anna stabbing Steven over repressed rage because he killed her favoured son, and in turn Kim killing Anna because she’s such a daddy’s girl. But the favor that Kim has earned from Martin might cause him to excuse her actions more so than Anna’s, as Anna after all did suggest she could make better lemonade than dear old mom and dad’s score with Martin was already settled.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Yeah ok, so that was definitely a super cool primer on the topic of gods and Ancient Greek predilections towards tragedy and errata. Wow. I am not going to comment directly, because, believe it or not, I quickly become fuzzy on what it is I even wrote, and it would take quite a bit of work to get back up to speed so that I have anything more salient to say than wow. But forgive me, but there are just too many movies I’ve written about to stay fresh on everyone to a level that would make a non-pedantic or idiotic response even possible at this sort of a of remove. But I couldn’t let this comment go. Hade to say thanks for the things you shared and taught me. It was a gem. So thanks for that. Hopefully some doctorate wielding non-neophyte will engage your entire comment thread to your satisfaction, but holy cow, it will not be me! Hahahaha! Thanks again!!

      Reply
  26. Ryissa

    Much of what I your up aligns with what you’ve said about the movie. If you’re bored google “Artemis and Apollo” and maybe you’ll see why I believe this is a tale about Apollo versus Artemis.

    Of course there are comments about human nature and society in general (I didn’t focus on those or I’d waste another several hours contemplating and googling).

    The style of the movie is a bit of mirroring of Ancient Greek theatre. Nearly every scene has 3 or fewer people who speak with anybody else being silent background (in Greece the chorus could sing and dance, but not converse with on stage characters).

    Somebody on here questioned whether Lanthimos had a Greek Orthodox upbringing. I don’t know the answer to that as his online bios are very sparse, but I can see how the cinematography makes that seem plausible.

    I visited Greece in my teens and something an American audience might not grasp is that if you were from Greece you are pretty much tripping over Ancient Greek ruins and Ancient Greek references everywhere, especially in Athens where Director grew up. Even if you aren’t Greek Orthodox you bump into members of that church and the churches everywhere too.

    Economic disparities are very visible. How most of the population lives versus a privileged few is a very stark contrast. And tourists are often staying in palatial resorts and seeing the country in a manner that completely separates them from locals who turn into bizarre performers for tourists hoping for a few tourist dollars. These sights and absurd contrasts I would expect to influence Lanthimos in his filmmaking.

    My proposition I’m sure a minimally dedicated scholar could punch holes in, especially since Dr. Google Was my go to. I’m glad I gave you food for thought.

    I’m still not sure I liked the film despite watching it twice back to back. It engaged me and I think my reaction was very much a “what the heck” versus “so cool”. Not often I spend a couple of days peeling back layers to argue about what I’m finding beneath. Certainly not a film I’m suggesting to most Thor fans hahaha.

    I doubt the film maker went at this with an attitude of “this guy is Apollo” etc approach. He never had Martin say anything overtly referencing a sister to cinch things. That may or may not have been in there somewhere, but the transformation of the Artemis story into an Apollo one may have been accidental. Most story tellers start with an idea and build from there and Lanthimos has more or less said this film started with the idea of how a youth could terrorize adults. The Iphigenia myth may have offered framework to build from, but I doubt Lanthimos believed he had to stick to it in a truthful sense or even make Martin’s character reflective of any given Pantheon character. But again sometimes when you are trying to build something “different” you still wind up unintentionally creating something familiar.

    I’m willing to bet money that Lanthimos won’t spend a lot of time trying to illuminate this story for us no more than Don McLean has spent time explaining the lyrics of American Pie. That’s not to say the layers aren’t there, but if he wanted it to be easy to understand we’d all be handed Cliff notes with our popcorn. Anything that isn’t overtly explained in a film like this (as in most of it) is left open to the audience to interpret in anyway that works for them. For all I know he wrote this after binge watching Bates Motel and American Horror Story. I see this as an Apollo story, but the next viewer may view it as something different and neither of us may be necessarily wrong. Spoon feeding either of us easy answers would rob of us of the chance to explore our individual meanings.

