The Killing of a Sacred Deer Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

At the Cannes Film Festival, The Killing of a Sacred Deer was awarded as the film with the best screenplay. The film was released in 2017 and was directed by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos.

One of the genres of the film is detective. And this shows through throughout the film, because the feeling of understatement does not leave for a minute.
It all starts with the fact that the hero – Stephen Murphy, a successful surgeon who has a wife and two children, periodically meets in the cafeteria with Martin, who is still a teenager. The two men are having lunch together and Steven gives Martin a very expensive present. In the beginning, it is not at all clear who they are to each other. But in the course of the story, it turns out that Stephen did the operation in mild alcohol intoxication, perhaps because of this he did not cope with his work and the patient died. It turns out that this patient was Martin’s father.
Martin is left without a father, and his mother is a widow who cannot feed her family. What is important is that it is not clear whether alcohol intoxication was the result of the patient’s death or whether it was not Steven’s fault. Even at the end of the film, this mystery will not be revealed.

The plot twists at the moment when Stephen decides to invite the boy to dinner and introduces him to his family. The evening itself goes well, and Stephen’s daughter even shows interest in Martin.

But after that, a terrible thing happens – both children of Stephen Murphy fall ill with an incomprehensible deadly disease. It turns out that Martin is either a vengeful deity, or just a man with inexplicable abilities. To save the children, the doctor kidnaps the teenager and keeps him in the basement, but this does not help. Martin explains to Stephen that he must restore justice by paying for the death of his father with the life of one of his children.
Steven is in complete despair and agrees to grant Martin’s wish. With the help of chance, the choice fell on his son, whom Stephen has to kill.

The film ends with a strange scene. The Murphy family and Martin are having lunch in the cafeteria and look very happy, as if nothing had happened. Steven’s daughter gives the teenager meaningful looks, as if forgetting that it was he who was to blame for the death of her brother. All the participants in the scene eat a lot and look like nothing happened.

So what is the point of this movie?

Actually there are two levels of meaning. The first is mythological. Children pay for the sins of their father – this story is in various myths. For example, the myth of the sacred deer of Artemis – this is where the title of the film is taken from. Martin brought a new plot twist to the myth, as in the original version, atonement was the price of one’s own life, and not the life of a child.
And the meaning of this story turns out to be that you have to pay for every mistake. It turns out. that Stephen was really responsible for the death of Martin’s father, and therefore will suffer such a punishment. And that is why the family looks so calm, no matter how terrible it may sound, but the debt has been paid, which means that life goes on. We even met similar stories in the Bible when God asked to sacrifice his son.

Another level is the condemnation of the US society, which lives in mindless consumption, which is why tragic events occur in other countries. Stephen Murphy in the image of a surgeon and personifies America, he, with the help of surgical intervention, gets into both the political and economic life of other countries, and he does it in an unacceptable way. Naturally, such interference leads to dire consequences, America has to pay for its deeds with lower society (in the person of Stephen’s son). And here the ending can be perceived from a completely different angle. The avenging side sees how the “American society” completely forgot about their past atrocities and calmly enjoys fast food, returning to uncontrolled consumption.

The film “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is very multifaceted, does not leave exact answers. Therefore, everyone must decide for himself what he sees in this film. After all, the interpretations of the two meanings already contradict each other. Was the sacrifice an atonement and a cleansing that brought peace? Or was this action a distraction, and in fact, the father did not feel anything? Perhaps everyone should choose for himself.

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