Tag: efthymis filippou

The Killing of a Sacred Deer


The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★

As expected by those familiar with writers Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, the former directing the picture, the film demands its viewers to squint through the fog of allegories and metaphors in order to ascertain what the material is possibly about. Or, perhaps more importantly, what it is saying about ourselves based on the deformed reflection of its characters, how they are treated, what ends up happening to them. For what it’s worth, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” may be frustrating to sit through at times, but I admired that it assumes the audiences are learned, cultured, and curious rather than ignorant, stupid, or incapable like numerous generic and unambitious works lean toward.

Those without or having only a limited knowledge of Greek mythology need not be dissuaded from taking a peek into the strange world offered here. Because despite the detached photography, cold interactions amongst characters, and schizoid manner of delivering lines of dialogue, there are enough pieces presented so that a casual viewer may get a feel of what the story is about. In my case, I thought it was about a man who has failed to take a moral responsibility in his career. And due to this failure, one he thought he got away with, it is demanded again that he take responsibility… but this time his home life becomes involved. Will he take responsibility now?

Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman play Steven and Anna, a cardiothoracic surgeon and ophthalmologist, respectively. It is interesting that while other works demand that the married couple evoke chemistry, it is the complete opposite here. They must not fit due to the bizarre language, both spoken and non-spoken, and the off-key rhythm of the material. It is almost as if we must feel as though the spouses are forced together in their palatial home filled with luxurious but empty decorations. Farrell and Kidman share no romantic chemistry and it is most appropriate. Notice when their characters are supposed to be at their most passionate. There are instances when when the fighting or having sex comes across as somewhat comedic, ludicrous. Strong emotions are expressed with a certain flatness.

There is a breakout performer in this strange but intriguing passion project and that is Barry Keoghan who plays Martin, the sixteen-year-old whose father had died on Steven’s operating table. Less perceptive performers might have played the character as overtly menacing. Keoghan decides to go on the opposite direction and downplays it. His seemingly innocuous physicality oozes an implied threat, a recurring pestilence. The rage of this character is found in those unforgiving eyes as he stares down the person that he believes to be at fault for him no longer having a father.

Drenched in idiosyncrasies, it goes without saying that “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is for select audiences only. In nearly every scene, there is an eccentric detail worth noticing. For instance, during Martin and Steven’s early interactions, it appears as though they are connecting because they are able to talk about the superficial details of their lives. But notice where the camera is placed. It is capturing the back of their heads. Or it is looking up at them from a lower angle, a technique often utilized in horror films before a jump scare. Those who choose to dive into this work should be open and prepared to take notice of details like these for an enriched experience. Do not bother otherwise.

The Lobster


The Lobster (2015)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Viewers with a palate for the bizarre are certain to embrace “The Lobster,” intelligently written by Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, and yet the piece is not simply for those with an acquired taste because the roots of the humor, curiosities, ironies, and social commentaries are near universal. For instance, all of us have been in a situation where we find ourselves being the only single person in a group of couples, at times even being the subject of conversation (and judgment) as to why we do not yet have a special someone and simply settle down. The picture is packed with a wicked sense of absurdist and satirical humor.

Our protagonist is named David (Colin Farrell), a man informed by his wife that she is leaving him because she has fallen in love with someone else. According to their society, unpaired adults must go to a hotel where they must find a mate within forty-five days. Failure to do so would compel those in charge to turn those without a partner into an animal of his or her choice. A person can gain more days to stay in the hotel by participating in The Hunt—which involves going into the woods, hunting, and tranquilizing escaped single people so they can be turned into animals for their failure to abide by societal rules.

Part of the humor is the carefully modulated performances. It is interesting that just about all characters speak in a robotic tone and feeling and yet none of them are ever boring. On the contrary, each performer’s interpretation of a schizoid-like personality fascinates especially during longer takes where every word uttered, limb moved, and blinking of the eyes must be well-timed or the gamble falls into itself. Or worse—turns into a parody of itself. Notice that every person David meets does not have a name. They are merely referred to as “Nosebleed Woman,” “Loner Leader,” “Hotel Manager,” “Lisping Man,” and the like. They are defined by these names. A case can also be made that their names define them.

We look into a strange world and the writers provide specifics with glee. Particularly compelling is how we come to learn about the lifestyle in the hotel. There is only one lifestyle and everybody is expected to submit to the rules or be punished severely. For example, in order for singles to become more motivated to pair up, masturbation is not allowed at all times. Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) gets caught and the punishment clearly does not fit the so-called felony. As he cries out, begging for the pain to stop, those in the room—his friends, acquaintances, neighbors—simply look down and go about their day. This is a microcosm of our society. I loved and admired its savage angle.

Those with a more ordinary taste will unjustly label the film as pretentious. I have come across numerous pieces of work that fall under this category and “The Lobster,” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, is absolutely not one of them. The correct word is challenging, perhaps even ambitious, because it engages us by inspiring us to think a little bit about what is shown on screen. The metaphors, symbolisms, and ironies are not at all difficult to figure out. Still, sometimes material offers answers, other times it does not. A delicious example of the latter is the superb final scene. The film ends right where it should. It is a litmus test of how we define love and whether or not we believe in the old adage that love conquers all. After all, does it, really?