    Reply
  27. Taylor Holmes

    Sounds like we are fairly similar in our dogged pursuit of understanding! I too visited Athens in my late teens/early twenties… and was floored by just how many temples and excavations there were everywhere. The plays and theaters, the spiritual houses of worship, and the educational aspects of the society must have been out of control.

    Yeah, there is no way, in God’s glorious green earth that Lanthimos will tip his hand… like at all. I know, because I looked, and looked wrt The Lobster, and also Sacred Deer (call me stupid, but I just realized that those are both animal titles, huh?) but found less than nothing.

    I do not literally think that Lanthimos was literally connecting Deer to a singular Greek myth. But I do believe they seeded the thinking throughout the film and definitely guided his thinking. Bottom line, this movie is a Greek Tragedy, with all the tropes and ideas, and goals therein. Everybody dies. Tragedy ensues. Women in masks sing scary sing-songy poems meant to foretell doom. heheh. Man this is a dark movie.

    Reply
  28. tatia

    Pervert Surgeon,sick victim,mystified psychological terror, Mp3 Player, evil sister. The end.

    Reply
  29. Wego

    As a parent of young kids and working in child protection, that was a difficult movie to see through to the end. But I couldn’t look away. It was getting lost in “disturbia”. I like Taylor’s explained analogy to Agamemnon and Iphegenia. But one death for a death never quit settles the score without it leading to other chaos/deaths/vengeance etc. Even Agamemnon was avenged by his wife Clytemnestra where she, together with her lover Aegisthus, plotted and killed Agamemnon upon his triumphant return home after their Troy hunt. Also Agamemnon himself avenged Paris on behalf of his brother Menalaus for Helen’s misdemeanour. One vice avenged, begets another ad nauseum. While yours, Taylor, is the most exciting analogy to date for an explanation for the unexplainable, it still doesn’t quite cut it for me. You definitely need willing suspension of disbelief when approaching this movie, but the unapologetic and almost illogical yet gory movement through the film as it progresses seems quite pointless – sometimes arriving at a satisfactory logic IS the satiation in the movie experience, for which one is willing to forego logic for a while.

    Reply
  30. ZV in Toronto

    I just finished watching the movie for the first time and found the acting and directing incredibly well done. I was fascinated by small and large acts of dishonesty by the surgeon: he buys a watch identical to his colleague and purports later that Martin is a friend of his daughter rather than the son of a patient that died, he also tells his wife that Martin’s father died instantly in a car accident. The viewer is left wondering as to how much more lies beneath the surface regarding this doctor’s credibility. The sense of guilt and need for redemption within virtually all the characters is clearly evident.
    The final scene whereupon Martin is left with a confused look on his face as the now family of three exit the diner is very well done.
    i’m looking forward to watching it again .

    Reply
  31. Jesse

    I would have snapped martins neck in the basement and took my chances with the family! That’s the American way, you can bet your ass I’m not losing to some punk ass kid! I can find another hot wife with all my money and we could have plenty of kids! So Martin you lose and I win!

    Reply
  32. S.g

    Martin was a simple psycho looking for a reason to exist…so he decided revenge but later also states it didnt bother him much when they told him his father had died. I suspect he had something to do with his father being in the hospital in the first place.
    Martin poisoned the children. The entire family was naive and believed Martin had some kind of power which he did not. Martin tells the doctor that the doctor is naive.
    Martin after initially poisoning Bob brings poisoned lemonade to the hospital. He’s obviously initially given Bob a lot more poison then the girl. He gives the girl poison on one of their dates so she also ends up in the hospital and she also believes in Bob’s power . The mother never gets ill because she doesn’t eat or drink anything Martin gives her. The daughter continues to poison her brother on behalf of Martin. And the daughter continues to tell her brother that he is going to die. The daughter appears to also be a psychopath by her behavior.
    I think the daughter must have poisons her brother through the hospital food they are given forced. Her and her brother are always in the same room.
    The daughter obviously does not want to be the one who dies as shown and she also tries to escape at the end although she pretends to be willing to die for her brother.
    The father is very stupid and how anyone could stay with him after his bizarre gun performance which has to be the stupidest and most torturous way of choosing who to kill ever.
    Ultimately it is the daughter who killed Bob. I don’t know if she knows she killed him though. It’s possible the daughter’s paralysis was psychosomatic

