“This is very much a family movie,” began the introduction to The Killing of a Sacred Deer’s press conference. “Wait, a movie about a family, sorry!” Yorgos Lanthimos’s new film is definitely not one for kids. It’s an intense, terrifying account of a family’s ordeal when faced with a mysterious threat, with a biblical sense of scale and a prankster’s sense of morbid humour. Lead actor Colin Farrell could not be present, but in attendance was Nicole Kidman, Lanthimos, and the talented supporting cast – many of whom are just starting their careers.
Lanthimos deals in heavy material but, for these youngsters, it was never too much to bear on set. “[It’s a film that’s] brutal in accumulation, not in its smaller parts… We never dealt with it in seriousness.” In fact, what distinguishes this feature is its precise vision and tone – and the way it challenges the expectations of its audience on a regular basis. “I told Nicole this is a comedy, and I believe that,” insisted Lanthimos. Kidman agreed, and found a dissonance between the way the script played when read, and how it eventually came to life: “[I had to] forget all the preparation… The job of the actor is to help the vision come to fruition, and [Lanthimos] said ‘Just do nothing’. Which is very hard.”
But Kidman said she felt “hypnotised” by the movie – much of which is likely due to the way it moves, using quick, eerily stable tracking shots. “I felt that this film needed to have a sense of something other being there. The camera became mobile – observing people, following them around, creeping in…” And the material it deals with enters heady thematic territory, with the title proposition becoming linked to a sense of sacrifice. “Justice and choice, human nature and behaviour, how we respond to huge dilemmas… With our script, we discovered there were parallels with Greek tragedy, so that’s where the title came in… We wanted to have a dialogue with something so ingrained in our culture.”
When asked about her Cannes renaissance, Kidman insisted it was just a coincidence – some of her work was filmed years ago – but did admit that she was happy with the direction her career was taking. “I’m at that place in my life where I try to act as though I’m 21 and starting my career … At this stage of my life I’m trying to stay very bold and open … and support filmmakers I believe in.”
Sam Gray Photo: Stephane Cardinale – Corbis / Getty Images
Read our review of The Killing of a Sacred Deer here.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Cannes Film Festival 2017 visit here.