The Killing of a Sacred Deer directed by Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the most unusual psychological thrillers of 2017. In the center of the plot is a teenager who experiences the tragic death of his father as a result of an error on the operating table. But soon we become witnesses of a completely unexpected plot twist, which turns into an equally unexpected, but very painful end.
If you liked the director’s earlier work, such as Fang or The Lobster, then you will definitely want to know what happened in Murder and what it all means in the end. Below we will talk about this, as well as make a detailed analysis of the plot, meaning and ending of the film.
Who is the Sacred Deer
The sacred deer (doe or goat) is a reference to the ancient Greek myth of Iphigenia, the beautiful daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, whom her father had to sacrifice because he insulted the goddess Artemis by killing the sacred doe while hunting. This is where the similarity of the plots ends, because, unlike the film, the sacrifice in the form of Agamemnon’s daughter was never made. At the last moment, the goddess Artemis took pity on the beauty and replaced the girl with a deer (in other retellings – a goat), and sent Iphigenia herself to Taurida (modern Crimea).
Explanation of the plot of The Killing of a Sacred Deer
The main character of the film, Dr. Stephen Murphy (Colin Farrell), a successful surgeon, lives a visually happy life with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and two children, daughter Kim and son Bob. The term “visually happy” was chosen for a reason. The life of the Murphy family is a lifeless mechanical process: the way they talk, behave with each other, or do something – everything seems artificial. But that is the nature of their world.
The main storyline is built around the fact that shortly before serious heart surgery, Stephen got drunk, and therefore made an irreparable mistake as a result of which a patient died on his operating table. We know that it was, because we see how the hero hides the details of how Martin’s father (patient) died from his wife Anna, telling her that he died in a car accident. Stephen also has no regrets about it and blames his anesthesiologist friend for the death of the patient.
Murphy feels sorry for Martin, the patient’s son, and therefore often spends time with him. Their meetings, rare at first, become commonplace by the middle of the film. Soon, the hero invites Martin to his home in the hope that a personal connection with his family will help eliminate possible grievances.
The meaning of the film The Killing of a Sacred Deer
One day Bob’s legs give up. The father tries to treat his son, but meeting with Martin in the foyer of the hospital clarifies everything. The latter says these words:
This critical moment, which we both knew, would come someday. Just like you killed a member of my family, now you need to kill a member of your family to balance the situation, you know? I certainly can’t tell you who to kill, it’s up to you. But if you don’t, all your family members will get sick and die. Bob will die. Kim will die. Your wife will die. First, there will be paralysis of the limbs. After refusal to eat. Further bleeding from the eyes. Well, at the end – death. Don’t worry, you won’t die. You just have to stay calm, that’s all.
This monologue is a summary of the essence of the film. The universe automatically balances one wrong act with another. Martin pronounces these lines as if he were just reminding Murphy of them, and that he should get out of the state of denial and try to accept this state of affairs without hysterics.
Soon after this conversation, Kim’s legs give way. Judging by the girl’s calm demeanor, we can assume that she knows about her father’s mistake. She is convinced that one person from her family should pay for his mistake. Her fascination with Martin causes her to emotionally distance herself from her family’s opposing beliefs.
Without further treatment, Kim and Bob return home. Murphy kidnaps Martin and beats him up, demanding that he change the situation. We clearly see that the father of the family accepted the situation, but instead of sincerely repenting of what he had done, he decided to force Martin to stop all this. The tactic doesn’t work. Anna tries to placate the guy with politeness, but that doesn’t work either. Kim invites him to run away with her, but he refuses.
Why didn’t Dr. Murphy just commit suicide?
This question worries many. In the end, Martin’s monologue said that he simply would not die, and not that even if he committed suicide, all members of his family would still die. The way out is obvious, Murphy had to sacrifice himself and end the suffering of his loved ones, but he doesn’t even think about it. Instead, he goes to his children’s school to ask the principal which child is “better”. He tries to logically calculate the value of each child.
The same can be said for his wife Anna. In a culture of patriarchy, any mother will agree to sacrifice herself, metaphorically or physically, in order to save her children. But not Anna, she, in fact, assumes the opposite. She tells her husband that it would be logical to kill one of their children because they may have another child. Later, she also tries to seduce him to remind him that the two can continue to be happy together, even if one of the children dies.
The eldest daughter Kim does not want to die either. She approaches Martin when he is in the basement to convince him to escape together. She had already decided that her brother Bob was going to die. She even talks to Bob about it, asking him for his MP3 player after his death. Soon she realizes that the decision about who all such should die is made only by her father. She runs away from home in despair. But when she is returned, we can see her doing her best not to be chosen as a sacrifice.
Bob is a kid and does his best to stay alive
Bob decides to get a haircut to calm his father down. He apologizes as seriously as possible and says that he should have listened to his father about the haircut. After that, Bob crawls to water the plants. He even says he wants to become a cardiologist like his father. Bob does his best to ensure that he is not chosen for the role of the victim.
In general, the characters in this film are devoid of normal human emotions and are more calculating. They fully reflect the universe in which they live – calculating and unshakable.
Explanation of the ending of the film The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Murphy kills Bob? Yes. Murphy ties up his children and Anna and puts them on three chairs, blindfolding them. It spins in place and fires a pistol, imitating a human Russian roulette. The first two bullets shoot past, and the third hits Bob and kills him.
The equation is balanced. The final scene shows the remaining family members sitting in a cafe and eating a burger with fries and ketchup. Martin is there too. Each of them looks at him in appreciation. Kim still seems to be infatuated with him. Soon the family leaves, but Martin remains.
Explanation of The Killing of a Sacred Deer from the film’s director Yorgos Lanthimos:
The film is a world in which karma is played out automatically. It’s like there’s an outside observer who balances bad deeds with punishment. But I will say right away that Martin does not have any superpowers. If that were the case, he could primarily have been able to protect his father from death or avenge him much earlier.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer: the meaning of the film
You will understand this film better if you see the previous films directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. He likes to create a world in cinema with his own rules. He does not strive for realism, because he does not believe that such a thing is possible in a world where people can spend hours not going to the toilet, eating or drinking. After all, the world of cinema is a wonderful field for experimentation. “Lobster” is a good example of the fact that the rules of our real life can be imposed on the cinema, but with the obligatory observance of the laws of the genre, and therefore they will look stupid and ridiculous. Doubt? Then watch the film and at the same time read our explanation to it.
“Killing a sacred deer” is no exception. His characters live in a changed world where karma is part of their existence. Characters deprived of life are completely dependent on the world in which they inhabit. Given the angles mentioned in the film, it seems that they are all being watched by omnipresent gods, the same as in the ancient Greek mythology mentioned earlier.
Who or what is Martin? Does he have the strength?
As the director explains, Martin is a naive, sweet, awkward teenager, but at the same time angry and threatening. Its origin is deliberately not explained. He knows very well that all the members of the doctor’s family will be paralyzed one by one and will die if he does not pay for his mistake in blood.
An eye for an eye is the justice that reigns in the universe of this film. Stephen Murphy knows this as well as Martin himself, but to the last he tries to deny this mechanism. Martin cannot be called a normal child, he undoubtedly has mental problems. In the end, he bites off his own flesh to demonstrate the pain metaphor of Steven’s apology, and doesn’t even flinch. But in any case, he is just a teenager who has been offended and the universe is taking measures to restore justice.