    Reply
  33. sethasaurus

    Seriously! You people have too much time to overthink everything.
    Bob was the only good character in this story. The rest of them were assholes.
    I see it as a metaphor of how the world is. The actors are telling you everything coldly and “matter-of-factly” what is happening. It’s not about a guy and another guy and his family getting sick. The mechanism of how the family becomes ill is not important.
    The world eats you up. It is full of people who grow, self-destruct, evolve, and die (sometimes at the hands of others). The universe is an unemotional thing – it doesn’t care what you think or how strong or weak you are. Good and bad things happen to good and bad people. Bob was an unfortunate casualty of life, as we will all be.
    🙂

    Reply
  34. Peter U

    If Martin had these super human powers then why didn’t he just save his father’s life to begin with ?

    Reply
  35. Toy

    I totally came to the conclusion that this movie is about the “American Dream” and how America has casually killed sacred people groups (Native Americans, African Americans) without taking any accountability or responsibility at all. And how some Americans would sacrifice anything to ignore culpability. This was a heavy indictment on white male supremacy in the US. I liked this movie.

    Reply
  36. Crazfox

    If a logical explanation is required I would suggest hypnosis and the wife did not succumb as she was an adult who was incapable of feelings and being manipulated. When he suggested the police she replied what’s the point? She never wanted her husband to die because she liked the double income lifestyle and prestige. She suggested they kill the youngest child and offered that they simply have another using IVF if needed. She catered to her husband to keep him even by playing unconscious for sex.
    The movie was confusing and I am happy I found this discussion altho I stopped reading about halfway.

    Reply
  37. Louise

    I wonder if Kim isn’t actually a central character? She is the only one who ever cries a real tear or talks of love in any form. Yet, in the end, she has fallen in love with the thing that is killing them all. I think It is symbolic that Martin teaches her to smoke. This movie has got to be about the heart – with that disturbing opening and all the references to cardiology. It seems to me that everyone else’s heart is dead and that the god of western commercial consumption has killed hers, too, by the final scene.

    Reply
  38. Louise

    I wonder if Kim isn’t actually a central character? She is the only one who ever cries a real tear or talks of love in any form. Yet, in the end, she has fallen in love with the thing that is killing them all. I think It is symbolic that Martin teaches her to smoke. This movie has got to be about the heart – with that disturbing opening and all the references to cardiology. It seems to me that everyone else’s heart is dead and that the god of western commercial consumption, with its clean sterility and plastic beauty, has killed hers, too, by the final scene.

    Reply
  39. Agnes

    I can’t believe I’m the only one who gets this movie.
    I will sum it up for you Dr. Murphy is Martin when he was younger and all his family members are his imagination. Watch the movie again and look for the clues.

    Reply
  40. Taylor Holmes

    So wait. Let me see if I get this straight.

    Dr. Murphy kills himself?

    Not that I haven’t heard stranger theories, you just need to walk it through for me.
    Taylor

    Reply
  41. Agnes

    I wrote Dr.Murphy is Martin not Bob. If he killed himself you are suggesting that Dr.murphy is Bob.

    Reply
  42. Agnes

    This site is not allowing me to comment twice.
    If Dr.murphy kills himself you are suggesting that he is Bob. That’s not what I wrote.

    Reply
  43. Taylor Holmes

    Ah got it, I think. So simultaneously Dr. Murphy is Martin. And Martin is Dr. Murphy. And Dr. Murphy killed Martin’s father, so Martin killed his father?