Alps


Alps (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★

A nurse (Aggeliki Papoulia), a gymnast (Ariane Labed), a coach (Johnny Vekris), and a paramedic (Aris Servetalis) offer a bizarre service: they approach people in states of grief due to a death of a loved one and offer to take their place. They consider themselves as facilitators between a dark time and acceptance. All seems well until a tennis player (Maria Kirozi) dies and the nurse decides to work with the family of the deceased without consulting her group first. As she gets deeper into the former tennis player’s life, she becomes unaware of the fact that separating her duty from who she becomes increasingly difficult.

Although the premise of “Alpeis,” based on the screenplay by Efthymis Filippou and Giorgos Lanthimos, may seem like a ridiculous gimmick, it is surprising that the material is handled with respect. It inspires us to make our own conclusions with regards to what is happening and its implications instead of spoon-feeding us a plot that follows familiar tracks within a specific genre. Through an unfaltering detachment from its subjects, we as audiences are scientists who are given the chance to observe specimens interact with one another in an isolated environment.

Many will find it strange that people will actually invite total strangers into their lives by playing a role of a loved one who has just passed away. I did not. It is shown several times that each member of the quartet has a certain way of persuasion in order to get something they want. Combine that with people who are hurting and vulnerable, it becomes easier to buy into the reality of the picture. Although the set-up is languorous, it is important to pay attention to the different personalities and their foibles. Without a feel for what each one is about, it is understandable for someone to label the film as an exercise in the abstruse rather than a intelligent commentary of how we take who we are for granted and the extent in which we affect the lives of those we love and care about.

The services performed flow seamlessly with the quartet’s every day lives. There is little attempt to make themselves look like the person they are impersonating. Most depend on behavior like the type of words frequently used, the biting of the nails, and habits after a particular activity. There are no flamboyant wigs, heavy makeup, or changing diction as we come to expect from method actors. It is critical that everything appears normal. The illusion is shattered, however, when the characters start speaking. We are made aware that a job is being performed when people talk to one another in somewhat of a monotone as if reading off a script. There is an uneasy comedic touch in these scenes.

“Alps,” directed by Giorgos Lanthimos, is not especially beautiful to look at but it does offer some memorable images partnered with its themes. A pattern that stood out to me is that the customers’ faces are almost never seen clearly. They consistently look down. When they look straight ahead, the camera is angled to capture their profiles only. When not in profile, faces are shrouded in darkness or are far enough to be blurry. Maybe it is meant to preserve their anonymities, a suggestion that they feel ashamed for hiring someone to help them through their mourning.

Dogtooth


Dogtooth (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

We all know families that tend to overprotect their children. There are parents who purposely instill irrational fear in their children so their kids will behave or act proper in front of strangers. Some do it in order to discipline, a seemingly small price to pay for a bit silence at home. “Kynodontas,” daringly written by Efthymis Filippou and Giorgos Lanthimos, took the repercussions of parents who equate parenting as taking control and multipled it exponentially. The result was comedic and horrific, curious but effective. To say that “Dogtooth” was strange would be an understatement and simplistic. The patriarch (Christos Stergioglou) and matriarch (Michele Valley) of the family had connections to the real world. The mother acted as if she had never been outside of their property. She took comfort by hiding a telephone in the bedroom. Sometimes she would talk on the phone and her children would overhear. However, they believed that their mother had been talking to herself. The father, on the other hand, was free to go to work and shop for food. But he warned his children that the only way one could be safe outside of their property was to be inside a car. The three children in question (Hristos Passalis, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni) were actually adults. Two were relatively content with their sheltered existence but one yearned to explore what was out there. She wanted objects not found in their home so when a stranger (Anna Kalaitzidou) came to visit, the daughter was willing to perform oral sex in exchange for such objects. The film immediately caught my attention because I hypothesized that the parents were some sort of really dedicated scientists involved in a behavior modification program. I surmised that the kids were genetically related to them but they saw the trio as nothing more than lab rats (they often wore white or some bland color). But as the picture unfolded, that wasn’t the case at all. I was mortified that they were actually serious about raising these kids because they thought it was the right thing to do. They purposely taught their children incorrect names for certain objects. I watched with a furrowed brow and the most perplexed expression. For instance, at the dinner table, one of the daughters asked her mother if she could pass the telephone. I thought, “Why would you need the telephone when you’re eating?” Out of nowhere, the mother grabbed the salt and handed it to her daughter. I was so puzzled with what was happening but I was undoubtedly entertained. What was even stranger was the fact that as the film went on, I was able to catch on with the incorrect labels and I actually understood what they meant to say. In a way, I became a part of the experiment which made me feel somewhat uneasy. Audiences who crave something unusual will be delighted by this oddity. Watson and Skinner would be proud.