    Reply
  44. CV

    Oh wow!
    Novices.
    Let me explain the movie in a super simple way…
    The kid with the problems is the hero.
    You have to look closely.
    The father is a liar and a child molester. This is seen in how he takes an interest in the boy, and how his daughter lies exactly like his mother on the bed.
    So, for killing the kids father as a surgeon, he got what he deserved. But the key is that the fathers son wanted to be exactly like his dad. The son lied when he said he wanted to be like his mom. He said that to please her.
    The dad knew he was paying for his sins, so when the son finally admitted he really wanted to be like his dad, his fate was sealed. No matter how many times you spin, you know where people are. He was angry at his wife, but knew she didn’t deserve it- he missed. But he hit his son as a perfect shot, because he knew that he didn’t want his son to grow up like him.

    So, the daughter knew the son was like his dad, and the dad molested her, so the father was the villain and his son was his protege. So, the kid with the problems was the hero that needed to save the daughter.

    …and yes he did have superpowers. Lol This was technically a sci-fi drama. When the mom took the bandage off and he healed VERY quickly from taking a chunk of flesh out of his arm… it was apparent he did have hidden ability, and was capable of telling who was a liar. The daughter understood him for that reason. The kid meted out plain justice.

    The moral, never be mean to people… you never really know who has hidden super powers. Lol

    PS. I’m just kidding about the novices part. Though it was fairly obvious, it was super confusing at first.

    Reply
  45. CV

    Sorry for commenting twice- accidental. This is an awesome discussion Taylor! The comments were very deep.
    But yes there was also a religious theme for those who saw it.
    1. Paralysis- being healed to walk.
    2. Refusing food- fasting.
    3. Blood from the eyes- common assumed miracle from statues & tears of blood that Jesus cried.

    Also, the mother kissed the kids feet. Mary was a harlot that kissed Jesus feet. The mother proved to be a righteous harlot by the way she was treated by the men as an object.

    Jesus was misunderstood and hated, so was the kid.
    I think the reason it seems as if the kid was at fault is because we see the pomp and respectable position of the doctors and think they could not be morally wrong- so the kid- who is poor and a nobody- doesn’t belong. Why would he disturb their peaceful world? But the doctor disturbed his world.
    The kid is the only one in the entire film who is not corrupted in some way. He only knows justice and truth. He doesn’t even touch the daughter.
    In pure truth he set his mother up with the doctor because the doctor was in fact flirting with his mother, and it was obvious that the doctor didn’t love his wife very much. She was pretty much a fond object to the doctor (but then most marriages are these days. Lol)
    He really didn’t hate the doctor as he stated, it was just that justice must take place since his fathers death wasn’t an accident. That’s why he felt sorry for the doctor.
    Good commentary on our perception of who is good and bad based on social norms.
    Everyone automatically assumes the wealthy people are good, and the poor, uneducated, desperate people are heathens.
    That’s why the director went through such efforts to make sure the family looked very wealthy and respectable, it’s a mask that most can’t see through.

    *** and earlier I meant, the daughter lies exactly like “her” mother on the bed.

    Reply
  46. Tomáš

    First of all he was not to choose only which child to kill but which family member to kill, including his wife that’s why he ducttaped her as well as the kids in the final scene.
    Second, he’s america because he’s wealthy? Really? Willy Wonka in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory struck me as being rich, did he represent America too? Doctors have some of the highest social statuses literally everywhere in the world and they are wealthy literally in every developed country and especially if they are a lets say successful cardiologist. So I doubt that he is wealthy because he represents America but rather because it makes sense he would be. If anything I could maybe see this family as representing some social commentary or the carelessness of the rich.

    Reply
  47. Katie

    I like movies that are kind of out there, strange, artsy, philosophical. And, I liked this one, too. I followed the plot, the alliterations and metaphors. What gets me, though, the characters. These people didn’t even seem to be people. They were shells of people. No emotion, no excitement or enthusiasm. Mom was nasty to her daughter. Dad didn’t seem to care about any of them. The sex was missing any passion. The only time there was any intensity to the characters was when Dr. Murphy was beating the heck out of Martin, and when his daughter offered herself to be sacrificed by professing her live for her dad. I think that has as much to do with the plot of the story as any of the comparison mentioned in this article. Lack of humanness and humanity all the way around.

    Reply
  48. Clayton Hennig

    I’m a little late to the discussion(understatement of the year) as life happens and I have just been able to watch the film.

    You make some valid points however, without saying your totally wrong(since no opinion can be labeled as such); do you have any other airtight theories about Dr. Murphy being a child molester other than how the girl laid on her bed?

    After watching the film I came on here and watched those parts again specifically to see if you hit the nail on the head and I’ve come up with two logical explanations…opinion based of course.

    1) As is normal in the “standard” home life, children may witness their parents having sex…is it really that hard to believe that this could have been the case and that she, merely being a novice to this realm; is reacting the way she’s seen mom and dad do so?

    2) In looking back…she didn’t “exactly” lay back with the “out of it/dead” look that mom did in both of Nicole Kidman’s scenes. It appeared it still, uncomfortable, or inexperienced if you will, not like an individual under medical sedation.

    The director, the writers, the audience, etc; none of us need to add molestation to this tale to understand that Dr. Murphy is a BAD GUY… it’s clear enough in selfishness, lifeless nature, pride, and ultimately his fault of malpractice while operating under the influence of alcohol. If anything the mother is just as bad of a person as it clearly implies that she has been in some fashion or another…carrying on an affair with the Dr. Murphy’s friend and co-worker. Whereas Dr. Murphy actually resisted the attempt by Martin’s mother claiming he is happily married. Point is… Dr. Murphy didn’t/doesn’t need more paint in this film to be the person that is targeted for debt repayment.

    Calling Martin a hero could be a bit of a stretch, after all; spreading lies and deceit (making Dr Murphy’s wife believe there was sexual feelings between him and his mother) isn’t exactly the MO of your typical “hero”! That said…this movie isn’t typical in many ways. If anything Bob is the hero to me… he’s really the only one that confessed his lies openly without cause of pain or damage…yes he paid the ultimate debt through chance…every other member of the family were fairly deceitful in their vices and actions towards each other. Hence him being the all forgiving debt paid in place of greek adaption of the “sacred deer”…he was the most innocent of all of them.

    Reply
  49. Pc1

    Was I the only one reminded of Amityville from the shape of the bedroom windows? Coincidence? Truly one of the weirdest films I’ve seen.

    Reply
  50. Lydia

    Do you think there’s situational irony in the film?

    I feel like it exists in all of his other films. In Dogtooth, the father keeps everyone in isolation but in the end the eldest daughter gets away. In The Lobster, the protagonist escapes one place with absurd rules to another where people are supposed to be free, only to realise that it has its own set of strict rules.

    I can’t pinpoint the situational irony in The Killing of A Sacred Deer though.

    Reply
  51. Angie

    Hi, I read through some of the comments and there were some people asking about how Martin was able to make the family ill (assuming that he’s not supernatural or god). My dad came up with a theory that Martin’s cigarettes are poisoning members of the family. Anyone else notice how often cigarettes are shown in the movie? He was smoking in Kim’s bedroom and perhaps that was what made the children ill. I don’t think he was ever shown smoking around Steve or Anna so maybe that’s why they didn’t get ill

    Reply
  52. Taylor Holmes

    Super clever theory. I hadn’t thought of that before. Gonna have to rewatch and pay attention to that detail. Brilliant. Tell your dad he’s awesome!

    Reply
  53. burf

    Ryissa’s comment actually killed all the fun. S/he made it such crystal clear that it seems absurdly funny to even think of anything else. Although I had a few questions earlier, they seem irrelevant now.

    Though I would still like to point out that your article and the subsequent comments (some of them brilliant and one of them being “the one”) must somehow be visible earlier so as to save someone out on a date and playing oh-so-smart getting dumped.

    I rather believe that people with one belief system (or religion) can’t be tried or impacted by the belief system they don’t follow; for example, if I am a Christian and did a sin, I would be tried as per Christian belief/religious system and not say Buddhist. Assuming the family depicted in the movie does not follow the Greek religion/belief, it is odd that they were tried by those principles. [ofcourse, this philosophy is beyond the realm of the imaginary movie world where creative freedom allows you to copy-paste across different worlds]

    Reply
  54. Johanne

    Aside from the wonky and wonderful plot, I was intrigued by the cacaphonic music score and visual appeal of the scenes.

    Reply
  55. Vic

    Ryissa

    Best analysis ever. Everything clicked and now I can sleep well again lol. But seriously. You should have your own movie interpretation website.

    Reply
  56. Ryissa

    I didn’t mean to wreck anybod’s fun.

    I’m not astute enough to say what genre this mostly fits into. I’d call it film noire/fantasy/horror with a side of Americana colliding. It’s not meant to be a storyline that when you dig into it holds any amount of water.

    There is enough left up to the viewer to interpret that we can infer all sorts of meanings and debate that till Hades gets run into by an iceberg.

    But there is certainly an element of the absurd noire comedy. Not that the film is funny, but in the twisted way it uses a horrific scenario to get every family member behaving in more insane ways. It’s less about having every aspect make sense, more about deliberately making the audience uncomfortable but yet unwilling to look away. Life doesn’t always make sense, so not every aspect of this film must fit in a nice little box.

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  57. Mason Angus

    This review has way too many question marks. For a review titled “The Sacred Killing of a Deer Discussed and EXPLAINED” why the fuck do most of the sentences end in a question mark? Anyway, the movie was exceptional and I can’t wait to view The Lobster. Colin Farrell really does have great range even from the deadpan character he plays in every.single.role. Wish the review had more meat to it, like why Colin couldn’t blow his own brains out, or what kind of super powers that little cocksucker had and why but whatever. Also why did the kids wife want to slob on Colin’s knob, think you know the rest…? Overall, the movie gets an 8.5/10 the review gets a poultry 5/10

    Reply
  58. Clinton C Hennig

    It’s not poison from the cigarettes…although it was fun to think that’s how it could be done… there’s no way that is it… hence…him merely being able to tell her she can walk on the cell phone and she does it. Unless of course those of you believing it can be poison also believe that poison can be neutralized by fiber optic voice commands. Gahhhhhhh it’s QUANTUM PHYSICS SCI-FI DARK FILM NOIR!!!

    There’s no real explanation…its fantasy…magic…god like…hence it’s ties to Greek mythology. Some of you are reaching way to hard to find “logic” in this..there is none…it’s just a weird creepy fantastic story.

    Reply
  59. GRA

    So the movie is an allegory of America’s “sins” (e.g. unfair treatment to N.A. and blacks), the poisonous American Dream, and the white patriarchy.

    How utterly unoriginal.

    Reply
  60. Daniel

    I think your connection to America has no ground to stand on. It makes no sense and almost just seems to be an excuse to drag the US through the mud in your analysis. Can you please extrapolate the point that you were trying to make here a bit more? The parents had accents indicating that they probably weren’t even born in America in the first place. I just don’t see how the American dream played any role in this movie.

    Reply
  61. Daniel

    I think your connection to America has no ground to stand on. It makes no sense and almost just seems to be an excuse to drag the US through the mud in your analysis. Can you please extrapolate the point that you were trying to make here a bit more? The parents had accents indicating that they probably weren’t even born in America in the first place. I just don’t see how the American dream played any role in the movie.

    Reply
  62. Daniel

    I think your connection to America has no ground to stand on. It makes no sense and almost just seems to be an excuse to drag the US through the mud in your analysis. Can you please extrapolate the point that you were trying to make here a bit more? The parents had accents indicating that they probably weren’t even born in America in the first place. I just don’t see how the American dream played any role in this movie…

    Reply

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